New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular destinations for tourists eager to experience some of the greatest natural beauty on the planet. For the people who live there, it is no less beautiful and attractive. But even the most beautiful and tranquil of all paradises must grow at least a bit tiresome and mundane to the people who live there day to day.
To soften what can only be considered the arduous trial of daily living in paradise, New Zealanders (Kiwis, to their friends) have turned to online gambling. Under such circumstances, who wouldn’t?
We’re going to tell you all about how Kiwi players can gamble online. But before we dive into a full examination of New Zealand online gambling, here’s a handy list of some of their favorite online casinos.
What’s So Special About New Zealand Online Casinos?
For a nation with half the population of Canada that’s roughly the same size as the UK, New Zealand remains fiercely independent from not only its sister nations but its royal roots, as well. Nowhere is this quite as apparent as in its embrace of online gambling.
Like most developed countries New Zealand dallied with various forms of prohibition (such as outlawing bookmaking in 1920). Since the early 1960s—when the country allowed the opening of its first casino—New Zealand has been at the forefront of open-mindedness when it came to all forms of gambling.
The Facts, Plain and Tall
Lotteries in New Zealand have always been popular, but it wasn’t until 1961 that New Zealand got its first state-run lottery, called the Golden Kiwi.
Soon, nearly a quarter of the nation’s citizens were buying lottery tickets. Kiwis like to gamble so much that, back in their colonial days, they actually started lotteries to win works of art (these were called art unions, because why not?). Hey, we like to gamble as much as the next guy, but seriously, dudes!
As popular as the Golden Kiwi was, it came to an end in 1987. And why was it closed down, you might ask? Because another government-run lottery (called Lotto) had taken Golden Kiwi’s place and shoved it rudely down the stairs of history, that’s why. The Lottery is dead! Long live the Lotto!
Since 1988 the country has permitted electronic poker and slot machines in clubs and hotels (called pokies, because again, why not?).
Around that same time, the New Zealand government legalized casino gambling, and in 1994, the first casino was opened in Christchurch, with a second casino opening in Aukland in 1996. Soon, a handful of other casinos popped up all around New Zealand.
The Bitter Truth
So, we’ve established that Kiwis like to gamble. But if Kiwis like gambling so much, why do they make “remote interactive gambling” illegal?
In 2003 New Zealand passed The Gambling Act, which included the following:
“[these] types of gambling are prohibited and illegal and are not authorized by and may not be authorized under this Act:
(b) remote interactive gambling.”
Pretty blunt. Pretty simple. No means no.
Tell Me Again Why Am I Even Reading This Article
Because despite the clear prohibition noted above, Kiwis gamble online in New Zealand every day, legally, and in fact are almost certainly doing so right this very minute.
How can this be? Well, that’s going to take a bit of explaining.
Legal, You Say?
Ah. Got your attention now.
According to the New Zealand agency charged with enforcing the 2003 Gambling Act, the Department of Internal Affairs, “[t]he prohibition is on remote interactive gambling in New Zealand and therefore does not prohibit gambling conducted overseas. For example, it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to participate in gambling over the Internet if that website is based overseas.”
To reiterate, the New Zealand government interprets its own law to mean that it is quite okay for a resident of New Zealand to patronize online casinos—provided those online casinos are not hosted in New Zealand.
Some people might have a bit of a problem getting their head around the seemingly contradictory nature of that statement, but some people would not spend real money to buy lottery tickets for a chance to win a water-color painting of the moonlit seashore done up by somebody’s maiden aunt.
Be that as it may, nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs’ take on what exactly constitutes–and more importantly, what does NOT constitute–“remote interactive gambling” only to encouraged dozens of online casinos to rush to fill the demand for “Kiwi-friendly” online gambling.
From offering Kiwis the convenience of making deposits in New Zealand Dollars (NZ$) and thus avoid the notoriously high exchange rates often found on the internet, to ensuring customer service schedules and tournament times matched the New Zealand time zone, online casinos have proven themselves very aware of New Zealanders.
The Games Kiwis Play
Originally, New Zealanders liked to call video poker machine “pokies.” The nickname has proven so useful that in New Zealand, all slot machines are called pokies.
It’s no secret that New Zealanders love their pokies. Most of them grew up with the machines everywhere, particularly bars and hotels. The prevalence of slot machines in online casinos serving New Zealanders should come as no surprise. Many even offer mobile versions of popular pokies.
