Apart from the TAB (NZ Racing Board) and MyLotto (the Lotteries Commission), the Gambling Act prohibits online gambling.
But it’s not illegal if that website is based overseas.
SkyCity is going to exploit that loophole in the law to launch an online casino based in Europe and the Government can’t do anything about it under our existing laws.
The only thing SkyCity won’t be able to do is advertise its online casino to New Zealanders because that is illegal, but by leveraging its brand and using SEO (search engine optimisation) to make it easy for Kiwis to find its site, well…that’s probably not going to be too difficult to get around that law either. You will only need to Google SkyCity, and its online casino will feature in the search results.
And that’s concerning.
It’s highlighted the fact that our Gambling Act is no longer fit for purpose. The growth of online gambling and the fast pace of technology development has left gaping holes in our laws that need to be filled.
It’s pleasing that Internal Affairs Minister, Tracey Martin, recognises this and has stated that a paper will come out in April with public consultation to follow.
In Australia, the law is much tougher.
Smart phones mean you can literally carry it around in your pocket. The online gambling environment is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
And it doesn’t matter whether that site is based in Australia or overseas, it’s still an offence under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
“The Act doesn’t target gamblers or potential gamblers; it targets the internet service providers (ISPs) who follow The Interactive Gambling Industry Code in dealing with online gambling hosted outside Australia. It includes a provision for ISPs to provide one of the approved filters listed in Schedule 1 of the Code.1”
We will follow this with keen interest. We don’t want to see people being put at risk by being able to gamble on unregulated international sites, nor do we want to see the gambling industry being able to circumnavigate our law to provide online gambling to New Zealanders.
What SkyCity are trying to do completely flies in the face of one of the core purposes of the Gambling Act; to prevent and minimise the harm from gambling, including problem gambling.
Andree Froude is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the PGF Group.
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