NZ Budget for Problem Gambling Services Increase with 25%

NZ Budget for Problem Gambling Services Increase with 25%

New Zealand’s Government has reserved a total amount of NZ$ 76,1 million to both prevent and minimise gambling harm. The budget is allocated to a three-year gambling strategy plan built around the treatment of problem gambling. 

The plan was developed by NZ’s Ministry of Health and comes as a consequence of record gambling expenses in 2020 and 2021, when approximately $2,62 billion was spent on gambling activities, consisting of non-casino gaming machine operators, Lotto NZ, TAB NZ, and casino.

Interestingly, the growth of 24,6% increase in Ministry expenditure on gambling services between the period of 2022 and 2025 comes at a time when, as the national Ministry informs, the proportion of Kiwis who are at risk of gambling harm is at its lowest since the early 1990s. Still, it believes that a budgetary increase is necessary.

More Adults, More Budget

According to authorities, this is mainly due to the growth of the adult population in the country over the last few decades. The NZ Ministry claims that the number of people who are facing gambling-related problems such as addictions and financial pressure has also increased. Local authorities have therefore identified different areas for improvement that need to be effectively tackled in the coming three years.

This includes high levels of gambling harm experienced by both Māoris and Pacific islanders, while the same is true for a part of the population of Asian origin. According to data, there has also been a higher level of exposure to gambling among segments of the people living in areas with relatively high social deprivation scores and the possibility of getting involved into online gambling.

NZ$ 76,12 Million over the Next Three Years

The Ministry is said to spend NZ$ 76,12 million on its new strategic plan over the next three years, which is a total increase of NZ$ 15,8 million from the prior period between 2019 and 2022. This budget will be funded by increasing the levy on the four most important gambling segments – NCGMs, Lotto NZ, TAB NZ, and (land based) casinos.

  • Pokie machine and other gaming machine operators will need to pay a higher levy rate of 1,08% of player expenditure in comparison with a rate of 0,78% before.
  • TAB NZ will now pay 0,76% of betting profits compared to 0,52% before.
  • Lotto NZ will go up slightly from 0,43% of turnover minus prizes paid to 0,44%.
  • Land based casinos will also move up from 0,56% to 0,87%.

Specifically, this leads to the following allocations. A budget of NZ$ 34,2 million is set aside for segments of clinical intervention and support, which is an increase of roughly NZ$ 9 million in comparison with the prior period. NZ$ 24,8 million has been set apart for public health services, NZ$ 7,9 million will be used for new services and innovation, and NZ$ 3,4 million is allocated to what are defined as operating costs. The sole segment where the budget is lower is research and evaluation, with NZ$ 971,000 to NZ$ 5,6 million.

The new funding and strategy is part of our gambling prevention plan to significantly minimise efforts of the global reforms of the health and disability system and the new mental health system we are working on in New Zealand.

Andrew Little, Minister of Health

The strategies pointed out in the documents are part of the broader NZ$ 1,9 billion Kia Manawanui government action plan aimed at long-term transformation of the mental health and addiction sector. This plan was initially introduced in 2019. Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti also seems to be in favour of a total reform of the 2003 Gambling Act.

Regulation of gambling activities would mean that we can deal with related risks such as financial instability, relational problems, domestic violence, and drugs & alcohol abuse. The new strategy is all about showing New Zealanders that we are very serious about protecting them from these risks.

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti

Criticised by Clubs New Zealand

The levy increase was nonetheless received with high levels of criticism by Clubs New Zealand, a national trade group that represents over 300 clubs in the whole country. Clubs New Zealand’s point of view is that the “Ministry of Health and Ministry of Internal Affairs are virtually doing much of the same at a much larger cost.”

In addition, its states the following:

With regard to the levy review we have shared our opinion that the current strategy has not been effective. It has turned out that the level of harm in the overall population hasn’t been reduced since 2012. Whilst services are not well utilised, there is also a general failure to meet the general objectives. Clubs New Zealand has always shown to be a great supporter of the problem gambling levy, but it will need to be set at a reasonable level with clear, well defined, and feasible goals.

Clubs New Zealand about the levy increase

Online Gambling not Regulated, Yet Allowed

Whilst land based casinos and other gambling products like TAB NZ and Lotto NZ are fully legal in the country, online casinos are technically not. Technically, gambling activities that fall outside of the authority of the Gambling Act 2003 are illegal. New Zealanders are nonetheless allowed to play pokies at online casinos and bet on sports, as long as these are exploited by companies outside of the country of New Zealand. Practically all of the regulations in New Zealand are aimed at penalising companies rather than end-users. As a result, local gambling laws as defined in 2003 are strict yet not restrictive to consumers.

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