Gambling is Not a New Phenomenon, it Existed Since Centuries

Gambling not a new phenomenon, it existed since centuries
Gambling is not new

Pokies are a popular game played in communities across New Zealand today. Gambling in several forms has existed for thousands of years. With this knowledge, it is quite clear why many see pokies and other forms of gambling as an addition in recent times. But is there more to the problems of New Zealand than a few pokie machines? Let’s find out.

Gambling is a massive part of New Zealand’s culture and has come a long way since citizens’ only option was to play private card games for money. The industry has seen twists and turns, making it all the more fascinating. Understanding its history will give you a better understanding of this game. Learn here how gambling is a traditional pastime; it has existed since centuries ago.

Related post: How To Quit Pokies For Good.

History of Gambling in NZ

History of gambling in NZ
History of gambling in NZ

Well, this game was rife even as far back as Roman times. Whether it be with a die or other versions of gambling, the rich and poor alike of Roman times were all happy to enjoy a flutter or two.

With this, there were also the cheats who tried to steal money through unruly means from fellow gamblers. Some laws came into existence to outlaw gambling, but they did not sound like the people enjoyed the pastime and carried on regardless. It showed that no matter what the rulers said, the people would still enjoy their favourite pastime.

Check this out Why Are Pokies So Addictive?

Development of Gambling from Ancient to Modern Period

Early forms of gambling

Early forms of gambling can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where various activities provided entertainment and opportunities for wagering. In Mesopotamia, dice games were prevalent, with the outcome determined by the dice roll. Similarly, in Ancient Egypt, board games like Senet and Mehen often involved betting on the outcome.

In ancient China, significant developments in gambling took place. The invention of playing cards during the Tang Dynasty laid the foundation for various games. Games like Mahjong, with its strategic tile-matching gameplay, and Keno, a lottery-like game, originated in China during this time.

Medieval and Renaissance gambling

Gambling underwent significant developments during the Medieval and Renaissance periods in Europe. Card games evolved and gained popularity. Originally used for divination, Tarot cards became associated with gambling, introducing a new dimension to the games.

Games like poker and blackjack also began gaining traction, captivating players with their combination of strategy and chance.

Simultaneously, the rise of gambling establishments marked a notable shift. Casinos and gambling houses emerged as dedicated spaces for indulging in gambling activities. However, the advent of these establishments also brought forth social implications and controversies surrounding gambling.

Modern gambling

Modern gambling has experienced significant transformations, leading to the emergence of new forms and destinations that have reshaped the industry. Two notable aspects of modern gambling include lottery systems, state-sponsored gambling, and the development of casino resorts.

Lottery systems and state-sponsored gambling have gained widespread popularity in the modern era. With their enticing jackpots and easy accessibility, lotteries have attracted a large and diverse player base.

The fun and anticipation have driven the emergence of lotteries as a prominent form of gambling. They offer participants the potential for life-changing prizes.

Online gambling and technological advancements

The evolution of Internet technology has made the introduction of online gambling platforms possible. This has had a profound impact on the gambling landscape, providing a convenient and accessible platform for individuals to participate in various forms of gambling from the comfort of their own homes. Online gambling offers options, including casino games, sports betting, and poker, catering to diverse preferences and interests.

The emergence of mobile gambling has further expanded the reach of online gambling. Mobile apps have become increasingly prevalent, enabling users to access gambling platforms on their mobiles. This has significantly increased the convenience and flexibility of gambling, allowing individuals to place bets or play games anytime and anywhere.

Related postHow To Quit Pokies For Good.

Gambling Origins – Gambling has been around for ages

1. Horse Racing

Horse Racing
Horse Racing

Gambling has been around for as long as New Zealand has been a country, but it wasn’t until the 1830s that it became a popular sport for adults. This was when horse racing became a nationwide sport, and many people saw a way to have fun and, if lucky, make some money.

Unfortunately for those who enjoyed betting on horses, the government banned bookmakers from taking wagers on the sport. This meant that starting in 1910, the only way punters could make a bet was to show up at the race track. It wasn’t until 1950 that the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) was established, allowing people to bet on any horses at any tracks in the country.

1908 Horse Racing became legal
In 1908, Horse Racing became legal

1908, the Gambling Act made horse racing betting legal in New Zealand. Many people started betting on horses without worrying about getting caught or penalised.

The first Europeans brought this popular game with them to NZ. Despite its illegality, people can still enjoy an exciting race day experience at any TAB outlet nationwide!

The early history of gambling talks about it as a phenomenon that has always been tied to money and the desire for opportunities. It does not matter how people play, whether rolling dice on the floor or betting their life savings in an online casino; there will always be those ready to try their luck at winning big!

Gambling seems like something you would only see in movies about Las Vegas casinos with fancy suits and showgirls. However, you can find these games here if you’re looking for poker machines, tables, roulette wheels, and even blackjack, among other table games—all found right inside land-based casinos across North America and Australia, too!

2. Lotteries and Pokies

Lotteries and Pokies
Lotteries and Pokies

In July 1987, the New Zealand Lotteries Commission developed its first nationwide lottery system. Since then, Kiwis have been able to purchase Lotto tickets and scratch cards through some establishments.

