The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Gambling Regulator announces first prosecution for failing to identify a problem gambler

27 March 2019

Director of Gambling, Chris Thornborough, today announced that the Department of Internal Affairs (the Department) has charged a manager of a gambling venue for allegedly failing to take all reasonable steps to identify a problem gambler.

This is the first prosecution of its kind in New Zealand.

The Gambling Act requires staff at gambling venues to take all reasonable steps to identify actual or potential problem gamblers and to offer assistance, in line with harm minimisation policy.

“Venues have a legal responsibility to look after their gambling patrons, just like they do when serving alcohol,” said Mr Thornborough.

“Gambling operators and staff involved in gambling all have the policies, procedures, and training they need to identify and manage problem gamblers. There is no excuse for failing to identify problem gamblers.”

The maximum penalty for this offence was $5000 and a criminal conviction would likely prevent a person from being directly involved in a gambling operation.

“This prosecution signals our strong focus on protecting people from gambling harm and acknowledges the obligation gambling venues have to ensure the wellbeing of their patrons,” said Mr Thornborough.

In addition to the emotional distress and financial harm the individual experiences, problem gambling also affects immediate family, friends and whānau.

“As New Zealand’s gambling regulator, we support the gambling sector to address the harm of gambling. However, we will not back away from prosecuting in cases where we have evidence to suggest that staff in gambling venues have failed to take all of the reasonable steps necessary to identify and look after problem gamblers. We will not stand by and watch as venues ignore patrons showing signs of problem gambling,” said Mr Thornborough.

“Everyone working in gambling venues across New Zealand needs to take their harm minimisation role seriously.”


  • The Department of Internal Affairs (the Department) is New Zealand’s gambling regulator.
  • As the matter is now before the courts, the Department is not in a position to comment on the specific details of the case.
  • Section 308 of the Gambling Act 2003 sets out the requirements for gambling operators to have a policy for identifying problem gamblers. Section 308 (4) establishes a duty to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that the policy is used to identify actual or potential problem gamblers”. Section 308(6) establishes an offence with a maximum penalty of $5000.
  • The Department regularly audits harm minimisation policies and uses other techniques such as “mystery shopping” to test whether venues’ harm minimisation practices are working effectively.
  • The Ministry of Health funds and coordinates problem gambling services and publishes research and evaluation.
  • Free Gambling Host training and resource materials are available to every venue that offers gambling in New Zealand.
The Gambling Helpline offers free and confidential information and support over the phone 24 hours a day. Call 0800 654 655 or text 8006. Face to face support is also available