The Gambling Act 2003

The Gambling Act became law on 18 September 2003 (many of its provisions took effect on 1 July 2004).

What is the purpose of the Gambling Act?

The purpose of the Gambling Act is to:

  • control the growth of gambling
  • prevent and minimise the harm caused by gambling, including problem gambling
  • authorise some gambling and prohibit the rest
  • facilitate responsible gambling
  • ensure the integrity and fairness of games
  • limit opportunities for crime or dishonesty associated with gambling
  • ensure that money from gambling benefits the community
  • facilitate community involvement in decisions about the provision of gambling.

How does the Act restrict and control gambling?

Under the Act you must be 20 years of age to gamble in a casino.

You must be 18 years or over to:

  • purchase Instant Kiwi and similar games run by the Lotteries Commission
  • gamble on gaming machines
  • place bets on horse races and sports games.

Non-casino gaming machine venues established after 17 October 2001 may not have more than nine machines, and need local authority consent to have any at all. Venues that had a licence on 17 October 2001 may operate no more than 18 machines. Venues that are within these statutory limits need local authority consent to increase the number of gaming machines they are allowed to operate.

What is the Problem Gambling Levy?

The cost of problem gambling services funded by the Ministry is recouped through a levy on the profits of the gambling industry, which is collected by the Inland Revenue Department.

The levy setting process takes place following consultation on the Ministry’s needs assessment, strategy and service plan every three years. The Ministry presents its recommendations to Ministers of Health and Internal Affairs. These pieces of work are also presented, along with the proposed levy rates for industry sectors, at a meeting organised by the Gambling Commission.

The Commission then makes its own recommendations on the problem gambling levy amount and rates to the Ministers of Health and Internal Affairs, who have the final decision on what rates to propose to Cabinet.

The levy is then set with the formula used for calculating the levy rates for each sector specified by the Gambling Act 2003. The levy is calculated using rates of player expenditure (losses) on each gambling subsector and rates of client presentations to problem gambling services attributable to each gambling subsector. The levy is collected on the profits of New Zealand’s four main gambling operators: gaming machines in pubs and clubs, casinos, the New Zealand Racing Board and the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.

The Department of Internal Affairs publishes gambling player expenditure statistics.

New Zealand Legislation publishes the Gambling Act which contains the formula used to calculate the levy rates.

The Ministry of Health publishes the rates of client presentations to problem gambling services.


Under the Gambling Act, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) as primary regulator administers the rules and regulations for gambling.

How does the Ministry of Health’s role differ from that of the Department of Internal Affairs?

The Department of Internal Affairs monitors the gambling industry to ensure that the rules and regulations are followed and that all gambling is in accordance with the Gambling Act. As part of its regulatory role, DIA addresses problem gambling through the regulation and enforcement of the supply of gambling opportunities and the manner in which they are provided.

The Ministry of Health, through its integrated problem gambling strategy, focuses on public health and on preventing and minimising harm caused by gambling. It is responsible for:

The Ministry and the Department of Internal Affairs work collaboratively to prevent and minimise the harm from problem gambling.

What is the role of territorial/local authorities?

All territorial/local authorities are required to have policies for gambling venues (‘pokie’ venues and TABs) in their districts. New gaming machine and TAB sites need territorial authority approval and all gaming machine sites need territorial authority approval to increase their number of machines. 

These policies must be reviewed during every three year period and communities must be involved in the process. DIA, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, has developed a resource to assist territorial authorities when reviewing their class 4 gambling venue policies. It is available on the DIA website.

What is the role of the Gambling Commission?

The Gambling Commission is an independent statutory decision-making body established under the Gambling Act 2003. The Commission hears casino licensing applications, and appeals on licensing and enforcement decisions made by the Secretary of Internal Affairs in relation to gaming machines and other non-casino gambling activities. The Commission also consults with all affected groups on the proposed problem gambling levy rates, and makes recommendations to the Ministers of Internal Affairs and Health on the levy amounts.

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