Here’s an inconsistency if ever you saw one: it is entirely legal for players from New Zealand to wager their leisure dollars at websites operated overseas, however, it is illegal for any casino – credible or otherwise – to promote their products on Kiwi soil (or .nz domains). Despite a recent update to UK gambling law (which you can swot up on here), there are currently no plans for New Zealand to start ‘whitelisting’ particular websites and making it legal for established operators to flog their wares in the territory.
But if it’s legal to gamble overseas, you might ask, what’s the problem? Particularly given that winnings from igaming are not subject to taxation by the New Zealand government. Indeed, this may seem like a perfectly reasonable arrangement – a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ where online gamblers can have their fun and the government gets to look as though it is maintaining a moral high ground by refusing to acknowledge a shady industry, without actually sticking its beak in.
The thing is about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was that it was repealed. And why? Because it’s nonsensical, and so is the New Zealand government’s stance on online gambling.
NZ gambling law: blight of the concords
The fact that decent online gambling companies are prevented from marketing their products in an open territory means that players – particularly novices – are placed at the mercy of the online marketplace, often unable to distinguish between the fair and false. While, in an ideal world, we would like to think that Google would help weed the dodgy operators out of one’s search results, in reality it is all-too easy for unscrupulous casinos to dominate search rankings (however briefly) and lure in virtual punters.
As Sam Miranda of Right Casino points out, “between spammy, black-hat marketing techniques and PPC [pay-per-click], we often see really disreputable – often unlicensed – casino websites cropping up near the top of Google’s results for major search terms. As a newcomer, unversed in the world of online gambling, it’s very difficult to distinguish between good sites and bad: you just go where Google sends you.”
“These sites don’t sit pretty at the top of Google for long,” Miranda continues. “They aim for quick wins: get in, make a load of cash, get penalised by Google and drop out of existence. In that time, is perfectly possible to fleece hundreds, even thousands of players with toxic bonuses and inconsistent cash-outs.”
‘Traditional’ marketing campaigns (billboards, television, radio and what have you) are usually prohibitively expensive for these ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ parasites. While it’s wrong to suggest that big companies that can afford to advertise through traditional media channels will never give players a raw deal (we’re looking at you, Betfair…) it would be reasonable to suggest that, the bigger one’s reputation, the heavier the burden of responsibility.
Online gambling newbies in the UK often have their first encounters with online gambling brands on television or during sporting events, which offers a sound indication that said brand is a safe bet. After all, premier league teams are unlikely to endorse operators with a known history of exploitation. This kind of information, which helps players in the UK sift through the drek and find the gold, is currently denied to New Zealanders. That’s more than annoying: it’s downright irresponsible.
Don’t you want those precious, precious tax dollars?
Given that the New Zealand government permits online gambling in the territory anyway, it’s frankly bizarre that they wouldn’t want a slice of the igaming tax pie (like the tasty 15% the UK taxman currently gobbles down). The whole situation is stupid, hypocritical and self-defeating: bad for the country, bad for the player and bad for the industry.
When it comes to online gambling law, openness and responsible regulation from without and within is the only way to go. The awkward half-way house New Zealand is currently experiencing does nobody any favours.
Words by: Joe Attard
Photo by: Shutterstock.com