New Zealand working group to study ways to defeat online betting sites

new-zealand-online-gambling-studyNew Zealand’s Racing Minister is making good on his pledge to reduce or eliminate his countrymen’s access to international online betting sites.

On Thursday, Racing Minister Nathan Guy (pictured) announced the formation of a working group to determine the scale of New Zealand gamblers’ use of online betting options other than the New Zealand Racing Board’s TAB site. In November, Guy had declared cutting off the flow of funds to international sites to be his “number one priority.”

The working group will begin its work this month and will deliver a progress report to the Department of Internal Affairs by June 30. A draft report of the group’s conclusions is due by Sept. 1 and the final report will arrive Sept. 30.

Chairing the group will be former Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain, who retired from politics last year. Other members include NZ Racing Board CEO John Allen, fellow board member Greg McCarthy, Sport New Zealand chairman Sir Paul Collins and two unidentified Internal Affairs officials.

It’s not currently illegal for Kiwis to bet online with international sites, but the government says such sites fall “outside the domestic regulatory framework.” That may have something to do with New Zealand’s unwillingness to license online providers other than the TAB, but never mind.

Guy said the rise of online gambling means this issue “will continue to grow and needs to be addressed now.” Guy warned that the working group’s task “won’t be easy, it will be challenging.” Chief among those challenges will be avoiding the perception that the whole exercise is a sham with a foregone conclusion.

Guy’s announcement was peppered with references to the TAB’s inability to compete with international sites due to those sites’ willingness to “make money on New Zealand racing and sports without paying their fair share of tax, or making contributions back to the racing industry or sporting organizations that make the betting possible in the first place.”

Fearless prediction: the working group’s report will conclude that internationally licensed online gambling sites are run by sociopathic pirates and brigands with a reckless disregard for children’s safety. The report will therefore call on internet service providers to block these sites’ domains and for financial institutions to stop processing payments on behalf of these sites.

Such measures have been frequently applied in other jurisdictions yet have proven woefully inadequate in restoring comfortable monopolies to their pre-internet glory days. New Zealand may be surrounded by water, but no country is an island in the digital age. The money funding this working group would be better spent reducing the TAB’s tax obligations.