New Zealand only has six casinos in the entire country, but in a country of only 4.8 million people, that is pretty impressive. New Zealand (NZ) has a common love of pokies like their neighbors to the West, Australia.
Most Americans don’t think of NZ as a gaming destination, but the small country has a lot more to offer than just its stunning landscapes and sheep farms.
I am going to go over a list of must-see casinos in the country, then state a brief history of the gaming landscape in New Zealand, as well as its laws around gaming and casinos.
The Best Land-Based Casinos in New Zealand
So, you’ve made it to NZ, and you have nothing planned beyond your Lord of the Rings tour. Let’s talk about what casinos you should visit!
This tiny country of just 4.8 million people has six casinos.
Below, we’ll take a look my top three choices. This isn’t a complete list. They’re simply my favorite gaming destinations in New Zealand.
1 – Christchurch Casino, Christchurch
Christchurch Casino is in the sparkling city of—you guessed it—Christchurch. The city has around 375,00 residents on the Southern Island of New Zealand. Its nickname, the “Garden City,” comes from the city’s beautiful state-owned parks and botanical gardens that bring in many visitors annually.
The casino is a one-of-a-kind experience based in the thriving heart of town. The casino opened its doors in 1994 and was the first casino to operate in New Zealand.
Christchurch Casino offers players 43,998 square feet of casino floor. There are a variety of table games like poker, blackjack, and baccarat. You will also find over 550 pokies (slot machines).
Trust me when I say that there is something for every gambler. Their blackjack tables start at just $2 a hand as opposed to $10 in Vegas casinos.
Do note that Christchurch Casino has a more formal dress code. Patrons are discouraged from wearing disheveled clothing, beanie hats, and workwear, like steel-toed boots. The casino will ask you to leave if your attire doesn’t meet their requirements.
You should also know that heavy drinking is frowned upon at Christchurch Casino. They discourage players who may become too inebriated so as not to disturb other guests’ experience in the casino.
2 – SkyCity Auckland, Auckland
SkyCity Auckland is New Zealand’s largest casino. Located in the central part of NZ’s largest city, SkyCity Auckland is within the Sky Towers. This is a casino complex featuring an event venue, convention center, multiple restaurants, 12 bars, and two hotels.
The entire complex is an example of luxury and opulence. This is the kind of gaming destination you could stay at for days and never have to leave.
The casino floor is huge at 70,000 square feet. The floor offers over 2,000 pokies and more than 150 gaming tables for poker, blackjack, roulette, and more. The casino is open 24/7 for your gaming enjoyment.
SkyCity Auckland has a strict dress code with an extensive list of prohibited attire. You’ll find the prohibited articles below:
- Tops without sleeves
- Damaged or torn clothing
- Trade or safety clothing (safety vests)
- Flip flops or sandals (from 9 PM to 5 AM)
- Dirty and damaged shoes and clothes
- Gang colors, patches, or any other insignia
- Any types of sunglasses (allowed only inside of Poker Zone)
- Caps or hats (allowed only for medical reasons and religious purposes or inside of Poker Zone)
3 – Dunedin Casino New Zealand, Dunedin
Dunedin Casino is the place to go for an outstanding casino experience. This casino has a fun, unique atmosphere that is designed for the player and their time in the casino.
The casino has an entire customer service staff onsite to cater to their players’ needs. The floor is set up for ease of play so that you can easily navigate from the pokies and tables to their miscellaneous entertainment options.
Dunedin Casino’s gaming floor has 12 gaming tables offering traditional games such as blackjack, poker, roulette, and baccarat.
You can also play their 180 pokies and try to hit that big jackpot.
The attire, much like the other casinos in New Zealand, is described as neat. Would you wear it your grandmother’s house?
No? Then it’s probably best to leave it in your suitcase or at home.
The Dunedin is housed in the historic Grand Dunedin Hotel. The building is an old art deco building that houses the casino as well as the name sake hotel.
