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  3. How the Public Feels about Changing the NZ Gambling Laws

On the 31st of July 2019, the Department of Internal Affairs released a discussion document called “Online Gambling in New Zealand” and received 2997 submissions from individuals, groups, and companies in and outside New Zealand. Submitters were asked to indicate which priorities mattered most to them by ranking them from 5 to show utmost importance, up to 1, to show less importance. The discussion topics and how many submissions were had, included:

  • Opening thoughts, interests, and concerns – 173 submissions
  • Minimizing harm from online gambling – 185 submissions
  • Online gambling operators and their products – 167 submissions
  • Tools for restricting access to unauthorized online gambling – 182 submissions
  • Convergence between video gaming and gambling – 166 submissions
  • Class 3 operators that run lotteries online and via telephone – 2,910 submissions.

Gambling Harm Reduction Services

Submitters were asked whether the gambling industry should fund harm reduction services, and many came forward in solid support. Generally, it was thought that it is essential for the gambling industry to take responsibility for the harm caused by their gambling products. The submitters agreed that an effective way of doing this would be for operators to fund problem gambling services. One submitter commented that if the gambling industry-funded problem of gambling, the Government should be involved. A few submitters noted the absence of reporting and monitoring of problem gambling, while another suggested using regulated algorithms to detect problem gambling. If you feel that you have a gambling problem feel free to take this anonymous test at begambleaware.org

Gambling Industry and Individual Self-Regulation

Submitters were asked whether online gamblers should self-regulate harmful online behavior, and this question received the lowest number of submissions compared to the other options. Moreover, the margin between those who supported and those who opposed this option was close.

Many submitters commented that individuals should take responsibility for their online gambling and practice self-control. Still, some submitters noted that operators should put options to limit online gambling harm. Many submitters believe that individuals who gamble online, and the online gambling industry, cannot regulate harmful gambling problems. Instead, a level of government regulation was needed to protect vulnerable individuals.

Prohibition or Tight Control of Gambling Related Advertising

With this question, submitters were asked whether prohibition or tight controls should be placed on online gambling-related advertising. Generally, submitters felt that while advertising is necessary for operators to run their businesses, there is concern about the people targeted by advertising and the forms of advertising used by operators.

Many submitters raised concerns about advertisements aimed at people vulnerable to problem gambling harm. These submitters suggested that for operators to advertise responsibly, there should be regulations on what can be advertised and where, i.e., television, newspaper, social media. Some submitters also suggested that advertisements should inform New Zealanders of the risks associated with online gambling. Some submitters were skeptical as current restrictions did not prevent New Zealanders from gambling on offshore websites.

Government Regulation of Industry Conduct

Regarding whether the Government should regulate the online gambling industry’s conduct to minimize harmful behavior, many submitters considered the Government should have a role in regulating the gambling industry. Some submitters also viewed government regulation as an effective way of providing appropriate levels of consumer protection to vulnerable gamblers.

Lotto NZ and the TAB offer Existing Products

Here, submitters were asked whether Lotto NZ and the TAB should continue to be the only providers of online gambling products in New Zealand. To this question, there was strong support for maintaining the existing products offered by Lotto NZ and the TAB. However, Pub Charity, a Class 4 gambling operator, noted that every available measure should be taken to prevent and slow the expansion of online gambling and that Class 4 operators should be allowed to offer land-based products that were competitive with online products.

Extend Lotto NZ and the TABs products

Submitters were asked whether Lotto NZ and the TAB should continue to be the only providers of online gambling in NZ and be allowed to extend their product range. This question raised strong opposition, and many submitters noted that any expansion would be outside Lotto NZ’s core lottery business and the TAB’s racing and sports betting industry. Many opposed the growth as they feel there are already enough products in the market. They noted that, in their opinion, more gambling products would only increase gambling-related harm. A submitter stated that both Lotto NZ and the TAB had a chequered track record and that while the TAB had managed damage from racing, its use of sports betting and prime time advertising showed a lack of concern about the potential for harm.

License domestic operators

As to whether domestic operators be licensed, 52 submitters voted yes, or 33%. Submitters were asked whether domestic operators should obtain a license to offer online gambling, and here there was strong support for licensing domestic operators. Many submitters felt that charitable companies like the Heart Foundation, Coastguard, Blind Foundation, and Westpac Rescue Helicopter should offer their lottery products online. Some submitters noted that this would help licensing charities significantly reduce the associated costs of running lotteries.

License domestic and/or overseas operators

To the question as to whether to license domestic and/or overseas operators, 63% or 98 submitters voted in favor. Submitters who supported this option supported channeling consumers towards regulated operators. With gambling on offshore websites increasing, they considered licensing to oversee and regulate offshore operators and ensure appropriate measures were in place to keep New Zealanders safe. All in support of this option thought it was important for precise licensing requirements to be placed on operators, including:

  • Profits must be returned to communities through community grants
  • Codes of practice to be imposed by regulators to ensure compliance
  • Servers to be located in territories where regulators can access them
  • Operators must allow game test certificates to be shared across jurisdictions
  • Organizations with a history of regulatory compliance should be granted licenses