"Top New Zealand gambling experts at your service"

History of Gambling in New Zealand

History Of Gambling

Gambling is probably one of the oldest pastimes that the world knows, and no matter where you go, you will find different types of gambling in almost every culture. Today, gambling is more popular than ever, and it has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. Just like the rest of the world, New Zealanders love to gamble. Let?s take a look at the history of gaming in NZ.

Gambling in New Zealand

While gambling has likely been in New Zealand as long as there have been people here to place bets, the activity as we know it today came to the country with the first European settlers. While gambling was a common activity during the colonial period, the Gambling Act of 1908 did change things. With this law, legal gambling could only take place at New Zealand?s racetracks.

Even with this law, the popularity of gambling persisted. It was not until 1951, with the Totalisator Agency Board that the laws against gambling started to relax. The TAB was then followed by the introduction of the Golden Kiwi lottery, and the following liberalization of gambling laws have gotten us to where we are today, with our pokies in bars and the handful of casinos around the country.


Currently, there are five legal casinos in New Zealand. The first of the legal casinos opened in Christchurch in 1994. With the opening of this first legal casino in the country, it gave tourists a great opportunity for placing some bets, enjoying good food and experiencing top casino entertainment. In addition to the casino in Christchurch, the country has casinos in Dunedin, Queenstown, Hamilton and Auckland. At the time of writing, the Auckland SkyCity Casino is the largest in the country and its owner, the SkyCity Entertainment Group is the largest operator in New Zealand.


Slot machines or ?pokies? as they commonly known can be found in locations all over New Zealand. In addition to playing pokies at a casino, they are a common fixture in restaurants and bars. The pokies that can be found in locations that are not casinos are owned by charitable foundations. The machines first came to the country in 1991, and they quickly gained popularity. More than 1,000 venues feature these slot machines and in all, there are more than 15,000 gaming machines throughout the country.


The first recorded lotteries in New Zealand date back to the end of the 19th century. At the time, they were used by different foundations and organizations to raise money. The first national lotteries were started in 1933, but the low returns caused many New Zealanders to look for lottery opportunities overseas by purchasing tickets in Australia.

With recognition of declining interest in the ?Art Union? lotteries of the time, and the fact that people were illegally purchasing tickets outside the country, the National Government founded the Golden Kiwi lottery in 1961. This ran with great success until 1987, when the New Zealand Lottery Commission was formed. The initial release from the lottery commission was lotto, but in the following years, products like scratch cards, powerball and keno have become popular additions.


Horseracing is probably the oldest form of gambling that has been continually legal in the country. People have been betting on horses since the earliest days of the nation, and they continue to do so today. Starting in 1910, it was made illegal to bet on the horses off-track, so for a time, you did have to show up for the race to place a bet. However, passage of the TAB did make it legal for people to bet on any race from any track in the country.

Online Casinos

The online casinos have done a lot to change the way that New Zealanders gamble. In the country, it is illegal to operate an online casino, but New Zealanders that are of legal age can gamble with casinos that are based overseas. With this, the individual can setup and account with an online casino, and have access to a number of betting options that they would otherwise not have.

Gambling Popularity in New Zealand

Gambling is a popular activity in New Zealand, and this is why many of the prohibitive laws have failed to work. While the casinos, pokies, racetrack betting and lotteries have all enjoyed great success, the popularity of gambling has only grown since the introduction of online casinos. The total gambling expenditure was a little over $2 billion for the financial year of 2015, and this figure does not even account for money spent with online gambling.

Current Gambling Laws

Under New Zealand law, all gambling is controlled by the Department of Internal Affairs. In this, all gambling has to return a percentage of the proceeds to the community. Since there are no legal online casinos operating in New Zealand, they would be the exception to this rule.

While there have been various laws that have prohibited or allowed different types of gambling activities throughout the history of New Zealand, the modern laws that govern the activity are the Gambling Act of 2003 and the Racing Act of 2003. The Racing Act covers sports betting and racing, and the Gambling Act covers all other forms of gambling.

While these laws are mostly concerned with the activities of gambling institutions, there are also provisions that can apply to individuals. It is recommended that you take the time to know the laws that may be relevant to any gambling activity that you plan to engage in.


From the early days of simple betting to the high tech option of the online casino, the gambling landscape has changed a lot over the years. New Zealanders like to gamble, and most can do it in a responsible manner. While some may have tried to stifle the action, it does not seem that gambling is going to leave the country any time soon.