The casino also offers an array of entertainment and dining options.
History of Gaming in New Zealand
Gaming, or gambling, has been present in NZ for hundreds of years. The country has had stringent rules against gambling in its past. But at the time of writing, it is completely legal to take part in numerous types of gambling. The legal gambling industry in NZ is overseen by the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.
In NZ, it is legal to gamble or bet on horse racing, sports, mobile slot machines, lotteries, and online casinos as long as the company is based in New Zealand. And, of course, in-person casino gambling is legal.
Gaming in New Zealand goes back to the 1830s, when betting on horse races was the popular form of gambling. The remote location of this island nation did not stop George Julius, a NZ citizen, who made a big impression on the gambling and sports betting industry. His influence can still be seen in modern horse betting today.
Julius invented the automatic totalizator, or tote board, in 1913. This is the electronic board you now see in the infield of horse tracks that displays the position of each horse during the race. That’s a pretty big achievement coming from such a remote island that is not commonly associated with gambling.
While it’s true that there have been extended periods of prohibition, today’s NZ gaming industry now has an annual expenditure of $12.1 million USD.
Pokies, the island favorite, make up 35% of this expenditure, while casinos come in second at 26%. Lotteries account for 21%, while 18% is from sports betting. Public gaming bodies in New Zealand are required to donate a percentage of their revenues to improving their communities. Because of this, there are now six land-based casinos in the country.
New Zealanders are allowed to gamble online as long as the online casino is based out of the country. In fact, there are plenty of reputable offshore casino sites that cater to NZ players.
Gambling Laws in New Zealand
New Zealand has a long history of gaming being illegal, then legal, then illegal again, and so on. As you learn more about the history of gambling, you’ll find that it is common for countries to switch gears under new leadership.
First Gambling Laws in New Zealand
The 1920s were the first time NZ put official gambling laws on the books. Bookmaking was outlawed, and horse betting was only permitted at the racetrack.
Legislation surrounding other forms of gambling were also quite strict until the 1980s, when casinos were legalized. Lotteries were also legalized by the New Zealand Parliament in the same time frame.
Pokie machines, also known as slot machines, were legalized with this piece of legislation. It was not until 1994 that the first casino opened in NZ.
Current Gambling Laws in New Zealand
All gambling in New Zealand is prohibited unless approved by the government, as stated in the Gambling Act 1003. There are four types of gaming that require a government-issued license to operate legally. The payouts and prize winnings allowed vary depending on the type of gambling.
To enter a casino in New Zealand, the player must be at least 20 years old. You must be 18 to place a sports bet.
As mentioned above, it is legal for players in NZ to gamble using real money online casinos that are based in another country, but it should be noted that it’s illegal for offshore casinos to advertise in New Zealand.
Government Regulators of Gambling in New Zealand
The Gambling Commission, formed in 2003, oversees the gambling businesses in New Zealand. This branch is part of the Department of Internal Affairs.
The Gambling Commission approves and provides the licenses for casinos and dictates the specifications required. They also manage the agreements between the casinos and operators.
Quick Note on Online Gambling in New Zealand
The laws surrounding gambling in New Zealand may seem stringent, but they are more focused on stopping offshore companies who don’t possess proper gaming licenses.
The gambling laws precisely communicate that if a player is of legal age to gamble, there is no NZ law or piece of legislation that restrict the player from gambling on offshore online casinos.
It is also fully within the law for a player to withdraw money from offshore casinos. The issue is playing at online casinos that are based on NZ. Most of the popular offshore online casinos will take the New Zealand dollar as a form of currency.
New Zealand has a thriving gaming economy that is off the beaten path for gaming destinations. They are a little slower, a little more traditional, and a little bit more regulated. But don’t be discouraged! New Zealand should be on your gaming destination bucket list. It would be a great addition for your trip to the beautiful country.
Have you gambled in New Zealand?
Do you want to?
I would love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Happy gambling.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …