Since the first Europeans arrived in New Zealand gambling has been a prominent aspect of daily life.
In 2011 a survey found that in the previous year 56% of New Zealanders over the age of 18 bought at least one Lotto ticket, and 29% of women and 20% of men purchased an Instant Kiwi scratch card. The third most popular form of gambling was gaming machine (pokies) gambling, with 10% of men and 10% of women participating.
Total gambling turnover (the amount wagered by gamblers) rose from $1.073 billion in 1987 (equivalent to $2.084 billion in 2012) to $15.295 billion in 2011.
- 43.5% was spent on non-casino gaming machines.
- 22.1% was spent on casino gambling.
- 20.5% was spent on New Zealand Lotteries Commission products, such as Lotto and Instant Kiwi.
- 13.9% was spent on TAB (Totalisator Agency Board) racing and sports betting.
In 2012 gambling was regulated by two acts.
The Racing Act 2003 set up the New Zealand Racing Board to manage the three racing codes – thoroughbred racing, harness racing and greyhound racing – as well as run the TAB, the sole provider of betting on racing and sport.
The Gambling Act 2003 regulated gaming machines, casinos, New Zealand Lotteries Commission products and all other gambling. Its purposes were:
- to ensure gambling was fair and honest
- to ensure gambling profits benefited the community
- to prevent and minimise harm caused by gambling.
Every year a proportion of gambling profits funds a multitude of community projects. Trusts that run non-casino gaming machines in pubs and clubs distribute at least 37.12% of net profit to community groups, and casinos distribute at least 2.5%.
Lotteries Commission profits are distributed by the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board. In the 2010/11 year it paid out $124 million to community groups.
Race betting profits were returned to racing and sports.