Problem gambling safety advocates concerned about online casino move from Christchurch Casino

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Christchurch Casino’s decision to launch an online casino in Malta has disappointed problem gambling safety advocates in New Zealand.

Christchurch Casino’s decision to launch an online casino in Malta has disappointed problem gambling safety advocates in New Zealand.

The new offshore subsidiary, known as Christchurchcasino.com Limited, is expected to launch before the end of the year. Chairman Bruce Robertson said he would partner with a licensed international gaming company, the move coming amid the growth of online casinos at the expense of land-based casinos.

Only Lotto NZ and TAB are legally allowed to offer online gambling in New Zealand, but it is legal for New Zealanders to gamble on offshore websites. As a subsidiary, however, Christchurchcasino.com would not be permitted to advertise in New Zealand under current law.

Robertson noted that the online site would carry strong responsible gaming safeguards, pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) and contribute to the Christchurch Casino Charitable Trust.

But Bridgitte Thornley, national director of services at the Problem Gambling Foundation in Christchurch, expressed her disappointment and concern at the decision to establish an overseas presence to connect.

According to Thornley, the domain name would trick users into thinking it was a trustworthy New Zealand site, despite not being governed by New Zealand rules. She added that if people searched for the name of the online casino for opening hours or events, it would lead them to the website.

Maria Bellringer, an associate professor at the Center for Gambling and Addictions Research at Auckland University of Technology, voiced similar concerns, adding that online gambling was more harmful than land-based gambling.

“It can be done 24/7 and in secret,” Bellringer said. “It’s unlikely there’s any supervision there or people who can monitor if someone is playing for a long time.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a New Zealand-based operator has made a switch overseas, with SkyCity also launching an online casino in Malta in 2019.

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