New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs is in charge of gambling regulations. State-owned institutions and organizations own the biggest proportion of the gambling industry. It is considered that communities in the country are the primary stakeholder group. A portion of profits from public gambling is required to be turned over to communities in New Zealand. Community interests include groups for whom gambling activities raise funds, gamblers, and organizations which provide services and research on the social effects of gambling.

The largest proportion of the gambling industry is operated by state-owned institutions. Expenditure on gambling (losses experienced by players) was $NZ 2.034 billion in 2008 ($NZ 480 per capita), a tenfold increase over 1985 figures.

Legal Games to play in New Zealand

Gambling is categorized into four classes, each of which requires a special license from the government in order to operate. Maximum prize amounts and turnovers vary from class to class. Players must be at least 20 years of age to enter casinos but only 18 to participate in sports betting (including horse racing), scratch cards, and lotteries. Following are the legal gambling games that are allowed in New Zealand.

1. Horse racing

Up to 1920 bookmaking was declared illegal in New Zealand. From then until the introduction of the Totalizator Agency Board (TAB) in 1961, betting on racing was only available on-course. Today there are various TAB terminals in NZ to bet on sports and horse racing. The Totalizator Agency Board, commonly called the TAB, is a sports betting organization run by the New Zealand Racing Board.

2. Lotteries

The first “Art Union” was conducted in New Zealand by the Otago Art Society in December 1877. Both individuals and organizations subsequently used them as a way of raising funds. The first national lotteries were established in 1933. They were known as “Art Unions”. Prizes were relatively small, and in the early Art Unions, the prizes were quantities of alluvial gold. The low returns tempted many people to (illegally) purchase tickets in overseas lotteries such as the Australian Tattersall’s lottery. With Art Union sales declining, a review of lotteries was undertaken by the Second Labour Government in the late 1950s, and in 1961 the National Government introduced the Golden Kiwi lottery.

The New Zealand Lotteries Commission was established in 1987. Its original product, Lotto, has since been supplemented by Instant Kiwi scratch cards, daily Keno, and a Lotto variant named Big Wednesday. Lotto tickets became available online in 2000. In New Zealand, nearly all forms of gambling and betting are both legal and popular.

3. Pokies

According to Wikipedia introduced in 1987, slot machines, commonly known as “pokies”, are operated by charitable foundations and are mostly placed in hotels and bars. Maximum jackpots are regulated. In the year ending 30 June 2008, turnover was $10.096 billion, of which $9.158 billion was returned as prizes (player losses were $938 million). These figures represent a 9% decrease from the peak year of 2004. Pokies accounted for 46.1% of gambling expenditure (losses) in 2008. The year to 30 June 2009 saw a further 5% fall in expenditure, to $889 million. There were 19,479 machines in 1,501 venues operated by 384 licensees, all of these figures being a decrease from 2008.

Since 1 July 2009, all machines must have Player Information Displays, which inform the gambler how long they have been playing, how much they have lost, and which encourage them to take breaks.

In May 2013 the Government announced it would allow casino SkyCity Auckland to install an additional 230 pokie machines and 40 new gambling tables, in exchange for a $402 million convention center.


There are Six casinos operating in New Zealand, the first of which opened in 1994:

  1. Dunedin Casino
  2. Christchurch Casino
  3. SkyCity Auckland
  4. SkyCity Hamilton
  5. SkyCity Queenstown
  6. Skycity Wharf Casino

Gambling Act of New Zealand

The Gambling Act of 2003 is the primary piece of legislation that governs and regulates gambling in New Zealand. It focuses on ensuring that communities benefit from the profits acquired by the gambling industry and the negative effects of gambling are minimized. So while gambling is considered one of the greatest attractions in the country, the government is meticulously regulating the gambling industry. The first major casino opened in 1994, and as the industry experienced rapid growth, the Gambling Act of 2003 was established.

The Gambling Act of 2003 (this link is to the most recent version) is the primary law that regulates gambling in New Zealand. Section 22 and 23 cover cases where no gambling license is required to operate.

Reading Section 22 one can interpret running poker tournaments, betting pools, housie (bingo), or other forms of gambling other than machines, where no cut (rake) is taken and the prize is under $500 is considered Class 1 Gambling. This is fully legal and no license is required. Section 22 defines Class 2 Gambling, which is mostly for organizations, charities, and certain businesses.

