Online casinos and gambling games are still as popular as ever in New Zealand despite the government announcing plans to enact stricter laws and regulations on offshore gaming. Online games like Microgaming’s Mega Moolah (famed for having the largest payout in online slots gaming history), NetEnt’s Twin Spin, and Playtech’s Spamalot are still enjoyed by thousands of Kiwi residents daily. Currently, the only companies officially licensed to offer online gaming services in New Zealand are the government-run TAB sports betting service and the state lottery. While overseas companies are technically barred from advertising to New Zealanders it is still legal for Kiwi’s to use the services. Now the government is considering attempts to restrict these activities.
In July this year, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) announced it would be considering revising the 2003 Gambling Act, which it feels is out of date with today’s new technology. “Our current Gambling Act is from 2003 and like a lot of legislation it is being challenged by the place of the internet. New technology has changed people’s behavior dramatically and the way New Zealanders gamble has changed too. It’s now time to check whether our gambling rules are appropriate,” said Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.
Four possible options
The revision includes four possible options that range from maintaining the current system as it is, to a complete overhaul with broad and sweeping changes. The revision also discusses in detail ways to fight gambling addiction and to help minimize harm to players. However, critics suggest the proposed changes don’t reflect an interest in helping people with gambling problems but rather focus on improving the local economy. The DIA argues that the need to bring funds back home is intended so that the profits from online gambling can be used to mitigate the health impacts presented by gambling addiction. As it currently stands, offshore gaming operators are under no obligation to reimburse foreign governments for the harm that they inflict on citizens of those nations.
It is estimated that approximately NZ$380 million is siphoned into offshore gambling operations, money that the government would undoubtedly want to see spent on improving local businesses and aiding government services. While the advertising of overseas hosted games is prohibited, online ‘pokies’ are still highly popular with New Zealand citizens and can be easily found on popular gaming sites and other sites which feature a good selection of online casinos for NZ players.
However, despite the concerns, the Ministry of Health in New Zealand doesn’t report a particularly high instance of individuals requesting help for gambling addiction. Some argue that this is due to the hidden nature of online gambling but it is just as likely that there is no significant problem as of yet. Still, the government believes it may be necessary to consider legal revisions like the ban of credit cards for online gambling, which has been linked to increased instances of addiction and related social issues.