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A History of Gambling in New Zealand

Today, gambling in New Zealand is a two-billion-dollar industry, with millions of Kiwis indulging in the pastime on a regular basis. The arrival of online casinos has fuelled that growth, even though domestic-based operators are banned from running a site in the country. For example, Rizk casino is available to NZ players, specifically because it is based and operated abroad.

Indeed, the complicated nature of the legislation surrounding online gambling in New Zealand is representative of the history of the activity in the country. Although hugely popular, it has not always been viewed in a positive light by the authorities, who have sought to control, regulate and restrict it for well over a century now. Here’s a delve into the fascinating history of gambling in New Zealand.

Early days

Gambling was popular with the local Kiwi population ever since the days that European settlers brought dice and card games with them from the Old World. However, these games were almost entirely unregulated (other than horse racing and lotteries) until the late 19th century, when fears over their links to alcoholism and prostitution saw theprohibition of public betting with the Gambling and Lotteries Act (GLA) 1881.

The one exception to this rule wasracecourses, which were still a legal setting in which punters could lay bets. However, an amendment to the GLA in 1910 further banned bookmakers from setting up their stalls at racecourse grounds, meaning the practice was driven underground. The one remaining legal form of gambling was the national lottery, which dates back to 1877 and was formalised with law changes in 1932, 1961 and 1987.

Relaxing of rules

The first concession to legalised gambling came in 1951 with the establishment of the Totalisator Agency Board, or TAB. To this very day, TAB is the only official body through which punters can lay wagers on the outcome of a horse race and it has also facilitated online betting on the sport, as well.

More concessions to gambling would follow in the 1990s, with the introduction of slot machines (colloquially known as “pokies” throughout the antipodean nations) in 1991 and the establishment of the first land-based casino in Christchurch in 1994. As the internet continued to develop, the prospect of online gambling became a mainstream issue at the turn of the millennia, with the Gambling Act of 2003 outlawing all domestic-based operators but allowing Kiwi residents to access sites based overseas.

What lies ahead?

At present, there are just six land-based casinos and the New Zealand government have taken steps to cap the number to prevent unbridled growth in the industry. As for online gambling, it’s likely that the authorities may choose to amend their attitude to the practice in the years ahead, given the huge revenues associated with the sector.

Indeed, New Zealand may look to models pioneered in other countries like the UK, Canada and Finland, where different approaches invariably result in inflated coffers for the state. As long as the government ensure they keep a firm grip on the regulation of the industry, there’s no reason not to expect considerable growth going forwards.

From humble beginnings, the gambling industry in New Zealand has grown to become a two-billion-dollar behemoth – and it shows no signs of slowing in popularity in the years ahead.

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