Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Gambling information

Government policies and strategies

The rapid expansion of gambling opportunities, especially ‘pokie machines’ (more formally known as Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs)) in New Zealand over the past two decades has led to the introduction of a new Gambling Act 2003, which was passed in September 2003. The Act aims to control, regulate and monitor gambling and to prevent and/or minimise gambling related harm.

Problem gambling was declared as a public health issue in the Act and as such, the Ministry of Health has developed a strategy for public health, prevention, treatment and research. This work is funded by a levy on the gambling industry at a rate determined predominantly by the proportion of all people accessing problem gambling services and by the mode of gambling identified as the primary source of their problem.

For more information, visit the Ministry of Health website.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has the primary responsibility for regulating the gambling sector in New Zealand. Among these regulatory and accountability measures undertaken by the DIA are the introduction of Electronic Monitoring Systems (EMS) on pokie machines (EGMs) and enforcement of the requirement that profits from EGMs are to be allocated in a transparent process to the community, as well as licensing and compliance issues.

For more information, visit the Department of Internal Affairs website.

Territorial Local Authorities (TLAs) have also been assigned a partial regulatory role with respect to Class 4 gambling venues in the Act. The Gambling Act 2003 required each TLA to consult with their communities in developing a Gambling Venue Policy (GVP) for their district, which was to be implemented within six months of enactment of the Gambling Act 2003. This policy covers electronic gambling machines and stand alone New Zealand Racing Board (previously TAB) venues. Specifically, Section 101 of the Gambling Act requires every territorial local authority to adopt a policy on the location of class 4 (operating ‘gaming machines’ outside of casinos – determined high risk) gambling venues (only for those venues not licensed before 18 October 2001), and the number of EGMs operating within these venues (so that numbers could reduce below the maximum of nine allowed in the legislation). In developing this gambling venue policy, the TLA must take into account the social impacts of all gambling in their district. All policies were required to be developed in accordance with the special consultative procedures specified in the Local Government Act 2002 and are to be reviewed no later than three years after implementation. TLAs are currently (2007) reviewing their Gambling Venue Policies.     

Gambling expenditure in New Zealand

Gambling has expanded rapidly in New Zealand during the last 16 years. Expenditure has increased from $426 million in 1989 to $1.977 billion in 2006. The following are some of the key trends for the 2005/06 period as cited on the Department of Internal Affairs website (visit the following link for further details - DIA Gambling Statistics).

Overall, gambling expenditure decreased for the second year in a row (by 2.5%, from $2.027 billion to $1.977 billion). While expenditure on racing and sports betting, casinos and Lotteries Commission products all increased, an 11.8% reduction was observed for non-casino EGM expenditure.

Compared with the previous year:

  • expenditure on racing and sports betting increased by 4.5% (from $247 million to $258 million). This is significant as it is the largest percentage increase over a year since 1995
  • expenditure on Lotteries Commission products increased by 14.6% (from $280 million to $321 million). This is the highest ever expenditure figure for the Lotteries Commission
  • expenditure on casino gambling (including casino EGMs) increased by 4.4% (from $472 million to $493 million). This contrasts with the decline of 2.5% from the previous year
  • expenditure on non-casino EGMs decreased by 11.8% (from $1.027 billion to $906 million). This follows the decrease of 0.8% in 2004/05. The Department of Internal Affairs attributes this decrease to the new regulatory environment introduced by the Gambling Act 2003 (and its associated regulations) being complemented by the smoke-free legislation that was introduced in December 2004. 

Some problem gambling intervention statistics

The following key statistics have been taken from the Ministry of Health's document: Problem Gambling Intervention Services in New Zealand, 2006 National Service-user statistics, available at the Ministry of Health website.

In 2006:

  • 2,651 new callers accessed the Gambling Helpline (down 7.7% on the previous year)
  • 3,906 clients accessed face-to-face gambling counselling services (an decrease of 3.1% on the previous year)
  • The majority of new gambler clients to intervention services cited EGMs as their primary problem mode:
    • Face-to-face services: non-casino EGMs - 64.2% (down from 72.5% in 2005), and casino EGMs - 17.5% (up from 8.7% in 2005)
    • Gambling Helpline: non-casino EGMs - 74.9% (down from 78.7% in 2005), and casino EGMs - 10.6% (up from 9.0% in 2005)
    • Gender - almost half of new gambler clients and approximately three-quarters of significant other clients were female:
      • Gambling Helpline: gambler clients (46.8%), significant other clients (76.0%)
      • Face-to-face services: gambler clients (44.8%), significant other clients (68.8%)
    • Ethnicity - new gambler clients:
      • Gambling Helpline: while the percentages of NZ European/Pakeha (47.7%), Asian peoples (7.6%) and Other (4.0%) gamblers decreased a little from 2005, the proportions of Māori (30%) and Pacific (10.6%) increased slightly
      • Face-to-face services: the proportions of NZ European/Pakeha (47.3%), Māori (32.2%), and Other (6.1%) decreased slightly from 2005, and small increases were observed for percentages of Pacific (7.4%) and Asian (7.1%) peoples
    • Age:
      • Gambling Helpline: more than half (58.9%) of new gambler clients to the helpline were under 40 years of age, compared with almost half (46.0%) of new significant other clients
      • Face-to-face services: more than half (53.5%) of new face-to-face gambler clients were under 40 years of age, compared with just under half (49.8%) of new significant other clients.