The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Gamblers spent a little less in 2008/09

Statistics released today show New Zealanders’ gambling expenditure in 2008/09 decreased by less than one per cent on the previous year.

Releasing the gambling expenditure figures for 2008/09, the Department of Internal Affairs Gambling Policy Manager, John Markland, said that spending on the main forms of gambling decreased by 0.3 per cent from $2.034 billion in 2007/08 to $2.028 billion. Gambling expenditure reached a peak of $2.039 billion in 2003/04.

“Spending on Lotteries Commission products in the last year increased by almost 17 per cent to a new high of $404 million due largely to record sales for two unusually large Powerball and Big Wednesday jackpot draws. Spending was down on racing and sports betting, non-casino gaming machines and casino gambling,” Mr Markland said.

Overall spending in 2008/09 on gambling was made up of:

Gambling product2008/09 Spending (Player Losses)
Increase / Decrease from 2007/08
From unrounded figures
Racing and sports betting$269m-1.2%
Lotteries Commission products$404m+16.7%
Casinos$465m- 2.4%
Non-casino gaming machines$889m- 5.3%
Total spending$2.028 billion- 0.3%

The figures relate to the year ended 30 June 2009 except for racing and sports betting, which is for the year to 31 July 2009.

Mr Markland said the decrease in racing and sports betting was due largely to the global economic downturn. The previous year’s outbreak of equine influenza in Australia also had an effect.

“However, this year’s nominal figure is still the second highest ever for racing and sports betting – it matches 2007 expenditure – but, when inflation is taken into account, it is still behind the racing only figure of $232 million in 1989,” he said.

“The 17 per cent increase for Lotteries Commission products reflects the large jackpots, and almost matched the decrease in expenditure for the other three main gambling sectors combined.

Spending on non-casino gaming machines – the pokies – is traditionally the largest of the four main gambling sectors but that expenditure decreased the most, from $938 million in 2007/08 to $889 million in 2008/09. The main reason for this was likely to have been the economic recession.

“The 2.4 per cent decrease in casino gambling expenditure from $477 million to $465 million reflects the gambling spending trends reported by SkyCity, owner or part-owner of four of New Zealand’s six casinos, and particularly the trends in its Auckland casino. Spending in Auckland was down a little in 2008/09 when compared with 2007/08.”

Mr Markland also noted that these four main forms of gambling together raised around $640 million for a variety of purposes in 2008/09.

“The New Zealand Racing Board raised around $120 million for the racing industry and to support racing club infrastructure. The New Zealand Lotteries Commission transferred $189 million to the Lottery Grants Board for allocation to various arts, cultural, sporting and other community purposes. The casinos paid around $3 million to their community trusts. It is more difficult to provide precise numbers for the non-casino gaming machine sector, partly because gaming machine societies have different financial years. However, a reasonable estimate is that non-casino gaming machines raised around $330m for community purposes in 2008/09.”


Further details are available in the table Gambling Expenditure Statistics 1985-2009and the explanatory notes that accompany this media release at:

The Gambling Act 2003 became law on 18 September 2003 with lead-in periods for most of its provisions. The Act came fully into force on 1 July 2004.

Key objectives of the Act are to: control the growth of gambling, prevent and minimise the harm that can be caused by gambling, limit opportunities for crime and dishonesty, and ensure that money from gambling benefits the community.

The amount paid to community purposes from non-casino gaming machines depends not only on the level of gaming machine revenue, but also on the costs taken out, and any misappropriation from that revenue.

“Gaming machine revenue” is the same as “spending” or “expenditure”. It is the amount players lose on the machines.

The number of non-casino gaming machines reached a peak of 25,221 at 30 June 2003, and between June 2008 and June 2009 numbers declined from19,856 to 19,479. The number of non-casino gaming machine venues declined from 1552 to 1501 over the same period. Numbers have declined further since.

All non-casino gaming machines were connected to an electronic monitoring system (EMS) from 9 March 2007. The Department releases EMS data on a quarterly basis, and the last release was for figures for the quarter ended 31 December 2009.

Media contact

John Markland, Manager, Gambling, Racing and Censorship Policy
Phone 04 495 9354; Cellular 027 440 6624

Trevor Henry, Communications Advisor
Phone 04 495 7211; Cellular 027 584 3679