The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Gambling Act changes to all forms of gambling


From July 1 the Gambling Act will bring changes to all forms of gambling, including gaming machines in pubs and clubs, casinos, “remote interactive gambling” and community operated gambling like housie and raffles.

The Director of the Department of Internal Affairs’ Gaming and Censorship Regulation Group, Keith Manch, said that the Act was passed last year with all of its provisions to be in force by tomorrow.

Some of these provisions also allow the making of regulations and other rules after consultation with communities. Regulations and rules on a variety of issues, including how much pubs can be paid to host gaming machines and harm minimisation, are currently being developed.

Mr Manch said that the biggest changes from previous legislation are that Parliament has passed a law stating specifically that its purposes include controlling the growth of gambling, minimising the harm caused by gambling and giving communities more involvement in decision making about gambling.

The Gambling Act 2003 replaces the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1977 and the Casino Control Act 1990. It establishes a permanent, independent Commission of Inquiry, the Gambling Commission, to hear appeals about the Department’s decisions and provide advice to the Minister.

Summaries of changes to different forms of gambling follow. Further, detailed information is available from the Gambling section of the Department’s website. Copies of 30 fact sheets were distributed last week, other publications have been produced and Department staff have been giving presentations to gambling sector and community groups.

Gaming machines in pubs and clubs
The biggest change the Act will bring is that from July 1 it will be much harder to get a gaming machine licence and much easier to lose it. The Act states the Department must refuse to grant a licence unless an applicant can show they are suitable. This is the reverse of the current situation where the Department must grant a licence unless it can show an applicant is unsuitable.

Changes in licensing criteria include more detailed suitability checking of individuals, evidence of how returns to the community will be maximised and operating costs minimised, and gaming machine societies having to prove their financial viability.

Harm minimisation provisions in the Act itself include:
· The Department must refuse to grant a licence unless it is satisfied that the applicant will minimise the risks of problem gambling.
· Pubs and clubs must have policies to identify problem gamblers and must approach identified problem gamblers with information about problem gambling services, including information about self-exclusion orders.
· People under 18 cannot use gambling machines. The current law has no age restriction.
· Pubs and clubs are given the same power that casinos already have to prevent anyone entering, or requiring them to leave, their gambling venues without having to give a reason.

Gambling Act provisions already in force have led to the first ever reductions in the numbers of machines. Territorial authorities’ gambling venue policies will have a key part to play in how numbers of machines will change in future.


The Act prohibits any new casinos opening and prevents the existing six expanding their gambling operations.

The Department’s Gambling Inspectors will have wider powers, including taking action against crimes of dishonesty, and the Department will be responsible for game rules, minimum operating standards and other controls.

Similarly to pubs and clubs, casinos must have harm minimisation policies to actively identify problem gamblers, approach them and inform them of the services available.

People under 20 continue to be prohibited from casino gambling areas and casinos’ power to prevent anyone entering, or requiring them to leave, their gambling areas without having to give a reason continues.

Remote interactive gambling

The Act introduces New Zealand’s first law regulating gambling on the Internet, by cellphone, TV or any other communication device.

Only the New Zealand Lotteries Commission and the TAB can operate remote interactive gambling in New Zealand and advertising of overseas gambling is prohibited.

It is not illegal for a New Zealander to bet on an overseas gambling website.

Community gambling—housie, raffles and games of chance

Most schools, churches, clubs and other community groups using gambling other than gaming machines for fund raising will no longer have to pay licensing and compliance fees.

The old law requires a licence if prizes exceed $500. Under the new Act prizes can total up to $5,000 before a licence is needed. This means that 89% of such gambling will no longer need a licence.

Gambling Commission

The Commission’s roles will include:
· having extensive powers in relation to gambling in casinos, including the power to suspend or cancel licences
· dealing with concerns members of the public might have about how the Department handled complaints about gaming machine operators
· being an appeal body for gambling operators who are unhappy with Department decisions
· involvement in setting the problem gambling levy
· advising the Minister of Internal Affairs on matters relating to the Commission’s functions and the administration of the Act.

Media contact:

Keith Manch Phone 04 495 9449
Director Cellular 027 445 6420

Vince Cholewa Phone 04 495 9350
Communications Advisor Cellular 027 272 4270