The objectives of the Gambling Act of 2003 are:

  • Ensure that money from gambling benefits the community
  • Facilitate community involvement in decisions about the provision of gambling
  • Moderate the growth of gambling
  • Minimise the negative effects caused by gambling including problem gambling
  • Authorise some gambling and prohibit the rest
  • Facilitate responsible gambling
  • Ensure the fairness and integrity of games
  • Limit opportunities for crime and dishonesty associated with gambling

Current Laws and Amendments for New Zealand’ s Gambling Industry

Racing Act 2003

Boxing and Wrestling Act 1981

Current Regulations

Regulatory Agency Roles

The Department of Internal Affairs

  • Administers gambling legislation
  • Licenses gambling activities (except for casino gambling)
  • Ensures compliance with the legislation
  • Provides public information and education

The Ministry of Health

  • Funds and coordinates problem gambling services
  • Recently finalised its Preventing and Minimising Gambling Harm, three-year Service Plan 2011-2013, and its six-year Strategic Plan 2011-2016.

The Gambling Commission

  • Considers and determine applications for casino operators’ licenses and the renewal of casino venue licenses
  • Approves agreements and changes to agreements between casino operators and casino venue license holders
  • Considers and deals with complaints about the way the Department of Internal Affairs has handled complaints in relation to Class 4 gambling
  • Specifies, varies and revokes casino license conditions
  • Advises Ministers and facilitates consultation on the setting of the problem gambling levy
  • Considers and determines appeals against regulatory and licensing decisions made by the Department of Internal Affairs

Are your winnings taxed?

If you search the website of tax authority Inland Revenue ( you will find gambling is mentioned many times but in very few cases do gamblers ever need to pay tax on their winnings. There is a common misconception that the reason for this is because operators (lottery organizers, pokie owners, casinos, TAB, etc.) have already paid tax. The actual reason is that gambling is most often considered recreation and not income. This remains true even when using overseas online betting sites.

An exception where gambling may be considered income for tax purposes is professional gambling. The precedent for this is the case Duggan v C of IR 73 ATC 6001. In short when gambling becomes a means of producing income rather than a pastime it is taxable income. Unlike Australian gambling law which allows most professional poker players to claim they are recreational, in New Zealand poker winnings are considered taxable income if the player has little to no income from other sources. Outside of professional poker play, it is very rare for gambling winnings to be taxed in NZ.

Online Gambling – Is it Legal?

Yes, it is legal to play online pokies at online casinos and sites. Gambling-related activities that are still prohibited across the board include bookmaking and remote interactive (online) gambling. But, while Kiwi law dictates that it is illegal for players to gamble at any online casino based in New Zealand, any player of age can legally play at online casinos based outside the country. However, advertising from overseas gaming operators within New Zealand is banned.

This means neither the New Zealand Gambling Act nor any other NZ law makes using overseas gambling websites a crime. What is illegal is to advertise these websites and the penalty is $5,000 per offense. This means Bet365, PokerStars, and other websites cannot market here on TV, newspapers, or any other mediums. If players find their sites and use them, there is no crime for either the operator or player.

DIA controls Gambling in NZ

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), which again controls all gambling in New Zealand, states this clear as day. This is available in their page on prohibited gambling activity:

“The prohibition is on remote interactive gambling in New Zealand and therefore does not prohibit gambling conducted overseas. For example, it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to participate in gambling over the Internet if that website is based overseas.”

New Zealand law does not allow companies and residents here to offer in-play betting, casino games, pokies (slots), housie (bingo), and online poker. Only NZ lottery and TAB (for sports and horse race betting) are available on the internet. However, there are many overseas websites such as – which is based in the UK – that offer online betting to New Zealand.

Bet365 sports covers the entire world including New Zealand, and there is a casino, slots, poker, and bingo too. They even offer accounts in New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Bet365 is only one of many websites New Zealanders use to bet online. This is why gambling per capita is impossible to tally – the government cannot track overseas online betting which is very popular here.

The law is clear that as long as the player is of age, there are no laws prohibiting New Zealanders from playing at online casinos based elsewhere. That means you can enjoy all the top casino games such as keno, craps, poker, video poker, blackjack, baccarat, roulette, keno, and slots (pokies), any time you want.

If you are a Problem Gambler?

A Problem gambler is a person who is addicted to gambling. New Zealanders have many resources available to help overcome problem gambling. The Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand offers gambling addiction helplines, counseling, and support groups.

Those seeking help (or looking to help someone else) can also find a variety of educational materials as well as meeting times and locations on the organization’s site as well at The Gambling Helpline New Zealand ( ) is another great resource that offers similar services.