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Is Online Gambling Legal in New Zealand?

Posted by Dame de Coeur on May 12, 2021

Where is New Zealand and how is it Governed?

To be found set in the Pacific Ocean, the island of New Zealand sits to the east of Australia - the two being divided by the Tasmanian Sea. Like Canada, New Zealand shares a monarch with Great Britain – currently Queen Elizabeth II – the Governor-general is her representative in the country. Again, like Canada, the monarch has no explicit political power, and the country is instead lead politically by the Cabinet and its highest officer, the Prime Minister. Politically, New Zealand is classed as a full democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The country comprises 11 regional councils and an additional 67 territorial authorities which are local government bodies. New Zealand is a primarily English-speaking nation with over 95% of the population speaking this language.

Which Body Oversees Gambling in New Zealand?

When to comes to gambling in New Zealand all things are governed by the New Zealand Gambling Act 2003 which outlines all of the nuances of gambling law in the country. As is often the case, once the legislation was drawn up and the Act passed, a governing body was appointed to oversee all things connected with it the same year – in New Zealand’s case this body is the New Zealand Gambling Commission. The Gambling Commission are really only a vehicle for ensuring that the Gambling Act is enacted as it should be – they cannot actually make any modifications to the existing laws – this power lies solely with the Department of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Internal affairs who is in charge of it.

What Purpose does the Gambling Act of 2003 Serve?

The New Zealand government’s Ministry of Health is very conscious of preventing the harms gambling can inflict on their population and they have stated that the primary purposes of the introduction of the Gambling Act 2003 were to:

  • control the growth of gambling
  • prevent and minimise the harm caused by gambling, including problem gambling
  • authorise some gambling and prohibit the rest
  • facilitate responsible gambling
  • ensure the integrity and fairness of games
  • limit opportunities for crime or dishonesty associated with gambling
  • ensure that money from gambling benefits the community
  • facilitate community involvement in decisions about the provision of gambling.

The Ministry of Health take their responsibilities for assisting those with compulsive gambling habits so seriously that they have introduced a levy system to make sure that problem gambling services offered to those in need of them are financially covered by profits made by the gambling industry. Triennially, the Ministry of Health initiates the levy setting procedure where firstly a submission of recommendations is made to both the Internal Affairs Minister and the Minister of Health, and then the Gambling Commission makes its own proposal for the rate, the final decision lies with the two department ministers as to what rate to advance to the Cabinet. The Gambling Act of 2003 stipulates the formula for the rates to be levied at each of the four recognised gambling categories. The basic calculation is based upon player losses for each gambling category and the necessary problem gambling supports tied to each of the categories.

The Four Gambling Classes Recognised in New Zealand

The Gambling Act of 2003 clearly dictates the four classes that gambling activities fall into and anything not categorised by them is considered to be illegal. As is the case with many countries, this distinction is not quite as clear as the Act hoped it would be and so there are caveats – including online gaming. The four classes are outlined below:

Class 1

This class is the only one that can be assigned to an individual and it can be assigned only to those operating in a private setting such as a residence or hired venue without the need for a gambling license. There is the stipulation that to be granted class 1 status, no profit can be made from the exploit, and all prizes must be capped at NZ$500 or less and the same is true of associated turnover. No more than one gambling session can take place daily and clear rules are stipulated for the gambling that will be undertaken. Class 1 activities cannot entail the use of a gaming machine in any way and no financial gain must be experienced by the individual conducting the gambling activity.

Class 2

This class does not actually require a gambling license but can only be carried out by a society as defined and set out in the Gambling Act 2003. Prizes awarded by those wishing to be assigned class 2 status should exceed NZ$500 but be no greater than NZ$5,000; expected turnover should exceed NZ$500 but be no greater than NZ$25,000. In the same way as class 1 – class 2 sessions can only occur daily and without need to access a gaming machine. Activities must be carried out without any financial benefit to the person(s) conducting them. Winners must be able to claim their prizes without incurring any additional financial costs to do so specific details relating to the society and the activity it is facilitating must be made clear – further details can be found in Item 25 Section 9(b) of the Gambling Act 2003.

Class 3

Class 3 activities can only be undertaken by those in possession of the necessary gambling license as dictated by the Gambling Act of 2003. This class is ordinarily assigned to gambling industry operators who offer casino games but not gaming machines. Prizes for class 3 must have a combined value exceeding NZ$5,000.

Items 28 and 29 of the gambling Act 2003 clarify further what attracts class 3 status as detailed below:

28 Requirements for class 3 gambling

(1)

Class 3 gambling that is not conducted regularly may be conducted only by a society that holds a class 3 operator’s licence for the gambling.

(2)

Class 3 gambling that is conducted regularly may be conducted only by a corporate society that holds a class 3 operator’s licence for the gambling.

(3)

A licensed promoter may promote only class 3 gambling that is not conducted regularly.

(4)

In this section, gambling is conducted regularly if it is conducted in sessions of more than 1 game.

29 Existing licences class 3 operators’ licences

A licence issued under section 8 of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1977 (except for an existing gaming machine licence), or section 26, or section 35 of that Act becomes, and must be treated as if it were, a class 3 operator’s licence.

