In March, SkyCity announced that it planned to launch its first real-money online casino product at some point later this year. On Tuesday, the company’s SKYCITY Malta Ltd subsidiary announced a “long-term agreement” with GiG, which will provide its turnkey online casino solution, including a gambling license.
That last part is key, because while New Zealand allows limited forms of online wagering through the New Zealand TAB and local lotteries, the country has yet to authorize any domestic online casinos. The New Zealand Department for Internal Affairs recently warned consumers that internationally licensed gaming sites using dot-nz domains and displaying official government seals were most definitely operating without the government’s approval.
SkyCity’s GiG-powered online casino will operate from Malta under GiG’s Malta Gaming Authority license (and using a dot-com address). The launch is planned for sometime in Q3 2019, so GiG cautioned that there won’t be a material impact on its revenues this year, although there will be a “significant positive contribution” from 2020 onwards.
In February, when SkyCity released its fiscal H1 report, the company said its online casino “would be located offshore initially while the New Zealand government made decisions on regulation of the sector within the country.”
In the official release of the SkyCity deal, GiG made no secret of its intention to offer SkyCity’s online services to New Zealand customers, apparently based on the “general expectation … that the country will regulate online casino gambling in the foreseeable future.”
It’s not (yet) illegal for locals to wager with international gambling sites, but it’s hard to see Tuesday’s announcement earning SkyCity any brownie points with the Kiwi government, particularly given the rough ride that SkyCity’s free-play online casino received when it launched in 2015. SkyCity has pledged to pay tax on its online revenue, effectively daring the government to collect tax from an activity it doesn’t allow.
SkyCty CEO Graeme Stevens expressed delight at the GiG partnership, saying “growing and diversifying our earnings is a key component of our group strategic plan” and the online casino will allow the company to offer “an enhanced gaming proposition” to its customers. That said, the company doesn’t expect to “monetize materially” in the short-term, viewing the online casino more as “a strategic entry into a space that we believe has long-term relevance.”
GiG CEO Robin Reed was equally delighted with his company “entering a completely new continent,” while claiming that the new partners “share the same high standards and ambitions for a safe, responsible and entertaining gaming experience.”