The New Zealand government is feeling powerless to stop gambling operator SkyCity from launching a European-based online casino this year. The operator is exploiting a loophole to bring this new casino to the fore. It is estimated that Kiwi gamblers are spending up to $400 million a year on unregulated overseas gambling sites. SkyCity wants to grab a $180 million share in this figure, which goes to online casinos.
The gambling operator has clarified to the government that it doesn’t intend to wait any longer for legal changes to operate a Kiwi-based gaming site. Tracey Martin, Internal Affairs Minister, said that the company’s moves have disappointed her but also pointed out the inadequate laws of the nation. The operator is currently prohibited from running a site based in New Zealand, but it would likely circumvent the issue by launching a site offshore, most likely based in Malta. The new site will be aimed at Kiwi gamblers and accept payment in NZ dollars.
Worldwide, governments are finding it tough to regulate the online gambling space. Last year, Bet365, a British online sports betting website registered $47 billion in punts. As for SkyCity, the company wants a piece of the Kiwi online gambling market. It first hinted towards its plans in August last year but has been moving in this direction very rapidly now. The Department of Internal Affairs has been informed about the launch.
The Department cannot do anything about it. In the words of Martin, the company’s move “highlights how inadequate these laws are – it’s not just for them, but also the huge number of offshore gambling games that are coming into New Zealand now … that we have no way to control”.
The company’s site, like several other offshore gambling sites, will be working unregulated in the New Zealand market. However, the company may try to play down its criticisms by installing anti-problem gambling mechanisms. It is also expected to offer to pay the right tax rates on its earnings or pay to a charity. If SkyCity captures the $180 million market, it could easily pay $30 million in taxes. The company seems unphased by the huge numbers as their spokesman Colin Espiner said that it isn’t looking to make a “material profit” initially.