Best Online Casinos in New Zealand
When people think of gambling hotspots, New Zealand doesn’t exactly spring to mind. The small nation, lying off the eastern coast of Australia, is probably more well known as the filming location for Lord of the Rings, its Maori culture and its adorable national bird, the kiwi.
In fact, there are six land-based casinos in New Zealand, split evenly between the north and south islands that make up the country. It also counts among its residents George Julius who, back in 1913, invented the automatic totalistor. This clever machine, now known as a tote board, lets racing fans follow the horses’ positions on the field while a race is underway.
In terms of its legislative approach to gambling, New Zealand takes a stance that is similar to its Aussie neighbour, both in regulating land-based venues and players’ access to online gambling products. However, its small size means that New Zealand enjoys a single layer of legislative function, unlike the USA, where residents must obey laws stipulated at both state and federal level.
On this page, we will take a look at how gambling, in all its forms, is regulated in New Zealand. We will also explore New Zealand’s gambling culture, the age limits in place for gambling and how players in New Zealand can enjoy gambling online.
Navigate to the following topics:
- Gambling laws in the New Zealand
- Gambling culture in the New Zealand
- Land-based casinos in the New Zealand
- Online gambling in the New Zealand
- How we review online casinos
Gambling laws in New Zealand
If you’ve read our articles about Australian Casinos and American Casinos and their related gambling laws, you may be expecting something similar in terms of complexity. Luckily, that is not the case. Where Australia and the US have complicated legal structures related to gambling, the New Zealand authorities have made things quite straightforward.
Like the other countries we’ve mentioned, New Zealand has had an on again, off again relationship with gambling through its history. The earliest records of gambling in New Zealand are from the 1830s and referred to horse racing, which is still a very popular pastime in the country today.
In the 1920s, bookmaking was prohibited and stayed that way until 1961. In that period, bets on horse racing could only be made at the track itself. Most other forms of gambling were strictly regulated until the 1980s. At that time, parliament relaxed the laws relating to lotteries and, crucially, casinos.
Slot machines, called ‘pokies’ in New Zealand, were legalised shortly afterwards and this shift in attitude lead to the first casino opening in 1994.
Today, the most important bit of gambling legislation in New Zealand is the Gambling Act, which came into being in 2003. This comprehensive policy covers all aspects of gambling, making it easier for players to know where they stand. There have been amendments to the Gambling Act, namely in 2005 and then ten years later in 2015, and we expect that further changes will take place as the industry evolves.
Under the 2003 act, all gambling activities are prohibited unless authorised by the government. Gambling is split into four classes. Class 1 includes gambling that does not have a prize or turnover of more than $500. This kind of gambling does not require a license and any individual can conduct it. Think of a friendly poker game among friends.
Class 2 gambling activities are those that have prizes that total between $500 and $5,000. Turnover must be between $500 and $25,000. This kind of gambling does not require a license but it can only be conducted by a society, which is defined as “an association of persons established and conducted entirely for purposes other than commercial purposes”.
Classes 3 and 4 includes gambling activities with prizes totalling more than $5,000. Class 4 gambling usually involves gaming machines. These classes of gambling can only be conducted while holding a license from the government.
Gambling culture in New Zealand
After a long period of time where gambling was either prohibited or heavily restricted, New Zealanders have been making up for lost time. With gambling revenues topping $NZD 2 billion a year, the industry continues to make gains.
Pokies remain the most popular type of gambling, drawing in about 35% of total revenues. Land-based casinos bring in around 26% and lottos and sports betting add on 21% and 18% to that amount, respectively. Slot machines and casinos are considered separately because the machines are often found in other locations like hotels and bars.
Every public gaming entity is obligated to donate a percentage of its profits towards projects and organisations that help to improve community services and facilities in New Zealand, which we think is an excellent way to give back.
In 2013, it was estimated that about 80% of all New Zealanders gambled in some way. This amounts to about 3.6 million people. There has been something of a decline in gambling overall since about 2004 but expenditures have continued to rise in that time.
Land-based casinos in New Zealand
There are six land-based casinos in New Zealand, with three on each of the two islands that form part of the archipelago. These can be found in Hamilton, Christchurch, Queenstown, Dunedin, Auckland and Rotorua. Most of these offer the full entertainment and dining experience in addition to gambling opportunities, which makes them appealing destinations even to non-gamblers.
Online gambling in New Zealand
The laws in New Zealand regarding online gambling are similar to the ones in Australia. In a nutshell, players located in New Zealand are free to access online gambling sites provided that the operator is not located in New Zealand. The law itself only regulates the provision of gambling products, not their use, so players are free to access sites that are based offshore and that are licensed by other countries.
There are no restrictions imposed on gambling-related transactions at online casinos that fit into this category and New Zealanders do not have to pay tax on any winnings they make at these sites. Not all online casinos accept New Zealand dollar as a gambling currency but in this modern age, converting NZD to other currencies like Aussie or American dollar is not all that difficult.
Online casino licensing
The Gambling Act of New Zealand does not include the possibility of licensing an online casino in the country itself. The Gambling Commission only licenses gambling operations that fall into the classes we talked about earlier.
That said, the government does take a strong stance on advertising. While players are free to access and use online gambling products based outside the country, operators are completely banned from marketing their wares to residents of New Zealand. As regulations go, this one is one of the less hostile ones and it likely was developed to keep gambling to the over 18s.
Gambling age restrictions
There are two age limits that players based in New Zealand have to keep in mind. Only adults aged 20 or older can enter land-based casinos. For gambling outside of these venues, the limit is 18. This includes sports betting, lotteries, horse race betting and scratchcards. It’s also safe to assume that players must be 18 or older to participate in any online casino gambling.
How we review online casinos
At RightCasino, we want to take the time and hassle out of tracking down the perfect casino for each of our readers. Through a combination of in-depth reviews and insider knowledge, we seek out the top brands that offer exciting, secure and fair gambling opportunities.
As players based in New Zealand are free to enjoy licensed online casinos from around the world, there are plenty of attractive options available. Our reviews include information about accepted currencies, which is handy for players who prefer to bet in NZD. Licensing details also ensure that players know exactly where an online casino has been licensed and the kind of regulation it is subjected to.
Players from around the world can learn all these is to know about the brands we choose to feature on RightCasino and we only select the ones that offer consistently high standards of customer service, no matter where those customers are.