New Zealand's gambling regulator is looking into a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling as New Zealand's largest casino operator prepares to launch into the space.
Under current New Zealand law, only government-owned Lotto and the TAB are permitted to offer online gambling from within New Zealand.
However, many New Zealanders freely participate in online casinos provided by offshore operators.
SkyCity Entertainment Group is poised to launch into the online gambling space with a platform that will be operated from Malta.
But the move comes as the Department of Internal Affairs, which regulates gambling in New Zealand, is reviewing the laws around online gambling.
"We are gathering a range of information to help inform this work. This is to determine whether the gambling legislation is fit for purpose," a DIA spokesman said.
He said an increasing number of New Zealandeers were accessing offshore online gambling and the global trend suggested this growth would continue.
"The increased technology and uptake by users, means that people can gamble anytime, anywhere with an internet connection."
In the year to 30 June 2018, gamblers in New Zealand spent $2.38 billion on Lotto, gaming machines, racing and sports betting and casinos - up $49m on the prior year.
SkyCity, estimates suggest New Zealanders spend approximately $160 million a year on online casino platforms currently provided by offshore operators.
Gambling Commission dealing with complaint over mayor's conduct separately
Diana Clement: New debt traps - Uber Eats, online gambling, 'buy now, pay later'
Gambling on the bank: Call for more credit card restrictions
Offshore gambling providers are not required to pay anything to the government to mitigate any harm their product may cause and do not contribute to community funding like New Zealand based providers.
That means SkyCity's online gambling operation won't have to pay the problem gambling levy which its land-based casinos do.
However its spokesman said it would be paying goods and service tax in New Zealand from the site.
The DIA spokesman said as part of its online research it was looking at several harm minimisation practices that could be implemented including the effectiveness of banning credits cards for the use of online gambling.
"We are aware that some banks are looking to implement their own ban. The Macquarie Bank in Australia has already done so."
ANZ in New Zealand has said it is in the early stages of discussions with the local gambling industry to explore limiting gambling using credit cards after its parent introduced caps in Australia at the end of last year.
Other major banks are also considering clamp-downs on credit cards and gambling.
A SkyCity spokesman wouldn't comment on what potential impact a credit card ban might have on its business plans only saying it would comply with any legislative changes.
He said SkyCity was more focused on how much a person gambled and whether it was beyond a person's means rather than what form of payment was used.
It would not have any specific restrictions around using credit cards but said there would be restrictions on how much people could gamble on the site.
"There will be a range of both operator exclusions and personal exclusions."
Details of the exclusions would not be made public until the site launched but would include checks to ensure a person did not spend more than a certain percentage of their income.
Those who spent over a certain dollar amount would also have to explain where the money came from, he said.
"We have a wide range of host responsibilities."
People using the site would also be able to set their own limits, he said.
A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Racing Board which operates the TAB said credit cards could not be used for placing bets directly but could be used as a payment method to top up people's TAB accounts.
She said approximately 65 per cent of its customers use a credit card as their preferred method of payment for topping up their accounts.
"We currently don't have caps on the amount deposited to accounts using credit cards but this is something we are actively looking at for some customers."
She said the TAB had a responsibility to minimise harm from gambling irrespective of the form of payment being used.
"We take this responsibility seriously and have a dedicated responsible gambling team who work closely with our business to promote options for our customers to manage their betting behaviour including the ability to take a break from betting, setting limits, stand down periods and self-managed exclusions.
"At the same time we also actively monitor transactions and work with our customers in setting restrictions/exclusions, where issues develop."
Lotto ticket buyers can use a credit card for in store purchases if individual retailers choose to make the option available on their Eftpos terminals and punters are also able to use their credit card online to top up their myLotto account.
A Lotto spokeswoman said it could not say what percentage of sales went through via a credit card.
"Lotto NZ's records do not differentiate between credit and debit card transactions. As a result, we are unable to provide this information."
However she said there were a range of controls in place on MyLotto including spending limits of $150 per week and $500 per month as well as a maximum account balance of $999.
"Lotto NZ is the only legally permitted online gambling operator in New Zealand that has mandatory spending limits in place to their support its players."
A spokeswoman for the Problem Gambling Foundation said a ban on credit cards would be a step in the right direction.
"It is certainly a consumer protection tool as it is so easy to get into considerable debt with credit cards and we know this happens, particularly with people experiencing harm from gambling."
But she said the measure would need to sit alongside effective host responsibility measures to protect consumers, such as spend limits and age restrictions.
"The key here is prevention. We want to prevent people, and particularly the vulnerable, from developing gambling problems and getting into debt so banning the use of credit cards for online gambling is going to help prevent that happening.
"It may not be a magic silver bullet to stop gambling problems, but it will help."
She said it was closely watching what was happening in the United Kingdom where consultation had just begun on banning credit cards for online gambling.
Tom Hartmann, at the Commission for Financial Capability, said credit cards and gambling were a particularly toxic mix because people were borrowing to gamble and it could result in people paying more for the entertainment than they intended to.
"You think you are placing a $100 bet but then end up paying $150 for it."
Hartmann said online gambling could be particularly risky saying casinos often had signs over their ATMs saying "know when to stop", but in the online environment when a credit card was hooked up automatically there were fewer barriers.
He said it was better that people used cash and had a limit in mind. Losing cash meant people felt an immediate pain point while a credit card typically delayed that feeling.