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Overseas gambling sites need tighter restrictions to protect the vulnerable, a Dunedin counsellor says.
The call comes after the Government opened public consultation on online gambling.
PGF Services counsellor Fiona Cambridge, of Dunedin, said the Government needs to update its legislation to protect vulnerable people from offshore gambling sites.
‘‘PGF will be supporting the strongest measures possible.’’
PGF counsellors provide free, professional and confidential counselling for gamblers and people affected by gambling.
Many people talked to her about gambling online with offshore operators.
‘‘Everyone has a smartphone so it’s very easy to access.’’
Although it was illegal for overseas online gambling operators to advertise to New Zealanders, they had ways to direct internet users to their sites.
Offshore operators did not pay to mitigate the harm their industry caused, she said.
Domestic gambling operators had to be responsible hosts, giving gamblers some sense of protection.
Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said betting offshore was legal, and New Zealanders had spent about $380 million on offshore gambling sites in the past 18 months.
Unlike domestic gambling operators, offshore online gambling operators did not contribute to the community through funding grants, Mrs Martin said.
A discussion document had been launched seeking feedback on a range of options such as establishing a licensing system, where online providers must meet certain conditions to be able to legally offer their services in New Zealand.
‘‘This is what Australia and the United Kingdom do.’’
Other options include geoblocking access to overseas gambling sites or banning the use of credit cards for online gambling.
The public consultation runs until the end of next month.
Ms Cambridge encouraged people to make a submission, especially if they knew of anyone who had lost money to an overseas gambling operator.
‘‘Have a say — it’s really important.’’