Kiwis love to gamble

New Zealanders are gambling about NZ$40 million a week on overseas websites - around twice what they spend on the state lottery - according to a survey by the Racing Board, reports the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

The Board's survey found that 5.7 percent of New Zealanders, or 177 000 people, are gambling on offshore websites, overseas lotteries and sports betting, spending NZ$2.1 billion a year, or just under $40 million a week.

However, only $5.5 million a week is being spent on overseas racing and sports betting, with the rest on other forms of gambling.

Problem Gambling Foundation spokesman David Coom said the survey confirmed that overseas online gambling was "a really fast-growing problem".

"It's totally unregulated and there's no ability to do any host responsibility around it," he said. "One of the big issues with problem gambling is that it flourishes and thrives in secrecy, and of course online you can just sit at home and access it all you like.

"We are starting to see cases come through where parents are bringing in their teenagers who are spending up to 60 hours a week online. We are just about to embark on some research with youth to see what actually is going on."

Coom may be better served accessing the results of extensive user surveys on Internet gambling that have already been completed by internationally respected organisations like the Harvard Medical School Addictions Division, where Dr. Howard Saffer and his team have confirmed that online gambling is substantially less addictive than live gambling.

The New Zealand Herald comments that if the Racing Board's survey is correct, it means that about a sixth of New Zealand's total gambling spending is going overseas. Official figures show that New Zealanders gambled NZ$12.9 billion within the country in the year to last June - just over NZ$10 billion on poker machines in pubs and clubs, NZ$1.5 billion on racing, NZ$778 million on Lotto and NZ$477 million in casinos.

Lotteries Commission spokeswoman Karen Jones said only 2.5 to 3 percent of lotto sales were online.

Predictably, the numbers have given racing authorities food for commercial thought. The Racing Board's Bill Colgan said that if the money being gambled online overseas was bet on local races instead it would create the equivalent of 3 600 extra full-time jobs in the racing industry.

"Many of these offshore operators are not required and do not have in place any proactive measures to minimise the harm from problem gambling," he said, without substantiating his rather sweeping and general claim.

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