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New Zealand's Online Poker Controversy

July 15, 2010 (CAP News Wire) – It isn’t quite the major victory that some online poker advocates had first claimed, but it does seem to be a positive step for online poker legalization, nonetheless. A New Zealand judge has ruled that advertising for online poker sites can be allowed, even though the country has laws forbidding advertisements for Internet gambling.

But does that mean that he thinks poker isn’t gambling? Not exactly.

When District Court Judge David Harvey delivered a verdict on June 23 finding that ads for certain offshore online poker rooms (specifically and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour), he explained that it was because they weren’t specifically promoting online gambling.

But that’s not because he doesn’t think poker is gambling.

“A feature of the case was the difference between the ‘dot net’ and ‘dot com’ Pokerstars websites,” explains the New Zealand Herald. “The .net site is for practise poker games using ‘play money’. The .com site has online poker with gambling for real money.”

The newspaper explains what this means: “Dot net versions of poker sites are widely used online — often referred to as the dot net strategy. … “Flopturnriver, a site which aims to ‘help the average Joe become a winning, profitable Texas Holdem poker player,’ says .net poker rooms were also developed as part of a marketing strategy. ‘Since advertising online gaming websites is illegal in many jurisdictions, the online poker rooms created a “non-gaming” site – the .net version – and used this website as their property to advertise in the mass media.’”

“Interactive online gambling within New Zealand is prohibited, but it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to gamble using websites outside New Zealand,” the article further explains. “Under New Zealand law it is, however, illegal to advertise, publicise or promote offshore gambling, which is what the case was about.”

So, in effect, this isn’t the big legal victory some wishful thinkers are saying it is. But at the same time, it’s still a positive step, showing that online poker rooms have the strategic means to legally get around some of the more problematic governmental restrictions on their business operations.

New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs has said it will appeal Harvey’s decision.