Class 4

Class 4 is normally associated with gambling industry operators (corporate societies) who run gambling machines and hold class 4 operating licenses. Sub-part 4 - Licensing of Class 4 Gambling of the Gambling Act 2003 gives details on how to apply for a license. Like the other classes, additional rules must be followed – such as providing clear rules for the games offered and only allowing a commission payment to an establishment operator complying with the regulations set out in section 371 (1)(dd).

Is Online Gambling Legal in New Zealand?

Under Section 9(2)(b) of the New Zealand Gambling Act 2003 expressly forbids online gambling. They define such gambling as: “gambling by a person at a distance by interaction through a communication device.” On further investigation it appears that New Zealand only prohibits remote gambling for residents of their country with operators based in the same country – the ban does not extend to residents of New Zealand who wish to remote gamble with operators based abroad.

Of course, it is always prudent to be cautious before deciding which foreign operator to play with because there is always an element of risk involved, both to money deposited and to personal data stored by online operators. We always advise carrying out deep background checks to be sure of the genuine and trustworthy nature of the potential operator. Before creating an account and depositing, we suggest making sure that the operator in question is in possession of a top quality gaming license with a regulator such as the UKGC or MGA. If you are unsure of how to judge the quality of a licensor more information can be accessed here.

It is also worth checking that the perspective operator is listed positively in our best casinos section – any concerning issues will be laid out clearly here for players. Never be tempted to play with an unlicensed or negatively listed operator – it is highly unlikely that anyone will be able to recover your lost funds for you if you do. We do provide a complaints service for players and guidance on submitting a complaint, and we are always keen to try and assist players who find themselves unfairly treated, but in all likelihood with unlicensed operators where there is no accountability, such actions are unlikely to find a positive resolution for affected players.

In order to engage with casino gambling in New Zealand a patron must be aged 20 years or older. Individuals aged less than 18 years cannot take part in class 4 gambling activities or in the New Zealand Lottery. Depending on the nature of the engagement with the prohibited activities a fine can be levied at the individual taking part in banned activities of between NZ$500 and NZ$1,000 and/or on someone who purchases a ticket on their behalf. For class 4 gambling activities the corporate society that facilitates the illegally aged person to take part in gambling activities can be fined up to NZ$5,000 – the negligent venue’s manager can be fined up to NZ$1,000 for failing to carry out due diligence. The Gambling Act of 2003 also makes provision for fines of up to NZ$50,000 for operators allowing unauthorised gambling and up to NZ$10,000 for individuals who are caught taking part.

Frequently Asked Questions Gambling Legality New Zealand

Is it legal to take part in online gambling in New Zealand?

The New Zealand government have declared online gambling run from within the country and accessed by residents of the country, illegal. New Zealand residents are not forbidden from taking part in online gambling activities hosted by foreign operators based offshore, neither are they punished for doing so. Those living in New Zealand should choose their foreign operator carefully to make sure they are reliable and honest – there will be no legal recourse or support from their own government if they find the foreign operator less than trustworthy after signing up.

What age do I have to be to gamble legally in New Zealand?

To take part in the New Zealand Lottery people must be 18 years of age or older. To take part in casino activities in the country people must be 20 years of age or older. The Gaming Commission take failure to adhere to these age limits very seriously whether you are the patron, the company that owns the service provider, or a manager working in the venue that has allowed an underage patron to participate in forbidden activities. They are allowed to hand out large fines to all parties in breach of the Gaming Act 2003.

Can I be fined for taking part in gambling activities in New Zealand?

Yes! If you are under the allowed age for a class of gambling or you are found to be taking part in an illegal form of gambling such as bookmaking or online gaming services hosted in New Zealand, you can be fined. Fines range from NZ$500 to NZ$50,000 depending on whether you are an individual gambler, a company providing gambling services and how you have breached the Gaming Act 2003. It is not worth the risk of being fined large amounts of money so be sure to check that you are complying with the laws of the land at all times.

How is gambling regulated in New Zealand?

Everything relating to gambling activities in New Zealand is covered by the Gambling Act of 2003. The organisation chosen to make sure that the items outlined in the act are followed is the New Zealand Gambling Commission and they were appointed by the Department of Internal Affairs who are responsible for making amendments to the Act – the NZGC cannot make or amend the Act – only try to enforce it where it is possible for them to do so.

Online Gambling Legality in Other Areas

If you are interested in learning more about the legality of online gambling in other areas of the world, check out our article on the legality of online gambling in Canada – a situation that is quite considerably more complex than that in New Zealand as a result of the devolution of certain powers to the provinces and territories in that country - or our article about the legality of online gambling in the Republic of Ireland.

You should also review our article, Are Online Casinos Regulated. As the government in New Zealand takes no role in the regulation of overseas gambling operators, the experience that New Zealand citizens are likely to have online will largely be defined by the licenses that the gambling operator they choose to play with holds.

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United Kingdom country flag

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sits to the north-west of mainland Europe. The United Kingdom shares a border with The Republic of Ireland and has coasts on the Atlantic Ocean, Celtic Sea, North Sea, Irish Sea and English Channel. The population of the UK is approaching the 67.6 million mark leading to a fairly densely populated land mass. The gambling sector in the United Kingdom is entirely regulated and licensed by the UKGC – the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. Should players resident In the UK wish to gamble with foreign based operators there is no history of this being treated as a criminal offence, but high levels of protection exist for UK residents playing with UK licensed operators.