New Zealanders May Face New Restrictions Targeting Online Poker

Updated: August 4th, 2019 by Haley Hintze

New Zealand’s many tens of thousands may face new restrictions in financing or even accessing their offshore online poker accounts after the country’s Internal Affairs Ministry recently announced an open consultation into several aspects of the online gambling services available to Kiwis.

Currently, it is legal for New Zealand’s citizens to participate in virtually any online gambling form, even though only two categories — online lottery and sports betting — are official authorized by the government. Both of those verticals are operated by government entities, Lotto New Zealand and the New Zealand Racing Board, respectively.

The possibility of new restrictions coming into play was likely hastened by the decision in May by New Zealand’s largest casino brand, SkyCity, to launch a counterpart online-gambling site. However, since New Zealand has no regulatory mechanism for these other online gambling forms, SkyCity couldn’t move online without contracting with an unlicensed (in New Zealand) offshore provided. SkyCity eventually partnered with Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group (GiG), which offers a turnkey business-to-consumer casino-games platform.

That didn’t sit well with Kiwi officials, including Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, who called the SkyCity deal “disappointing”. Since then, Martin’s ministry has ramped up its efforts to conduct what appears to be a generalized review of online gambling as it’s available to New Zealanders. According to a statement announcing the launch of the open consultation, Kiwis have spent some $380 million on offshore gambling sites over the past 18 months.

“Our current Gambling Act is from 2003 and like a lot of legislation it is being challenged by the place of the internet,” Martin stated. “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.”

Martin and her agency are framing the call for input as a public health issue. “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,” she said.

Trying to block offshore operators completely, via blacklisting or geoblocking, or limiting their impact by blocking credit-card transactions are among the more extreme changes Martin’s ministry will consider. Creating a licensing scheme for offshore operators, expanding Lotto NZ and NZRB services, or simply doing nothing at all are also possibilities.

“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. This is what Australia and the United Kingdom do. There are also several tools that could be implemented to limit New Zealander’s access to online gambling sites. These include 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.”

The consultation, created in survey form, is open to all New Zealand people and entities with interest in issues connected to the availability of online gambling and online poker in New Zealand.

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