Online gambling, be it slots or live blackjack, is booming.
“When we look at our own customers, we see that around $30 million a month is spent on online gambling, 80% of which is overseas,” said Julia Jackson, head of goal and sustainability of Kiwibank.
“It really is [an incredible amount] and what’s a really interesting trend that we’ve seen is since the first COVID lockdown in 2020, that number has massively increased and it hasn’t decreased.”
Offshore sites making millions are based in places like Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Estonia and Lithuania, where registered companies enjoy low taxes and can offer internet gambling to anyone in the world. the world.
SkyCity’s Maltese online gambling business made $13.1 million last year. Although the company said it was a “relatively small player” when it came to New Zealanders using its service.
Kiwibank uses a voluntary system, where customers can choose not to spend money on offshore locations.
“It essentially stops all online gambling transactions on their visa, debit or credit cards,” Jackson said.
Over $7.1 million has been saved by block users, but this is an initiative of Kiwibank. The government has yet to introduce any form of regulation for online gambling.
A review of online gambling was announced in July 2019. By mid-2020, public submissions were complete.
But even now nothing has happened, with Home Affairs saying the review is ‘ongoing and we expect Cabinet to consider options later this year’.
Maria Bellringer, a gambling addiction researcher at Auckland University of Technology, said other countries only allow access to reputable sites.
“I am well aware of the consultation that took place in 2019 and I was very surprised that it had not come up with anything so far and disappointed,” she said.
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A Cabinet document was drafted but its author said it was a contentious issue and former Racings Minister Winston Peters stopped it ahead of the 2020 election.
“It was a meeting in his office, with his staff, where he explained that the timing was probably not the best,” said former Home Secretary Tracey Martin.
“This document never found its way to Cabinet.”
But Peters told Newshub it had nothing to do with the election and was more about the need to improve the legislation further.
“Not at all. It has nothing to do with the timing,” he said.
“When we watched it, there were too many outstanding points.
“The record will show that there is still a lot of work to be done on this.”
Bellringer said “something needs to be done” about online gambling.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize what they’re getting into with online gambling,” she said.
“Online gambling is a high risk factor for developing problem gambling.”
No one knows exactly how much New Zealanders spend in total, but Home Affairs estimates it was at least $351 million on offshore gambling sites in the last financial year, not including money spent with Lotto NZ and the TAB, the only local online providers licensed to operate in New Zealand.
The other major banks were unable to say how much their customers spent on offshore gambling.
ASB Bank said it was considering introducing a voluntary option for customers who want to avoid spending money with online gambling businesses.
Westpac told Newshub that it does not offer customers the option to block their own expenses.
“We regularly review our policies and controls around online gambling, and in February 2020 we removed the ability for customers to earn loyalty points on gambling transactions,” he said. -he declares.
ANZ has been approached for comment but has yet to respond.