While you might think of Lord of the Rings and Maori culture when you think of New Zealand, it’s actually casinos which fuel much of the small country’s economy and boost the tourism sector.
And while it’s still relatively new that land based casinos have been legal (the first opened in Christchurch in 1994), many have now popped up throughout New Zealand, providing a thriving gaming industry for casino tourists.
Land-based casinos have continued to thrive here despite a surge in the online casino industry, and many are now full entertainment venues, and attractions in their own right.
Here are the top physical casinos to visit in New Zealand.
SkyCity Auckland is the most popular casino in the country; it’s an entertainment complex that includes a casino, hotel, restaurant, and the famous sky tower.
With more than 25 years of experience, the owners launched one of the local online casino sites that accepts NZ gamblers, though if you’re heading in for a physical land based experience you can expect more than 150 table games and 2100 gaming machines.
Try your hand at Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, Poker, Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Money Wheel, Pai Gow, Tai Sai, Casino War, Snake Eyes, and many others. If you’re a beginner and you want to learn table games, the casino has learning packages.
To enter the casino you’ll now need to present a proof of COVID vaccination, via the ‘My Vaccine Pass’. They take a lot of pride in being a responsible gaming establishment, so encourage responsible gambling within your financial means, and will only let 20+ year olds enter the gaming areas.
The dress code requires you to be neat and tidy, and you do need to wear shoes (you might note locals don’t wear shoes much throughout New Zealand!).
Dunedin Casino (118 High St) has been around since 1999, though has recently been renovated for a more modern, luxury gaming experience which gives off a very Monte Carlo vibe.
The Grand Casino is extravagant, with 180 electronic gaming machines spread across mosaic flooring, and table games including Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, and Caribbean Stud Poker all below a grand glass dome roof.
You can stay at the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross, which is right across the road, and there’s always something happening at the Casino regardless of whether you’re into gaming; there’s a bar and restaurant, and fun flash cash draws.
The Casino is open every day, except for Good Friday and Christmas.
Opened in 1994, Christchurch Casino was the first brick-and-mortar casino to open in New Zealand, so this is a historic location for casino tourists.
Open 7 days a week, and rebuilt after the 2011 earthquake, there’s a huge range of gaming options, food and bars, and, great news for tourists: there are no transaction fees for major foreign currencies!
Here you’ll find 500 gaming machines, 36 table games, four bars and restaurants, exclusive prizes and promotions, and dedicated poker, baccarat and e-sports lounges; Got Game Arena is their e-sports lounge, with four PS4s loaded with games.
There’s a players club you can join, and a companion app with mini games and daily prizes. As part of the COVID-19 Protection Framework, a “My Vaccine Pass” (MVP) is also required to enter.
4. SkyCity Hamilton
One of the most scenic casinos in the country, set on the Waikato River, SkyCity Hamilton is a sister casino of SkyCity Auckland (run by the same group), and has been around since 2002.
Similar to other renowned casinos in New Zealand, Hamilton has a wide range of games from table games to modern gaming machines dedicated for both newcomers and experts. There are 330 Gaming Machines, and classic table games like Blackjack, Roulette and Midi Baccarat.
The staff here are really friendly, and are always happy to explain table games for beginners who want to join. Even if you’ve played before, if there’s something you don’t understand about the New Zealand version, ask the dealer and they’ll explain the rules.
As with any SkyCity venue, there’s also plenty to eat and drink, and you have food available 24 hours a day. EatBurger offers good value burgers and is a great option for a quick and easy dinner, while the Local Taphouse is another casual option with locally crafted beer.
Zone Sports Bar has huge meals and huge screens, and is a lively place to watch the rugby (they also have an amazing outdoor balcony overlooking the river). Marble Room is for cocktails, and Number 8 Bar is right next to the casino.
5. SkyCity Queenstown
Another SkyCity Casino, and by this time I’m sure you’re noticing an ownership theme! SkyCity Entertainment Group also operates a casino in Queenstown, and this one is known for its wide range of games. There are actually two casinos in central Queenstown, though SkyCity Wharf Casino is currently closed.
The casino is open 11am – 12 am everyday. There are 86 gaming machines and well-known table games such as Roulette, Blackjack, Midi-Baccarat, Caribbean Stud Poker, and twelve gaming tables.
Wild Thyme Kitchen is the bar and restaurant onsite, with a great lunch and dinner menu, also serving snacks, canapes, and house combos (dinner meal plus either a house beer / house wine).
6. SkyCity Wharf Casino
While SkyCity Wharf Casino is currently closed, when it reopens it’s definitely worth a visit; the casino is set on Queenstown’s beautiful Lake Wakatipu, which is a great setting while enjoying over 70 gaming machines and 6 gaming tables.
This is a boutique casino which offers Slots, Blackjack, Hold’em Poker, Baccarat, and Texas Roulette.