13 Nov

Pokies clubs in New Zealand see Online Gambling as a real threat

Online casinos have been criticized for the last two decades. As much as pokies fans love them, there will always be challengers who say they are too convenient for problem gamblers, too lax on security, too accepting of players in regions where internet wagering is prohibited, etc., etc., etc. Most individuals who play poker machines online know how to budget a bankroll and avoid duplicitous websites, thus we tend to scoff at societies naysayers, but industry experts in New Zealand might actually have one good point.

New Zealand has seen a decline in activity across land-based poker machines for the last decade, dating back to 2004. Online pokies have been around twice that long, but did not reach climactic popularity until the early 2000’s – right around the time land-based pubs and casinos started experiencing a decline in revenue – and they’ve continued to grow ever since.

From that perspective alone, a Kiwi that enjoys playing pokies on their laptop or mobile device might wave off the complaints of brick-and-mortar establishments. The internet, especially via mobile devices, is the biggest innovation of our generation; of course online poker machines are becoming the more exercised route. But there’s a bigger picture to be seen here.

Approximately 37% of all proceeds from poker machines in New Zealand go to benefit sports clubs and community endeavors. That means for every $1 that goes into the pokies, about $0.37 is going back to the community in some way. To put that in perspective, New Zealand generated $1.035 billion from pokies in its peak year, 2004. That means an estimated $383 million went to local sports associations and community projects. By 2008, revenue dropped 9% to $938 million ($347mm to the community), followed by another 5% drop in 2009, and so on.

Essentially, it’s New Zealand’s communities that could be losing out due to the escalated favoritism towards online poker machines. Realistically, there is no way to stop Kiwis from playing the pokies online, but there is a way the government could capitalize on the situation. It would take internal regulation of online gambling and a legal requirement that New Zealanders only play at those sites, which would have to be operated by existing pokie providers in the area – much like the regulated markets in the US states of Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.

At present, Kiwis are permitted to gamble over the internet, provided they only do so at international pokies sites. Unfortunately, that means all of the money players are spending to wager online is being funneled out of New Zealand. Researchers say that internet-based gambling will continue to rise, particularly due to the popularity of mobile devices. According to a report entitled ‘Global Online Gambling & Betting Market 2014’ on BussinessWire, the major trends are mobile and social gambling, and “the spread of online betting and gambling is forcing governments to act to regulate”.

As the government continues to examine the situation and the continued decrease in community and tax revenues due to more players turning to the internet, industry experts are predicting New Zealand will join the global regulatory band wagon sooner than later.