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How Casinos Influence Tourism in NZ

May 27, 2020 Visit STH Pacific & Oceania No Comments Email Email

For some, casinos represent the epitome of glamour and entertainment. People have always congregated in areas that offer gambling-related activities. It’s not surprising then that in many cities around the world, casinos are built in an attempt to stimulate tourism in the area. It’s a well-known strategy that has been employed since the dawn of land-based gambling. In New Zealand, The Gambling Act 2003 states that one of the aims of casinos is to promote tourism in the country. This raises a few questions. Is there any real basis for this approach? How does the gambling industry in New Zealand influence tourism? Does online gaming fit into the equation?

Empirical studies in this area are hard to find, largely because it’s basically impossible to isolate factors to the degree necessary to obtain meaningful results. We can attempt to analyse the influence of gambling on tourism in New Zealand by incorporating a few fact-based studies which have been done on the subject and see where our analysis leads us.

Casinos as a Tourist Magnet

What gives a casino enough pull-factor to attract tourists to a country? When you look at gambling hotspots around the world the thing that is perfectly clear is the positive relationship between the number of casinos in the area and the percentage of travellers who go there to enjoy the gambling facilities. Examples of this would be cities like Las Vegas, Monte Carlo and Atlantic City. These destinations attract gamblers specifically. All of these cities have numerous gambling operations within their borders – to such an extent that they have become known as gambling resorts.

The situation where a country becomes a gambling destination due to its number of casinos is unlikely to occur in New Zealand as there is no centralised gambling hub. The six land-based casinos operating in New Zealand are spread out across the country, with the exception of Queenstown, which has two land-based casinos. Additionally The Gambling Act 2003 does not allow for the granting of new casino venue licences under section 10(1).

Another way that casinos have been known to lure tourists is through cross-border travel. For example, if an avid gambler lives in a country that does not have gambling facilities, or prohibits gambling, they will travel to a neighbouring country that does. In instances like this, gamblers tend to arrange long weekends and holidays to the neighbouring country with the explicit intention of visiting the casino while they are there. This effectively increases the neighbouring countries international tourist rate.

Tourist Preferences in New Zealand

Taking a look at the inbound travel statistics for 2019 compiled by Camper Champ reveals that the highest number of international visitors came from Australia, clocking in at 39.6%. With Australia being home to the illustrious Gold Coast, and The Star casino resort, it is unlikely that New Zealand would receive many visitors from neighbouring countries, including Australia, with the sole purpose of gambling.

A more likely scenario is that New Zealanders themselves could be drawn to the cities that have casinos, namely Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, and Queenstown. This would increase the number of tourists in these cities, but not international tourists. With the rise of online $5 deposit casinos in New Zealand, locals can play from the comfort of their homes, and The Gambling Act gives them full legal rights to do so. The buy-ins at these online sites is much lower than at their land-based counterparts, so native New Zealanders are more likely to stay home and enjoy longer play time with their money. The fact that COVID-19 has increased the computer and internet literacy of long-time, hard-core casino fans means that online minimum deposit gambling sites are booming.

While we’re on the topic of locals, New Zealand has seen a decrease in demand from international travellers and an increase in local tourism. If you compare Stats NZ’s ‘Accommodation Survey’ results from September 2019 and September 2018 it shows that local travel to Kāpiti went up 22%, Wānaka went up 17.2 % and Waikato went up 15.6%. What do these three places have in common? They have scenic walkways, national parks, and natural landmarks like pools and rivers. This indicates that domestic tourists have a preference towards exploring nature and enjoying the abundance of outdoor activities that New Zealand has to offer.

International tourists also prefer exploring New Zealand’s outdoor beauty. Travel research compiled by Tourism New Zealand, such as their Visitor Profiles study, confirms that potential visitors have a strong inclination towards nature-based activities, as opposed to city-based activities like gambling. The study shows that this is true for all international visitors, regardless of their nationality.


It seems logical to conclude that casinos in New Zealand don’t influence international tourism, or local tourism, to a significantly large degree. Not all casinos create a hotspot for international tourists, with many casinos predominantly providing gambling services to locals. Casino complexes that offer facilities beyond the scope of gambling, such as accommodation, restaurants, bars, and shops, will likely have a bigger influence on the tourism market. Travellers who stay at the complex’s accommodation will be inclined to make use of the other facilities, and maybe do a spot of gambling at night. Then again, with the rise of the $5 minimum deposit casino, many travellers might opt to stay in their rooms, place a few bets from their mobile, and then turn in early to be ready for the next day’s big outdoor adventure.

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