- »New Zealand Closer to Credit Card Ban for Online Gambling
New Zealand Closer to Credit Card Ban for Online Gambling
The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs has been considering a ban on credit cards for online gambling payments since this summer.
Since then, the department held a public consultation on the subject, and SkyCity’s Auckland casino launched its online casino product. By all accounts, this has led to the DIA to decide to implement the credit card ban soon.
A Lawful Challenge of Sorts
It all started with the battle between SkyCity and the New Zealand government.
SkyCity Entertainment Group wanted an online casino component to partner with its Auckland land-based casino property. The company felt that it should be able to operate an online casino for two reasons.
First, customers clearly wanted it. Studies showed that New Zealanders spent as much as $160 million per year on casino sites, but all were based offshore since they were not welcomed to be licensed by the NZ government.
Second, New Zealand law permitted Lotto and TAB to offer online betting options. The government-run sites were a monopoly of sorts, though, and SkyCity wanted to be able to compete for online gambling business.
As the law dictated, online gambling companies were not allowed to operate from a New Zealand base. SkyCity, then, planned to let its Maltese subsidiary do it…from Malta.
The company partnered with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) to develop and launch SkyCityCasino-dot-com later in 2019.
DIA Hands Tied
The loophole was a bit unexpected, as was SkyCity’s bold move.
The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) knew that changing the current laws to prohibit SkyCity’s online casino could take years. DIA Minister Tracey Martin said the government was “disappointed” that the company was moving forward with its plans.
Little could be done to stop the site from its launch, but there was another card the DIA could play. In order to make it as difficult as possible for players to deposit money to the SkyCity online casino, the DIA could implement a ban on using credit cards for online gambling.
Public Discussion Concluded
The DIA then opened a public consultation in the form of a public discussion document: Online Gambling in New Zealand.
“The Government is interested in knowing what is important to you when it comes to regulating online gambling in New Zealand,” it began. “We would also like to know more about how online gambling is affecting the lives of New Zealanders.”
The document noted that the Gambling Act of 2003 did not foresee the modernization of gambling and how much the internet would play a part in all parts of life today.
The public was asked to submit opinion forms online, via email or regular mail to the DIA before September 30.
Essentially, the DIA came up with four options on which to vote to achieve updated laws.
- Lotto and TAB offer existing gambling products like lotteries, racing and sports betting (no change to current law)
- Lotto and TAB could offer more online gambling products like casino games
- Domestic operators (any NZ commercial or charitable operations) could be licensed to offer casino-style online gambling products
- Any domestic or overseas operators could be licensed to offer gambling products online
On a different angle, the DIA took the opportunity to address gambling harm in relation to online gambling, asking respondents to weigh the options on the table thus far.
- Educate public about online gambling and urge operators to comply
- Industry finances problem gambling services
- Allow gambling industry to self-regulate
- Prohibit or restrict online gambling advertising
- Government regulates industry conduct
- Regulators enforce laws and licensing conditions
Credit Card Ban on the Way
While the results of the consultation have not yet been released, it appears that the DIA has decided on one course of action already.
Per the New Zealand Herald, the DIA plans to implement the credit card ban. The timeline for an announcement and consultation with financial institutions are unknown.
This may be the most immediate way to stave off some of the anticipated gambling harm. And with the Problem Gambling Foundation demanding action in the wake of the summer launch of SkyCity’s online casino, it appears that the DIA wants to be responsive.
In Australia, some banks are making the move to ban credit card use for gambling on their own.
Earlier this year, Macquarie became the first major bank to block gambling charges on all credit cards issued by its facilities. The policy went into effect on July 1. For financial institutions, it is as simple – sometimes – as changing policy and alerting customers.
It is unclear how New Zealand will handle the process, but it will likely become public knowledge before the end of 2019.