New Zealand Gambling Laws on Land

In New Zealand nearly all forms of gambling and betting are both legal and popular. Back in 2012, our Racing Board (TAB), Lottery Commission, casinos and gaming machine operators combined for $2.068b NZD in net gambling win. This was approximately NZD $621 (USD $ 520) for each resident of legal age.

The actual gambling per capita is much higher than these figures. This is because online poker, online casinos and betting with overseas bookmakers are not included in the tally. The reason why is covered in this article where I discuss our gambling laws. If you are interested in recommendations and information regarding New Zealand Gambling Sites you can continue to the second article in this series at the bottom of the page. Inside I cover bonus offers, features, and how to deposit and withdrawal.

Gambling Laws for Players

When looking at gambling laws by country, for almost every country the information is confusing, conflicting or vague. The good news is this is not the case in New Zealand. Here all gambling is administered by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). Their website www.dia.govt.nz/Gambling is extremely comprehensive and easy to navigate. I would be very surprised to hear if someone told me something they wanted to know about gambling in NZ could not be found on this website.

Before I comment on the laws players are most interested in, first note that the bulk of New Zealand gambling law focuses entirely on operators. We are a country known for strict regulation, but also as one that is very liberal and does not attempt to tell adults how their own money can be spent. The gist of what I cover in this section is that: social gambling is mostly allowed, gambling winnings are generally not taxed, and betting online with foreign websites is entirely legally.

Social Gambling Allowed

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.

Tax on Gambling Winnings

If you search the website of our tax authority Inland Revenue (www.ird.govt.nz) 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 because 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 purpose 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.

Using Overseas Gambling Websites is Legal

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 website 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.

It is important I note this is not a gray area. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), who again controls all gambling in New Zealand, states this clear as day. Here is quote from 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 our lottery and TAB (for sports and horse race betting) are available on the internet. However there are many overseas websites such as www.bet365.com – which is based in the UK – that offer online betting to New Zealand.

At Bet365 sports from all around the world including New Zealand are covered, and there is 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.

Other Gambling Laws

As mentioned most all information on Gambling in New Zealand can be found on the DIA’s gambling website. To point to pages of potential interest, you might be interested in rules for operating gambling activity and current laws. It’s also worth mentioning that most gambling debts are enforceable.

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