History of Gambling in New Zealand

Gambling started in the country since the colonial period, thanks to the European settlers. In the late 19th century and the early 20th century, betting really grew everywhere in New Zealand. It was considered illegal by the laws till 1908 Gambling Act. After which racing betting was legal everywhere in the country.

The British Commission played a big role in the growth of the gambling industry in New Zealand. Besides playing a role in making it legal, the European settlers were responsible to introduce the native people with different casinos and gambling games.

history of new zealand gambling

Gambling in New Zealand – The Lifestyle

The colonies were set up by Europeans who brought together the hobby of gambling. Since the very early days, gambling in New Zealand was practised in one way or the other such as betting on horse racing and casino games. At present, the gambling industry is quite big and essential part of the country’s lifestyle. Over the years many changes and advancements in betting activities and laws have been made. The history of gambling in New Zealand is quite fascinating.

Horse Racing

It all started in NZ with horse race betting. Before the card games and slots, people generally played their money on the horses. The first bet was played in 1835 on a horse race at Bay Islands. So the gambling scenes in NZ started in the 19th century in the mid-1800s.

People looked at Horse-racing as a source of entertainment and some easy-lucky money. This made people getting engage in racing bets more and more. In 1910, many bookmakers were banned on account to control the racing bet activities. The foundation of TAB in 1950 again allowed the players to put their wager on the horses.


In the 1980s, lotteries were introduced to the people in New Zealand, Firstly in the form of lotto, weekly lotteries were played. Lotto soon became quite popular among the people which saw the Lottery Commission of New Zealand laid the new framework for lotteries 1987.

This made lotteries more popular than ever among the people. As a result, significantly more scratch cards and lottery tickets were sold in the coming years. As per the reports, more than sixty-five percent of Kiwis played lotteries in the mid-2000s. The TV viewership for weekly lottery draws was a record viewer back then.

Pokies  gambling in New Zealand

The fruit machines or pokies as they were famously called in the neighbouring country Australia made their way to New Zealand in 1987. Earlier these machines were present at a few selected places only. But pokies immediately caught the attention of a big chunk of people as they were quick and easy to play with exciting prizes.

In 1991, pokies were officially presented in the country and soon after they were legalized in all parts of the country. The pokies continued to be a hot-favourite betting game until the inception of modern-day video slots.


The first casino in New Zealand named Christchurch casino was opened in 1994. Drinks, fine dining, a variety of games under one roof in a legally safe environment immediately attracted gamblers from all over the country.

A number of slot machines and live tables were set up for the players to enjoy the video slots and card games. The advancement in technologies saw a more growing number of online casinos in New Zealand in recent years.

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