New Zealand Minister To Tackle Online Sports Betting

Racing Minister targets offshore operators as his top priority

Speaking at the New Zealand Racing Board agm this week, the national minister for racing, Nathan Guy, said he was committed to acting against online sports betting offered by foreign operators, and regarded action in this sector as a top priority.

Characterising offshore internet betting as a complex but addressable problem, the minister said that the Racing Board estimates that over NZ$300 million goes to overseas betting operators every year.

"Whether you agree with that specific estimate or not, the growth of digital devices and higher internet speeds makes it easier to gamble online, and the problem is likely to grow," the minister said.

"That has been the experience overseas and there is no reason to doubt it would be any different here in New Zealand."

Guy said that the growth of online sports betting and the incursion by offshore operators has significant implications for racing and sport generally in New Zealand. He observed that betting is central to racing and sport, helping to build public interest and excitement.

Betting was also an important source of funds for the further development of racing and sports, he said, noting that bets placed through overseas providers meant money leaving the country, depriving the local industry of business and funding, and additionally puts punters at risk in an unregulated environment.

The offshore gambling problem was discussed at the Australasian Racing Ministers conference earlier this year, the minister said, revealing that there are concerns about the issue in both New Zealand and Australia.

In Australia, a crackdown was planned, the minister said, adding that he would be watching developments there with interest as a national working group was set up to provide recommendations to the federal Australian government.

For his part, the minister revealed that he has tasked government officials in New Zealand with establishing an Offshore Betting Working Group to develop industry consultations and make recommendations by autumn 2015 to improve the current unsatisfactory situation.

Racing Board turnover in the last year reached a record NZ$2 billion, but there are concerns about rising costs, and the board has been asked to conduct a financial review in the coming year.

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