While still far from the levels in Australia where playing pokies is close to becoming a national sport, New Zealand does have quite a bold statement to make in the gambling industry. 

Whether it’s in a land based casino or an online platform, New Zealanders love to gamble, there’s no question about it: online pokies, scratch cards, casino games, lotteries. What makes them so keen to place the bets and risk their hard earned money on games of chance though? We’ll see a bit later.

Gambling statistics in New Zealand

First, let’s have a quick look at a couple of recent stats about the gambling habits of New Zealanders. Reports and statistics are very important if we really want to get a clear picture of the gambling scene in New Zealand.

  1. More than 13% of the adult population in New Zealand gambles at least once a year
  2. Half of the gambling adults play online
  3. Online pokies are the most popular games of chance in New Zealand, with lotteries and Blackjack in a far 2nd and 3rd position
  4. New Zealanders spent $NZ 631 million in 2020 on lottery tickets
  5. The total gambled amount in 2020 is the equivalent of each New Zealander having spent 572$ gambling. This amount is split as follows:
  •  204$ on pokies
  • 128$ spent on casino games
  • 160$ on lotteries
  • 80$ at the TAB

As you can see, gambling is quite a big part of the New Zealanders’ lives. Let’s check out a couple of reasons why.

Why is gambling so popular in New Zealand?

Gambling has a certain appeal everywhere in the world. There are some places that stand out every time a gamblng statistic is made: Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Ireland and more recently New Zealand.

What makes casino games so irresistible to kiwis? Let’s see.

Possibility of winning

While it may seem like a no brainer, it’s still worth noting that most people play casino games because they want to win. The idea of winning quick and easy money is a great source of joy for people all over the world, and especially in poorer countries. It’s not uncommon for poor countries to have casinos or sports betting parlors on every street corner.

While this is not the case for New Zealand, the appeal is still there and kiwis are still trying to hit those nice wins that can turn their lives around.

The thrill

For some New Zealanders, playing online pokies is an adrenaline source they need to spice up their lives. While some choose to jump out of airplanes or climb steep rocks, others choose the safer ways of getting a thrill.

Casino games and especially pokies, are exciting. They get your heart beating faster, your blood running and a rush of dopamine floods your brain every time you’re dealt a new hand or you spin the reels of a pokie.

Managing stress/coping with other problems

Since they keep you engaged and preoccupied for quite a long time, depending on your bankroll, casino games are used by many New Zealanders as a coping mechanism for stress or managing the pressures of everyday life.

Even though this is a rather toxic habit and a slippery slope that can send you on a downward spiral to addiction and more serious problems, it is unfortunately a big part of the explanation for kiwis’ love of gambling.


Since I already brought it up, addiction is unfortunately another reason why so many New Zealanders gamble. Here are some rather worrying statistics:

  • 54,000 New Zealanders gamble at a harmful level
  • 110,000 other kiwis are at risk of developing a harmful gambling addiction
  • The burden of gambling addiction on the economy is similar to the one of anxiety disorders on the healthcare system
  • Online gamblers are twice as likely to develop a gambling addiction than players in land based casinos.

These worrying reports shed some light on the gambling problem in New Zealand and can be a rather comprehensive explanation for the popularity of casino games. A lot of people play these casino games simply because they cannot stop playing them.


On the opposite side of the spectrum, we find the players who engage in gambling simply out of boredom, because it’s something to do. IT is a rather cheap form of entertainment as long as we don’t lose control.

It’s not forbidden

Despite having the possibility of leading to strong addiction, online and offline casino games are not (yet) forbidden or strictly regulated by the authorities in New Zealand. This can also be a reason why they are so popular.

People play the games because nobody is telling them not to. They do it for fun, out of boredom, for the thrill or for the money.


Gambling may seem like a problem in New Zealand if we look at statistics. The truth of the matter is though that gambling is simply a part of kiwis’ lives at this point.