November 20, 2023 3 min read


New Zealand Struggles with a Surge in Underage Gambling

Recent data suggests that many secondary school students in the country regularly engage with unregulated overseas operators, raising significant concerns

An investigation by the New Zealand Herald highlighted the rising issue of online gambling activities during school hours. The country’s outdated regulation offers little protection from gambling harm, leaving its most vulnerable groups at risk. Experts warn that exposure to gambling from an early age can have significant repercussions later in life, urging the government to step in.

Insufficient Protections Pose Significant Risks

New Zealand’s Problem Gambling Foundation voiced explicit concerns, stating that the surge in high school students involved in online gambling is worrying. One former Auckland student shared his experience, noting that he signed up with an online operator during the COVID-19 lockdown and continued throughout his Year 13 at school, developing a severe gambling addiction.

AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre Associate Professor Maria Bellringer noted that problem gambling among students was increasingly frequent. She added that young people were digitally savvy and could easily bypass existing restrictions, including pretending to be their parents and using their credit cards. Bellringer noted that New Zealand had not officially researched the matter but highlighted growing anecdotal evidence.

Parents have been reaching out to treatment services, worried about their child’s gaming addictions.

Maria Bellringer, AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre Associate Professor

Many of New Zealand’s youth encountered gambling via adjacent activities like wagering money on popular video game “skin” betting websites, later steering towards real-money gambling. Another victim of underage gambling shared that the rising addiction eventually led to frequent pub visits to engage in pokies as he regularly wagered significant amounts.

Effective Measures Require Significant Legislative Reforms

New Zealand currently lacks specific laws to prohibit citizens from accessing offshore online gambling sites, leaving Kiwis without local legal protection while gambling with such operators. The introduction of phone bans in several New Zealand secondary schools has caused heated debates, with several institutions imposing strict restrictions on phone usage during school hours.

Despite these limited efforts, students continue to find ways to access online gambling platforms, normalizing and exposing their peers to these activities. Experts urged the New Zealand government to consider the seriousness of the matter and take preventative measures, such as loot box bans similar to those planned in Australia.

A 2020 survey revealed that just under half of youths aged 16-24 had gambled, with over 9000 people considered moderate and high-risk gamblers. Mounting evidence raises red flags regarding the potential risks and long-term impact on these individuals, placing significant pressure on the New Zealand government to consider its long-overdue gambling reform.

Deyan is an experienced writer, analyst, and seeker of forbidden lore. He has approximate knowledge about many things, which he is always willing to apply when researching and preparing his articles. With a degree in Copy-editing and Proofreading, Deyan is able to ensure that his work writing for GamblingNews is always up to scratch.

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