New Zealand is fighting to take down a number of shady offshore gambling sites that give the impression they are based in the country.
Players at risk of organized crime
New Zealand residents can legally gamble online if the platform is based overseas, as per the Gambling Act 2003. This includes online casinos, poker and sports betting. However, some nefarious platforms are targeting New Zealand players with fraudulent methods.
According to the authorities in New Zealand, more than 13 global online gambling operators are using New Zealand website addresses. One of them is even using the national coat of arms to make itself look more impressive with the local gamblers.
These operators are using .nz domains but none of them are based in New Zealand. In any case, it would illegal for them to have their operations in New Zealand and target its residents.
Some people believe these platforms are under the ownership of criminal organizations. If this should be the case then there there will be no consumer protections in place, and there is a high probability that users’ money is at risk.
Players are opening themselves up to operations run by criminal enterprises. This could lose their money or have their identities compromised.
Authorities fight back
The department of internal affairs, which regulates the gambling industry, has already gotten in contact with these platforms. It has ordered them to immediately take the sites with New Zealand domains offline.
Chris Thornborough, director of regulatory systems for gambling, said: “One of the sites we contacted was brazen enough to use the government’s official coat of arms. We can only presume this was done to suggest some sort of formal connection with the New Zealand government or our local gambling laws.”
On the surface, it looks like most of these platforms are not actually operating out of New Zealand. However, Thornborough believes that at least one of them could have their servers in the country. This would mean serious criminal charges and legal problems for the offending party if they are caught.
However, for those based offshore, there is little the regulator can do except have the sites taken down. To do so, it would have to go to the companies that are supplying hosting services for them.
A simple solution to the problem of offshore companies buying NZ domains has been suggested. About 82% of the .nz domains in circulation are registered to owners in New Zealand and about 11% have Australian owners. The remaining 7% belong to overseas owners.
The introduction of a rule requiring an entity to have some kind of presence in New Zealand to open up an NZ domain could be a deterrent to the imposters. There are already some loose rules based on this notion, but they are currently under review.
Gambling in New Zealand
Most of the gambling institutions in the country are owned by the state. Sports betting became illegal in New Zealand in 1920, but was legalized again in 1961 following the creation of the Totalizer Agency Board (TAB). The TAB looks after sports betting and its parent organization is the New Zealand Racing Board.
There have been various forms of lotteries in New Zealand for more than a century. The national lottery was launched in 1961. In 1987, the New Zealand Lotteries Commission was formed. This now includes offerings of scratch cards, lotto variants and keno. Locals can buy lottery tickets online since 2008.
Slot machines have been legal since 1987. They are known as pokies and are commonly found in restaurants and bars. It is mostly charitable foundations that are able to operate these machines. The pokies generate a lot of tax revenue for the government.
Commercial casinos have been legal in New Zealand since 1994. There are currently six casinos in operation.
A portion of all gambling profits goes into funding community programs.