New Zealand gov’t minister wants free-play casino ads off TV


new-zealand-free-play-online-casino-adsNew Zealand’s minister for internal affairs is demanding a rewrite of the country’s gambling laws to prevent online casinos from advertising on local television.

For the past week or so, local online magazine The Spinoff has been running alarmist pieces about Malta-licensed online casino JackpotCity advertising its dot-net free-play site on Kiwi television. The adverts were likened to a ‘Trojan horse’ intended to trick customers into visiting the real-money dot-com casino site.

The Spinoff claims JackpotCity’s true intent is evident in the fact that if you don’t remember the commercial telling you to go to the dot-net address and instead do a Google search on ‘JackpotCity,’ you’re far more likely to find the dot-com version at the top of your search results. To which we say, well, duh.

The Spinoff was forced to concede that there’s no law preventing JackpotCity from promoting its free-play site in this manner. Last October, a confused Kiwi who believed that promoting real-money online gambling on TV was agin’ the law (which it is) complained to the NZ Advertising Standards Authority about a JackpotCity ad, but the watchdog found “no grounds for the complaint to proceed.”

The Spinoff did relate some unfortunate exchanges between one of its writers who opened a real-money JackpotCity account and a customer service rep who phoned the writer offering ‘hot tips’ if the writer would make another deposit.

On Wednesday, The Spinoff quoted Tracey Martin, Minister for Internal Affairs, saying the government had to “put in place updated legislation to manage” new developments that weren’t envisioned when the gambling laws were last updated in 2003.

Martin (pictured) conceded that neither JackpotCity nor Mediaworks, which operates the television channel on which the ads appeared, were in breach of any law. But Martin claimed her department had written to MediaWorks suggesting that the broadcaster had “breached the intent of the law.”

Martin said her department had asked MediaWorks whether it might consider no longer airing the ads, but her understanding was that the company has yet to respond. Until new legislation can be crafted, Martin encouraged the masses to “start writing multitudes of letters to the CEO” of MediaWorks to express their outrage.

Martin also suggested the public contact “all the credit card companies” to pressure them into no longer processing payments for online gambling sites other than the state-run New Zealand TAB, the only locally approved betting option.

But the TAB also came in for a kicking, as Martin was informed about TAB punters receiving emails and text messages promoting betting offers and incentives ahead of major sports events. Martin called this “push betting” and wondered aloud about whether it was “appropriate” before concluding that this “needs to be part of the conversation” when legislation is crafted.

Martin said the government “really need to move on this” and said she would be “taking something up to cabinet in the next couple of weeks.”