A year ago last September New Zealand passed the Gambling Act 2003 that came into full effect just over three months ago. It repealed the Casino Control Act 1990 and the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1977, integrating them into a single Act. The Casino Control Authority was dismantled and gaming matters passed to the newly formed Gambling Commission at the Department of Internal Affairs. The Casino Inspectorate now regulates all casino gaming activity.
One regulation in the Act bans the use of banknotes larger than $20 in pokie machines, although Sky City in Aukland still has around 300 machines that take $500 'tickets'. These were authorised by the Casino Control Authority before its rôle was passed to the Department of Internal Affairs. The Managing Director of Sky City has said that the limits put on banknote acceptors on gaming machines has reduced gambling. It is estimated that with the introduction of the $20 banknote limit last March the pre-tax profits for Sky City fell by $7 million in the first half of this year. A spokesman for the Department of Internal affairs said the authorisation for the 300 machines will stand while it assesses ticket technology, but that the cap on the 300 will remain.
Figures published by the Department of Internal Affairs for the first quarter since the Gambling Act came into force show that machine numbers in pubs and clubs are declining. There has been a fall of nearly 3,000 in the last fifteen months and the decline is expected to continue. It is now much harder to be granted an operating licence, and much easier to lose it. With most licences expiring on September 30, this year only 20 out of the possible 527 applications were outstanding, unlike in previous years when they were frequently overdue. Now there is the risk of having a licence cancelled if not renewed in good time. Next year it is expected that renewal applications will be staggered and linked to a company's financial year instead of all being the same date.
Specific changes to the gambling laws include bans on: granting any new casino licences; existing casinos expanding their gambling operations; automatic teller machines in gambling areas; banknote acceptors on gaming machines taking $50 and $100 notes.
Key trends in 2002/2003 show similarity to many other countries. Sports betting increased and lottery sales declined. Gaming machines not in casinos showed the greatest rise (21.1%) compared to an 11.1% rise in expenditure in casinos. Overall there was a 12.3% increase in gambling to $1,871 million.
It has been suggested that if Sky City continues with the 300 machines using ticket technology and its profits recover, then they may face further tightening of the law. It appears the Gambling Commission wishes to see smaller profits by casino companies in order to claim a reduction in problem gambling. As all statistics are notoriously unreliable, it remains to be seen if the new law attains its aims.
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