Approximately 1,500 kilometers east of Australia, across the Tasman Sea, lies the island country of New Zealand. Between the North Island, South Island and a multitude of smaller islets, New Zealand packs an estimated 4.5 million people into its 268,000 square kilometer landmass. And wouldn’t you know it; they all seem to love playing the pokies just as much as we Aussies do. Likewise, the country enforces similar regulations on them.
Where New Zealand varies most from Australian slot machine laws is who operates them, and why. The majority of pokies—meaning all gaming machines that are not located in one of the country’s 6 commercial casinos—are operated by charitable organizations. They are called Community Gaming Trusts, and are represented by several organizations, such as The Lion Foundation.
The goal of these state-owned institutions is to ensure that a large portion of the profits earned from gaming machines in hotels and bars goes back into the community; not for commercial gain as they are everywhere else in the world. By law, a minimum of 37.12% of the revenue generated from slot machines in New Zealand must be returned to the community. For example, The Lion Foundation distributes its funds to numerous community areas, dividing it up as 30% to arts, culture, heritage and environment, 15% towards health, 40% towards sports and 15% towards education. The foundation has consistently exceeded the required 37.12% minimum for community funding.
Slots Machine Laws in New Zealand
Slot machines, or pokies as they are called in New Zealand and Australia, were first legalized in 1991, and are now governed by the Gambling Act of 2003. It imposes a variety of guidelines that authorized operators must abide by, such as licensing, game rules and minimum standards for things like stakes and payout percentages. The legal age to play slot machines in New Zealand is 18.
Interestingly enough, the Gambling Act of 2003 invoked a strict rule of “No More Casinos”. The six existing casinos in New Zealand would be permitted to stay open and renew their existing licensure, but no new commercial casinos could be opened anywhere in the country, nor could existing casinos expand their gaming machines or tables (unless the addition of one is compensated by a proportionate reduction of the other). However, one exception was made in May of 2013 when parliament allowed its largest establishment, SKYCITY Auckland, to add 230 poker machines and 40 new tables in exchange for a $402 million convention center.
Casinos are not permitted to offer casino gambling on Christmas Day, Good Friday or Anzac Day between the hours of 3am and 1pm. In an effort to minimize risk and problem gambling, slot machines are only permitted to accept up to $20 notes from normal players. An exception is made for players with a casino VIP card who play in restricted members-only areas of the casino. They may input up to a $100 note.
The six currently licensed casinos are Dunedin Casino (in Dunedin, NZ), Christchurch Casino (in Christchurch, NZ) and 4 SKYCITY casino locations in Hamilton, Queenstown, Wharf and the nation’s capital of Auckland. There are over 28,000 slot machines in New Zealand, with casinos account for 10.7% (2,826) of them, pubs and hotels the other 89.3% (25,200+).
Community Gaming Groups (Slot Machines in Bars & Hotels)
Slot machines in New Zealand’s bars and hotels are classified as ‘Class 4 gambling’. Any corporate society that offers Class 4 gambling must hold two licenses; a Class 4 operator’s license and a Class 4 venue license. In order to obtain such a license, the operator must meet a multitude of eligibility criteria. A corporate society is only permitted to offer a maximum of 9 gaming machines, unless a higher number is expressly approved by the Minister. Absolutely all profits from Class 4 gaming venues must be banked in a special account so that the proceeds can be distributed appropriately throughout the community, and they must keep strict records on all activity.
New Zealand Gaming Machine National Standards
The Australian/New Zealand Gaming Machines National Standards for pokies state that all slot machines must have at least an 85% payout percentage, or return to player (RTP). To help reduce the effects of problem gambling, the maximum stake per play has been reduced from $10 to $5. In 2009, a law was passed stating slot machines must incorporate a Player Information Display in which a screen pops up showing the amount of time an individual has been playing and the amount of money lost in that time, encouraging them to take breaks.
Online Slot Machines Laws in New Zealand
New Zealand defines online gambling as ‘Remote Interactive Gambling’, and includes “gambling by a person at a distance by interaction through a communication device”. Remote interactive gambling is illegal in New Zealand unless it is operated by the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) or New Zealand Lotteries Commission (NZLC), which supply online betting on races and lottery sales. However, an exception is made for “gambling by a person in New Zealand conducted by a gambling operator located outside New Zealand”. That basically means you can play the online pokies all you want, so long as the site you play at is not located in New Zealand.