he New Zealand government has launched a public consultation to gauge public support for regulating new forms of online gambling. It is also looking for views on measures to minimise gambling harms. The public and industry stakeholders are asked to share their thoughts in a Public Discussion Document, and comments are to be submitted by September 30 to the Department of Internal Affairs' Online Gambling Team.
“Our current Gambling Act is from 2003 and like a lot of legislation it is being challenged by the place of the Internet,” said Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin. “New technology has changed people’s behavior dramatically and the way New Zealanders gamble has changed too. It’s now timely to check whether our gambling rules are appropriate.”
Cabinet agreed last September that the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Associate Minister of Health would work together to make sure online gambling policy is fit for purpose.
At present, Lotto NZ and the TAB are the only New Zealand organisations able to offer online gambling, and it is illegal for overseas online gambling operators to advertise to New Zealanders. However, betting offshore is legal and New Zealanders have spent about $380 million on offshore gambling sites in the last 18 months. “A lot of New Zealanders enjoy gambling and it’s not our intention to stop this. However the growth in online gambling challenges our current approach,” Martin explained.
Since the Gambling Act was passed, New Zealand’s regulatory regime has been underpinned by a public health approach and based around three principles: communities benefit from the proceeds of gambling; New Zealanders gamble with trusted operators; and gambling-related harm is minimised, with the cost of minimisation and mitigation being carried by gambling providers.
“The problem we have is that, unlike domestic gambling operators, offshore online gambling operators do not pay to mitigate the harm their industry causes, nor do they contribute to the community through funding grants,” Martin stated. “We also need to assess whether they sufficiently protect vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly our young people who can spend a lot of time online.”
The discussion document outlines key issues and seeks feedback on a range of options. For example, New Zealand could establish a licensing system, where online providers must meet certain conditions to be able to legally offer their services in New Zealand, as it happens in Australia and the United Kingdom, the Minister said. There are also several tools that could be implemented to limit New Zealander’s access to online gambling sites, including geo-blocking access to overseas gambling sites or banning the use of credit cards for online gambling.
“There are four basic approaches outlined in the discussion document and we want to know what New Zealanders think about these or any other options for how we should approach online gambling,” Martin concluded.
Public consultation will run over a two-month period from until 30 September 2019. The discussion document and information on how to make a submission can be found at the DIA official website.