A Pokie By Any Other Name…
There are three basic types of pokies offered at online casinos: the classic three-reelers, the video games with their dazzling array of possible ways to win, and progressive versions of the first two.
In truth, since all the slot machines you play online are animations, you could argue that there really are only two types of pokies online—progressive and non-progressive.
The progressive machines offer the discerning Kiwi the opportunity to win a potentially huge prize that grows with each spin of the wheel. If you’ve ever been in a land based casino, you’ve seen progressive tote boards above banks of slot machines.
The progressive jackpots are built by incorporating the play from all the same machines, not only within that particular casino but often from all the casinos featuring that same game. The jackpot for a slot you fancy might be in the millions of NZ$ simply because gamblers in the UK, Canada, Germany, and maybe even Cambodia are all playing that particular game.
Turning the Tables
Virtually every table game available to the civilized world is also offered at Kiwi-friendly online casinos. Craps, poker, baccarat, pai gow poker—you name it. These can be found at the online casinos serving New Zealand.
Not only that, but many of the games playable on New Zealand-friendly online casinos sites are available immediately—no special software required. Casinos offering these no-download games used to be called “flash” casinos because they used Adobe’s popular Flash animation, but HTML5 has pretty much replaced Flash.
Even though HTML5 rules the online slot machine world, many casinos offer games that can only be played using downloadable software from their site. Generally speaking, poker rooms and live dealer table games need such software. As with anything Internet-related, always be aware of the reputation of the casino offering the software before you hit the “Yes! Download This RIGHT NOW!” button.
By the way: Most online casinos serving New Zealanders use an assortment of the following services to accept deposits: Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Trustly, Paysafecard, Neteller, and Skrill.
Tips For the Kiwi Gambler
Be Extra Careful Choosing Your Casino
Because New Zealand’s regulation of online casinos begins and ends with “don’t even think about it,” the Kiwi wishing to gamble online needs to be particularly attentive to the reputation of the casinos under consideration. It stands to reason, even if the government has no problem with you doing business with a firm in another country, New Zealand will not protect its citizens from those offshore companies.
So, familiarize yourself with the various testing and certification organizations out there that monitor and police online casinos. There are a few of them, but they’re all dedicated to establishing and preserving high standards for principals and ethics in the online gaming world.
Next, make sure each online casino you consider is licensed in the country from which they originate. Many countries (the UK is a leading example) that permit online casino gambling have very stringent regulations concerning them, so online casinos doing business in these countries are more likely to be reputable.
Usually, these certifications and licenses are available for inspection on the casino’s main page. It’s also a good idea to read reviews of the casino written by fellow New Zealanders.
With the advent of e-wallets such as Neteller and PayPal, and particularly the invention of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, moving money around the Internet has become much easier—and much more complex.
Most online casinos accept deposits in both your national currency and cryptocurrency and can typically pay out your withdrawals directly to your bank account or to your internet wallet. Make yourself knowledgeable about the policies and rules governing both deposits and withdrawals before signing up with any online casino.
If the casino does not accept NZ$ directly (in other words, you’re going to have to pay some sort of exchange rate to convert NZ$ to whatever currency the casinos will accept), it might be wise to avoid that casino, however enticing their array of pokies might appear.
Speaking of NZ$, you’ll want to select a casino that not only accepts deposits in NZ$ but allows you to withdraw your winnings in NZ$, as well.
By the way: We’re not tax attorneys, but we’ve heard from multiple sources that gambling winnings from online casinos are not considered taxable revenue in New Zealand. Wow, if true.
Watch for Gargantuan Sign-Up Bonuses
The online casinos that serve New Zealand gamblers don’t just like Kiwis. They love Kiwis. No, wait, they freaking adore Kiwis. Some online casinos offer Kiwis a 200% signup bonus!
Bear in mind that the bonus is paid out incrementally, and the rollover (the amount of wagering you’ll need to do before each increment is paid) can be quite steep. Usually around 20 times your deposit (for example, you’ll need to wager NZ$2,000 to get the full value of an NZ$100 matching bonus). The rollover for some bonuses can reach up to 35 times your deposit amount.
You want to make sure you read all of the policies and rules each casino has governing a sign-up bonus to avoid any outrage later.
Before You Go…
If you want to find the best online casinos serving New Zealanders, we highly recommend you scroll back to the top of this page and go through our list. We did a lot of the initial vetting, so you could concentrate on selecting the best online casinos to match your gambling interests.