The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Tournament poker is gambling

17 November 2010

A High Court judgement clarifying the definition of gambling has been welcomed by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Justice Ron Young today overturned a District Court decision in June that tournament poker was not gambling as defined in the Gambling Act 2003. The Department appealed on the point of law after the lower court concluded that advertising for the Asian Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) on TV Works Ltd’s TV3 and C4 was not publicising or promoting gambling. TV Works maintained that participants were playing for a prize and not gambling.

Justice Young said the tournament entrance fee was “indirectly staked on the outcome of the poker game trying to win money in a game depending partially on chance, the definition of gambling” in section 4 of the Gambling Act 2003.

“Although some contestants qualify to play by skill rather than the payment of an entry fee, those who do pay are gambling,” Justice Young said. “Thus what is advertised is still gambling even if not all contests are gambling.”

Justice Young referred the matter back to the District Court, adding that the legislation was far from clear.

Section 16 of the Act makes it illegal to advertise overseas gambling and the Department said tv advertising breached the law through promotion of the APPT in advertisements for

The Department’s Director of Gambling Compliance, Mike Hill, welcomed the High Court’s decision as very important for the regulation of gambling in New Zealand

“It provides useful guidance for the Department in carrying out its responsibilities particularly when the earlier decision was highlighted by Internet gambling sites as indicating that New Zealand had figured out what constituted legal or illegal gambling,” Mike Hill said. “If the earlier decision had remained unchallenged, there would have been a loophole in regulating poker in New Zealand.”

Media contact:
Mike Hill, Director of Gambling Compliance, 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