AIM This paper provides a critical overview a decade after the New Zealand Government announced its intention to formally incorporate a public health approach into its comprehensive revision of gambling legislation. METHOD The initial enthusiasm and the subsequent disillusionment with this approach are tracked. Four reasons for its lack of success are examined. FINDINGS The New Zealand experiment with a public health approach to gambling is seen to have floundered in a network of vested interests. The pathways for influence included inappropriate industry input as well as community and government sector reliance on gambling profits. The new legislation neglected to set up systems for strong independent accountability, and this weakened the potential of public health initiatives. CONCLUSION As with tobacco control, the policy integrity of a public health approach to gambling requires close attention to ways of reducing vested interests in both government and community sectors and to establishing strong points of independent accountability.