The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Hamilton gambling raises concern

14 April 2010

The Department of Internal Affairs is concerned about the number of potentially illegal gambling activities being planned or already underway in the Hamilton area.

The Department’s Director of Gambling Compliance Group, Mike Hill, says he has received a number of inquiries lately about pubs and clubs using gambling activities to prop up their business.

“The Department is aware that venues are making arrangements with specialist entrepreneurs, who offer to run gambling activities such as poker games with additional games of chance or lotteries for a fee,” Mike Hill said.

“We would like to remind managers of pubs and clubs that if they want to run gambling activities they need to follow the relevant legislation and game rules. They risk heavy penalties if they breach the laws under the Gambling Act 2003.”

As a general rule, gambling activities outside of casinos can only be conducted in New Zealand if the purpose is to raise funds for the community. There are some exceptions to this general rule for private or low-level gambling activity but there are strict rules associated with this.

“The bottom line for publicans is that they cannot receive any money from these activities. Any profit or commission for the organisers conducting a gambling activity may amount to a criminal offence. In addition, revenue from a gambling activity cannot be used to support the venue's profit or operating expenditure,” Mike Hill said.

Poker games with free entry may fall outside the definition of gambling and therefore allow organisers to be paid a fee to arrange the entertainment. However, any payment by participants may bring the event back inside the definition of gambling. If venues offer buy-in schemes or charge entry fees it will be gambling and subject to the legislation.

A gambling licence from the Department is not needed unless the total value of the prizes and/or the turnover exceeds certain limits - but it is best to check the rules for each gambling activity.

More information is available on the Department’s website: (a range of Gambling Fact Sheets provide a good overview of the laws in New Zealand). Alternatively, free phone 0800 257 887 or email

Media contact:
Mike Hill, Gambling Compliance Director, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 9449; cell 021 979 427
Trevor Henry, communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 7211; cell 0275 843 679