SkyCity online casino warned about promoting wares to Kiwi customers


New Zealand casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group has been warned by the government that its Malta-licensed online casino was flouting local advertising laws.

On Monday, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) issued a formal warning to SkyCity regarding its Malta-licensed site. The DIA found that an email SkyCity sent its loyalty program members in March had breached rules against promoting internationally licensed online gambling sites.

SkyCity’s Malta-based subsidiary launched its Gaming Innovation Group-powered online casino in August 2019, offering a mix of RNG and live dealer casino games. Customers were required to be physically located in New Zealand, despite the country having yet to authorize online casino gambling.

The offending email informed SkyCity customers that, while its land-based gaming operations had been halted by COVID-19, its online casino was “operating as usual.” A customer viewed this pitch as contravening Kiwi rules regarding the promotion of prohibited gambling products and filed a complaint with the DIA.

The DIA launched a month-long investigation, eventually concluding that SkyCity hadn’t ‘deliberately’ violated the Gambling Act 2003. DIA director Chris Thornborough reportedly told the complainant that education was the DIA’s preferred first step regarding such complaints but the government would “take any future breaches seriously.”

A SkyCity spokesperson told local media that the March email was intended simply to “advise customers of the overall impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on SkyCity’s operations.” SkyCity maintains that it didn’t break the rules but the company “respects the view of the department however and will take into account the feedback received.”

New Zealand did a better job than most countries of keeping a lid on its COVID-19 infection rate, resulting in SkyCity getting permission to partially reopen its casinos in mid-May. The casinos were cleared for full-fledged operations last month but the country is still limiting who gets to enter the country from abroad, putting a serious dent in SkyCity’s international VIP gambling operations.