A recent investigation by the New Zealand Herald has brought attention to the growing problem of online gambling among students during school hours. The country’s outdated regulations are failing to provide adequate protection, leaving vulnerable groups at risk. Experts have warned that early exposure to gambling can have serious repercussions later in life and are calling on the government to intervene.
The Problem Gambling Foundation in New Zealand has expressed explicit concerns about the increasing number of high school students involved in online gambling. One former student from Auckland shared his experience of developing a severe gambling addiction during his Year 13 at school after signing up with an online operator during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Associate Professor Maria Bellringer from the AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre highlighted the increasing frequency of problem gambling among students, noting that young people are digitally savvy and can easily bypass existing restrictions. She emphasized the growing anecdotal evidence of the issue and mentioned that parents have been reaching out to treatment services, concerned about their child’s gaming addictions.
Many young people in New Zealand are introduced to gambling through adjacent activities such as wagering money on popular video game “skin” betting websites, leading them to real-money gambling. This eventually escalates into frequent pub visits to engage in pokies and wager significant amounts.
The lack of specific laws prohibiting citizens from accessing offshore online gambling sites in New Zealand leaves individuals without local legal protection while gambling with such operators. Despite the introduction of phone bans in some secondary schools, students continue to find ways to access online gambling platforms, normalizing and exposing their peers to these activities.
Experts are urging the New Zealand government to take preventative measures, such as loot box bans similar to those planned in Australia. A 2020 survey revealed that nearly half of youths aged 16-24 had gambled, with over 9000 people considered moderate and high-risk gamblers. This mounting evidence highlights the potential risks and long-term impact on individuals, placing significant pressure on the New Zealand government to consider long-overdue gambling reform.