- »SkyCity Launches Online Casino for New Zealanders
SkyCity Launches Online Casino for New Zealanders
SkyCity’s online casino site is live in New Zealand. SkyCityCasino-dot-com is available to online casino players in New Zealand for real-money online gambling, despite the government’s attempts to stop it.
SkyCity’s Auckland casino is the operator of the new platform, though it operates out of the SkyCity Entertainment Group’s Maltese subsidiary company.
In partnership with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG), also based in Malta, SkyCity worked to develop and prepare the software over the past several months, and the online casino was then tested and ready. The two signed an agreement on May 21 and quickly brought the project to fruition.
Live and Available
Last week, the site launched what GiG called a “state-of-the-art digital casino experience.”
It wasn’t the ideal scenario for SkyCity, as it had hoped to offer an online casino site regulated by the government of New Zealand, but without such a market in which to operate, the company found a loophole in the law and launched anyway.
As SkyCity Chief Executive Graeme Stephens said in a statement, “While ultimately a regulated online gaming market remains the preferred solution, the site launch is another step on our journey of pursuing opportunities to grow and diversify our earnings, addressing a new fast-growing industry which is highly complimentary to our land-based activities and offering customers a multi-channel gaming experience.”
GiG CEO Robin Reed added that the partnership with SkyCity is a global one that he hopes will grow beyond the New Zealand online casino. But in the meantime, he said, “We are looking forward to supporting SkyCity in its aspirations to provide a leading online gambling venue in New Zealand.”
The new online casino will be managed by Online Director Steve Salmon from his European office.
A Risk Worth Taking
When SkyCity first announced its planned endeavor, the company made special mention that New Zealand’s government allows government-owned entities like Lotto and TAB to offer online gambling, but that strictly limits the options for New Zealanders.
And research showed that New Zealand casino players spend quite a bit of time and money on sites based offshore that are not licensed by the New Zealand government. The most recent study indicated those players spend up to $160 million per year on those offshore casino sites.
With that in mind, SkyCity decided to launch its site but abide by all obligations in New Zealand’s GST legislation, carefully treading the line of legality by basing the site in Malta.
SkyCity also knows that it may not use traditional methods of advertising without breaking the law, so news releases and internet searches will be among the tools used to promote the new site.
Objections on Shaky Grounds
New Zealand Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin expressed disappointment upon being informed that the site would launch. However, Martin also had to admit that the law was inadequate to stop its launch.
Martin and the department are moving forward with a consultation to see if there is sufficient support to develop a new regulatory framework for online gambling in New Zealand that will allow SkyCity to operate from within the country. Not only will that end the stalemate but it will allow the government to derive revenue from a site with a great deal of revenue potential.
A new regulatory system would also put a dent in the growth of offshore online poker and gambling sites that overshadows the legal industry within New Zealand.
According to the Department of Internal Affairs, the amount of money spent on offshore gambling sites is much larger than that declared by SkyCity’s estimates. New Zealand officials noted that its residents spent approximately $381 million in the past 18 months, specifically on offshore online gaming sites. That indicates a significant increase from the $132 million spent in 2015 and even the $243 million spent in 2017. The upward trend cannot be ignored.
On the other hand, the government is considering a total credit card ban for offshore gambling sites. All financial institutions would be required to comply, making it nearly impossible for New Zealanders to fund an online account and withdraw any winnings.
Hopes for Quick Answers
The inquiry by the Department of Internal Affairs is expected to be completed by the end of September.
Meanwhile, players in New Zealand can already sign up to the SkyCity online casino if they choose, without any fear of prosecution. And their interest in doing so – if significant enough – may influence the government’s ultimate decisions on regulating online gambling or banning associated credit card use.
During that time, however, organizations like the Problem Gambling Foundation are working hard to prohibit any further regulation of additional online gambling outlets. That group – and others – oppose any form of online gambling; instead, they want to see it discouraged altogether.