We’ve seen a seismic shift in the typical approach to iGaming regulation in recent times, with relatively diverse regions such as the US and Europe largely looking to legalise different verticals and bring outdated legislation kicking and screaming into the digital age.
Even in the UK, we’ve seen the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) being pressured to conduct a comprehensive licensing review in conjunction with the government and implement rule changes that help to safeguard players more effectively online.
New Zealand is also in the midst of a sustained legislative review, in a bid to update and enhance the existing Gambling Act of 2003. But what are the current iGaming laws in NZ, and what does the future hold for this market?
The Legality of iGaming in New Zealand
The Gambling Act of 2003 regulates all verticals both on and offline in NZ, although the fact that it predates the UK’s Gambling Act of 2005 highlights just how out of touch this legislation may be.
Certainly, some would argue that New Zealand’s regulatory approach is quite strange, although it’s actually deceptively popular and widespread in a number of non-European markets.
More specifically, online gambling is prohibited when using private and domestic operators based within the borders of New Zealand. However, no such provision has been made for wagering with international markets, which has made a vast and increasingly motivated audience available to global operators such as Betway, 777.com and others listed on the onlinecasinonewzealand.nz website.
The only exceptions to this rule exist in the form of Lotto and TAB, which are centrally controlled government agencies that provide limited lottery and sports betting products respectively.
Interestingly, the overseas online casino market has grown markedly in a relatively short space of time, with New Zealanders pouring an incredible $381 million into the coffers of offshore operators during the past 18 months alone.
Such growth has also prompted discussion amongst various stakeholders in NZ, with two key points of discussion being raised as part of the aforementioned review of the 2003 Gambling Act.
Firstly, the amount of money being spent with offshore operators has raised concerns about lost tax revenue, as the licensing of limited domestic brands could create lucrative levies that are instead payable to the New Zealand government.
Secondly, it has been argued that there’s a fundamental lack of control and regulation pertaining to international casino operators in NZ, creating a digital market that’s particularly hard to control and likely to increase the gambling-related harm caused to society.
We’ll touch more on the likely outcome of the review by the Department of Internal Affairs below, while asking what iGaming in NZ may look like in the future.
How Will the Review Affect iGaming in New Zealand?
Clearly, the main goals of the review will be to factor in the overwhelmingly digital nature of gambling in 2021, while also focusing on the best ways to monetise iGaming for the NZ government and adequately safeguard players.
The Department of Internal Affairs has already issued four initial proposals, although these have come under some fire for being heavily weighted in favour of monetising the industry and increasing access to casinos rather than protecting gamblers.
The first idea would see Lotto and TAB expanded to offer a wider range of products, including a centrally controlled online casino. This would provide limited competition to the nation’s army of overseas operators, although this measure may not go far enough given the number of brands currently active in NZ.
A second, and more feasible, option would see new licensed operators enter the region’s iGaming market, including both domestic brands and carefully selected overseas companies.
This would certainly boost market competition, while allowing the government to create a framework in which all operators pay tax and remote gaming duty directly back into the NZ economy. This would definitely appear to be the most likely outcome from the current review, even though future provisions would have to be made to protect players from the impact of gambling-related harm.
This is also far more appealing than a third reform option, which would be to allow more international operators (such as Mega Moolah) to apply for online licenses in NZ.
After all, the DIA would probably have to rely on voluntary compliance to rules and regulations, although it would once again increase market competition and guarantee competitive odds and welcome bonuses for players.