A formal complaint has been made by the Problem Gambling Foundation to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) about an online gambling ad which former Black Caps star and current English cricket team coach Brendon McCullum is the face of.
The ads for Cyprus-based gambling company 22Bet have been “aggressively marketed” on YouTube over the past month, according to the Problem Gambling Foundation.
In response to the complaint, the DIA has declared that if the advertisements were on a New Zealand-based content provider - as opposed to international platform YouTube - they would be illegal.
The ads depict McCullum in a sports car in the desert, declaring himself the “brand ambassador for 22Bet”.
“[In] the past week or so, I’ve noticed some aggressive advertisements on YouTube from 22Bet, which is a Cyprus-based betting operator. Most times I go to watch a video, an ad from 22Bet is played, saying that they are “legal bookers” and incentivising joining their platform with either a NZ$250 or NZ$750 sign-up bonus,” the complaint from the Problem Gambling Foundation to the DIA said.
“Concerningly, Brendon McCullum is the brand ambassador for 22Bet, which legitimises and endorses the platform for Kiwi audiences.”
The Problem Gambling Foundation said most of the YouTube ads are being advertised from fake accounts, and they are not targeting specific demographics through YouTube user data, but rather are indiscriminately promoted to any user.
“Could you please advise what can be done about this? I understand that it can be a bit of a whack-a-mole when it comes to regulating offshore online gambling operators, but 22Bet seems particularly interested in growing a consumer base in NZ,” the complaint said.
The Problem Gambling Foundation has also contacted the England and Wales Cricket Board, where Brendon McCullum is working as head coach.
In response, the DIA said while they take the expansion of online gambling very seriously, they had limited capacity to regulate such overseas companies.
“Though we take online gambling very seriously, under the current Act, the department, as the gambling regulator, is limited in what measures we can take against overseas online gambling platforms,” the DIA said.
“Currently, the prohibition does not apply to gambling conducted overseas and it is not illegal for a person in New Zealand to gamble with an overseas gambling provider over the internet.
“As 22Bet is conducted overseas, and as YouTube is an international website not specifically hosted within NZ, any advertisements displayed on these platforms would not be prohibited under the Act. If 22Bet was being advertised through an NZ-based content provider, then the advertising would be illegal.”
The DIA said participation in such websites as 22Bet can expose people to potential fraud.
Online gambling sites are generally illegal to operate in New Zealand. However, the Gambling Act 2003 does provide limited exemptions for the New Zealand Racing Board (TAB) and the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.
“22Bet’s current advertising is misleading as they are not a registered New Zealand sports bookmaker, nor are they licensed or regulated in New Zealand by the DIA,” the DIA said.
“We are currently looking at avenues we can pursue, including contacting 22Bet [and] advising them to change ... misleading marketing and advertising which insinuates in any way that they are a New Zealand-based gambling operator.”
A review of online gambling commenced in 2019 in New Zealand and continues.