Having been a colony for close to half a century, New Zealand is a country where most of the population has British ancestry. So, it can only be logical for one to imagine that horse racing has been a thing of interest among the citizens for years. The sport dates back to 1835, with the maiden thoroughbred horse setting foot on Kiwi soil in 1840. A sport that began in military barracks would fast become a popular recreational activity outside the confines of the barracks, with racing events organized in multiple cities, including Canterbury, Otago, Wellington, and Auckland. It was during these events that sports betting was born in New Zealand.
Sports betting in New Zealand became even more popular when totalisators were introduced to help calculate wagers and the distribution of winnings. At this point, bookmakers were already dominating the country's betting aspect of horse racing.
The sports betting history in New Zealand experienced a soft block towards the end of the 19th century when Protestant Churches pressured the government of the day to ban the activity. This would culminate in the Gambling Act of 1908, which banned all forms of betting, save for betting on horse racing.
Since horse racing was immensely popular in the country, Kiwis would still find a way around this law, of course, with the help of bookmakers. The law had prohibited the bookies from carrying out their trade at racetracks, so many of them decided to set up underground betting shops under the guise of renting rooms. They could place bets remotely on behalf of punters present at the race through this. The 1908 Gambling Act has stipulated that punters could only place bets while at the race.
Decision to regulate sports betting
By 1951, the New Zealand government realized that sports betting was an opportunity to generate substantial revenue. Consequently, the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) was set up to regulate the Kiwi betting industry. TAB would also prevent the mushrooming of illegal bookies in the country. And while all TAB betting joints were initially state-owned, they were later privatized.