Just a few years later, pokies were legalized in the country. This brought even more fun to gambling since the games were easy to understand and play. Since their introduction in 1991, pokies have spread nationwide; today, they can be found in over 1,500 locations.

3. Casinos


Christchurch Casino opened in 1994 as New Zealand’s first casino. It allowed locals and tourists to gamble and legally purchase food, alcohol, and entertainment. This further increased the popularity of horse racing and pokies and introduced the country to table games.

Current Gambling Laws

Current Gambling Laws
Current Gambling Laws

The Department of Internal Affairs governs all gambling in New Zealand. The majority of gambling establishments in the country are state-run, which allows the profits of those industries to go back into the community.

The Racing Act 2003 and the Gambling Act 2003 regulate all types of gambling in New Zealand. The Racing Act 2003 contains every law related to sports betting and racing, while the Gambling Act 2003 regulates every other type of gambling in the country.

Most of New Zealand’s gambling laws were there to keep machines and other games up to code, but many laws also instruct what citizens can and can’t do privately. It is up to each gambler to know these laws to avoid fines.

1. Land-based NZ Casinos

Land-based NZ casinos
Land-based NZ casinos

It has been legal since 1990 when operators required a casino license.

There are 6 casinos in New Zealand, and guests must be 20+ to enter.

Casino games are regulated, and gambling legislation sets out the types and rules for all games a casino can offer. These include pokies, bingo, and many table games, including various types of poker, roulette, and blackjack.

Apart from the 6 casinos, since 1987, pokies have also been found in hotels, dedicated clubs, and slot halls (pokie clubs). However, non-profit charities should operate all of these, and revenue from this gambling activity is used to fund various socially beneficial projects and bodies.

There are 15,300 pokie machines in New Zealand, including pokie halls and casinos; about 90% are found outside casinos.

New Zealand companies can not operate online casinos. However, playing in foreign online casinos is allowed, and players are not prosecuted.

2. Bingo in New Zealand

Bingo in New Zealand
Bingo in New Zealand

Land-based Bingo, also called house in New Zealand and Australia, is legal and popular. The country has nearly 50 bingo halls, but it is difficult to know; most don’t have an online presence. The Gambling Act governs bingo, including the fact that prizes may only be cash and that the amount is as per the class of the gambling activity.

Bingo can also be played as class 1 gambling without a license if prizes do not exceed the specified amount, $500, or as a class 2 charity event.

Online bingo is illegal in New Zealand. New Zealand companies can not operate online bingo platforms. However, playing on foreign online bingo platforms is legal. And instead of local alternatives, that’s the only option NZ players have.

3. Poker in New Zealand

Poker in New Zealand
Poker in New Zealand

This table game is legal in New Zealand and may be played in licensed casinos or as class 1 or 2 games. However, there is no significant poker club license, so there are no poker clubs in New Zealand. The gambling regulation even specifies the rules and what types of poker can be played, which luckily includes the most popular three: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Stud.

Online poker is illegal in New Zealand. No online poker licenses are issued, and operating online poker sites in Australia is illegal. However, it is not illegal for locals to play on foreign online poker sites, many of which are available from New Zealand.

4. Sports betting in New Zealand

Sports betting in New Zealand
Sports betting in New Zealand

Sports betting is also legal in New Zealand. However, it is the monopoly of TAB NZ (of the New Zealand Racing Board). The Racing Industry Act 2020 regulates sports betting.

Licenses are not issued to private bookmakers.

Like a TAB New Zealand monopoly, online sports betting is also allowed. Additionally, locals are free to use foreign online sports betting platforms due to the quirks of the NZ legal system. These are generally superior and offer significantly more sports to bet on, with better odds, promotions, free bets, etc. They usually have poker and casino games as well.

5. Lottery in New Zealand

Lottery in New Zealand
Lottery in New Zealand

The lottery is also legal in New Zealand. It is the monopoly of the state-owned Lotto NZ (of the Lotteries Commission). You can also play the online lottery, which is also legal, and it is similarly a monopoly.

6. Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency Gambling in New Zealand

Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency Gambling in New Zealand
Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency Gambling in New Zealand

Cryptocurrencies are not accepted as currency in New Zealand, but contract and tax laws apply, meaning you must pay taxes on your Bitcoin earnings. Because cryptocurrencies are not recognized as currency, land-based gambling establishments in NZ do not accept them.

Bitcoin gambling is not particularly regulated. There is no legislation regarding the use of cryptocurrencies in gambling.


Gambling in New Zealand is not new but presents unique challenges in the modern era. The rise of online gambling platforms and mobile apps has brought convenience and accessibility to a broader audience. Still, it has also raised concerns regarding problem gambling and the need for effective regulation.

Addressing issues such as problem gambling, accessibility, responsible advertising, and cultural sensitivities, among others, requires a multi-faceted approach.

By focusing on responsible gambling practices, education, regulation, and support services, New Zealand can strive to create a safer and more sustainable gambling environment for its population.

Mamta Sharma

Mamta is a spirited writer hailing from Wellington, bringing a youthful zest to the world of digital content. Merging her love for narrative with an eye for detail, Ella crafts stories that resonate and engage the modern reader.