The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Few people say they gamble regularly


Most New Zealanders gamble at least occasionally, with Lotto and Instant Kiwi / scratchies the most popular large-scale activity, according to a new survey released today by the Department of Internal Affairs. Few people reported participating in the types of gambling considered most potentially harmful such as gaming machines and racing.

The Department has been surveying people’s participation in, and attitudes to, gambling every five years since 1985. Figures from the latest survey, conducted in 2005, are almost invariably lower than in previous surveys.

The 2005 survey found that 66 per cent of respondents played Lotto at least once a year (75 per cent in 2000) and 37 per cent at least once a month (50 per cent in 2000). The corresponding figures for Instant Kiwi/scratchies were 41 per cent (48 per cent in 2000) and 18 per cent (23 per cent in 2000).

Very few people reported participating even once in the year before the survey in those forms of gambling considered most potentially harmful – 19 per cent for non-casino gaming machines, 14 per cent for betting on horse and dog races, 10 per cent for casino gaming machines , and four per cent for TAB sports betting and casino table games. Even fewer people reported participating in such gambling regularly. For example only eight per cent of respondents said they played non-casino gaming machines once a month or more.

However, there were significant differences within the population, suggesting that some groups are far more likely to be harmed by gambling than others. For example:

  • Maori played non-casino gaming machines more often than other ethnic groups, had longer sessions, spent more and were more likely to believe they had won or broken even overall (a belief that is almost certainly mistaken, given the way the machines are programmed)
  • Men reported playing non-casino gaming machines more often, but women played for longer, spent more and were more likely to believe that they had won or broken even overall
  • Players’ average annual casino spending decreased by nine per cent in real terms between 2000 and 2005 but almost doubled for Pacific players, increased by 63 per cent for Maori and by seven per cent for the Asian group.

Other results include:
  • The length of a typical gambling session was generally short with 92 per cent saying they played non-casino gaming machines for less than two hours on any dayFewer than one per cent reported gambling on the Internet, usually to place a bet with the TAB, a similar result to 2000
  • More people believe heavy gambling is a problem – 90 per cent considered it a growing problem compared with 87 per cent who thought it was a problem in 2000 and 66 per cent in 1985
  • More than half considered as socially undesirable internet-based gambling (68 per cent), non-casino gaming machines (64 per cent) and casinos (59 per cent) compared with 53 per cent, 45 per cent and 54 per cent respectively in 2000
  • Most respondents (84 per cent) favoured gambling being run to raise money for worthy causes but this figure was down from between 92 per cent and 94 per cent previously
  • When asked which of five types of organisations should distribute gambling profits, 49 per cent selected the Lottery Grants Board or similar, 48 per cent selected community representatives, 31 per cent selected the local council option, 16 per cent selected government departments, and only 13 per cent selected the people who operate gaming machines.

The report, People’s Participation in, and Attitudes to, Gambling, 1985 – 2005: Results of the 2005 Survey, is available under Resources - Research and Reports at:

Media Contact:

John Markland, Manager Gambling, Policy, Department of Internal Affairs,
Ph 04 495 9354; cell 0274 406 624

Trevor Henry, communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 7211; cell 0275 843 679