Betting in New Zealand

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The first European contact with New Zealand occurred in 1642, and over the next 150 years whalers, traders and missionaries arrived and established settlements along the far northern coast. No doubt they brought their gambling habits with them, but the indigenous Maori population resisted all attempts at assimilation, even after the island territory became a British colony in 1840.

The process of gaining independence was a gradual one, accomplished between 1835 and 1967, when the first New Zealand-born Governor-General was appointed to office. It was not until the Constitution Act was ratified in 1986, however, that the New Zealand Parliamentís final practical constitutional link to Britain was removed.

Commercialized gambling in the country is still quite new, emerging only in the early 1990s. For a full decade, the industry grew, beginning with the establishment of the first major casino in 1994 and expanding unchecked until 2003. Thatís when legal limits were set on how many casinos and other gambling venues could be created.

Today, there are no fewer than six licensed casinos around the country, including three SkyCity properties, one each in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown. Christchurch and Dunedin have one casino apiece, too, and the Lasseters Wharf Casino provides an alternative venue in Queenstown with its 74 gaming machines and seven table and poker games. There is also a dog racing track in Cambridge and a racino in Avondale.

Horse racing is by far the most popular form of wagering in New Zealand. There are 50 different horse tracks around the country, and the Totalizator Agency Board (TAB) provides pari-mutuel betting as well as access to bingo halls and hundreds of high-street betting shops.

The Racing Act of 2003 created a statutory body called the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) to oversee 650 TAB outlets in addition to on-course Tote Terminals, Internet, Phonebet and Touch Tone wagering. Through these channels, more than 170,000 TAB account holders are served.

Whatís more, the national lottery went online in 2008, so players across the country can now use their home computers to access their favorite lottery games. The lotteries are operated under the exclusive control of the New Zealand Lotteries Commission (NZLC).

In this regard, online gambling in New Zealand is partly legal, even if NZRB and NZLC are the only two official bodies permitted to provide online gambling services. However, the New Zealand government has not prohibited the use of foreign gambling web sites. Local players may use them freely, which has induced foreign operators to offer services at some 477 sports betting sites that accept play from NZ residents.

By one estimate, more than two billion dollars is spent every year by New Zealanders on gambling. It has become a huge part of the local culture, with 40 percent of all adults participating and average Kiwi spending $41 a week on various betting activities.

With so much interest in betting among citizens, New Zealandís politicians have been debating how much regulation is appropriate. In June of 2011, Prime Minister John Keys suggested that gambling laws be changed to allow a new casino to be constructed at a proposed international convention center in Auckland. But members of the Labor Party have been firmly against any expansion of the number of licenses currently available.