BUSINESS

Kiwi gambling spending up, except for lotteries; SkyCity VIP’s epic binge

TAGs: New Zealand, New Zealand Racing Board, skycity entertainment group, william yan

new-zealand-gambling-skycity-yanNew Zealand gamblers spent slightly more on pretty much all forms of legal betting last year except for lottery products.

According to data released by the country’s Department of Internal Affairs, Kiwis spent a combined $2.09b on gambling in the 2014-15 fiscal year, 1.2% more than in the previous year. Adjusted for inflation, the numbers have barely budged over the past six years, ranging from $2.06b in 2011 to $2.1b in 2012.

Lottery products were the sole decliners, as sales fell 10% to $894m, while operators’ take fell 9% to $420m. The decline snapped a winning streak that had seen lottery sales rising an average 5% per year since 2010. The reversal was blamed on a lack of mega-jackpots, as only one Powerball prize topped the $20m mark.

Despite its routine bitching about losing money to international betting sites, the NZ Racing Board (TAB) reported turnover up 13% to $2.07b while the operator’s share rose 5% to $325m. This marks the fourth straight year of rising numbers, which the NZRB credited to increased sports betting interest and a new TAB mobile wagering app.

Video poker (pokies) machines based outside casinos saw turnover rise 2% to $8.95b while operator winnings rose 1.5% to $818m. Increased win per machine helped offset declines in both the number of pokies operators and machines in operation.

New Zealand’s six casinos reported revenue up 8.5% to $486m, returning to growth following a slight decline in 2013-14. The country’s leading operator, SkyCity Entertainment Group, has made significant capital investments over the period in a bid to bolster its appeal, particularly among Asian VIP gamblers.

SKYCITY HIGH ROLLER LOST $5M IN 82 MINUTES
Speaking of SkyCity’s Asian VIPs, more light has been shed on an investigation into the alleged corporate theft of $129m by a former pharmaceutical company chairman who gambled large at SkyCity’s Auckland casino.

New Zealand police raided William Yan’s Auckland penthouse in August 2014 on their suspicion that Yan was tied to an illegal methamphetamine trafficking ring whose members were frequent guests at SkyCity casinos. No charges have been laid against Yan (pictured) but police documents offer a glimpse into his spectacularly high volume of play at the casino.

Police say Yan wagered a total of $563m between 2001 and 2013, even though he was banned from the property on two separate occasions. At one point, Yan is said to have lost $5m at SkyCity’s VIP tables in a mere 82-minute span.

A SkyCity spokesman told the New Zealand Herald that the company couldn’t discuss matters currently before the courts but did say that “it is not necessarily unusual for a wealthy VIP player to generate significant turnover.”

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