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The online casino industries in Australia and New Zealand have seen exponential growth in recent years as operators offer high-quality user experiences and unparalleled convenience.

Betting expert Khadija Bilal explains that while licensed online casino sites in Australia are legal, the 2003 Gambling Act in New Zealand prohibits playing at sites that operate within the country.

However, it is possible for New Zealand bettors to access licensed offshore casino sites for safe betting. Bilal, from Techopedia, explains that there are many that accept tiny deposits of just $1, meaning the industry is open to more New Zealand-based players than ever before, with no geographical or financial restrictions in place. 

However, despite Australian online casinos operating with more freedom, it has not been plain sailing with interpretations surrounding certain agreements causing issues for one operator in particular.

Confusion surrounding Australia’s 1999 tax agreement regarding loyalty points has resulted in SkyCity losing a challenge at the The South Australian Court of Appeal. 

SkyCity claimed their interpretation of the agreement meant that loyalty points earned by customers could be deducted from their gaming revenue. However, the court ruled against the casino operator, meaning they must pay NZ$13.8m (A$13 million) to the treasurer.

The ruling also found that gaming machine credits should be included in revenue calculations.

The period that this issue covers goes from 2014 to 2024.

SkyCity will have been buoyed by the court’s assertion SkyCity should not be forced to pay an interest penalty. However, this decision will be made at a later date by a Supreme Court judge. If the ruling goes against the operator they could face additional charges of A$20 million.

The impact on earnings for SkyCity following the initial judgment is not as bad as it sounds with their full-year profit guidance still projected to be from $125m to $135m. 

This is not the first time SkyCity has faced issues regarding compliance with regulations in Australia and New Zealand. Money laundering regulation breaches resulted in penalties and legal costs amounting to $8m in New Zealand and $79m in Australia. 

The company has released a statement explaining that they have set money aside for penalties related to compliance issues. 

The company also awaits news on an application to suspend its gambling license following complaints from a former customer that SkyCity failed to follow its own host responsibility program between 2017 and 2021.

With so many regulatory issues affecting SkyCity, it underlines the importance for bettors in Australia and New Zealand to find a reputable online casino operator.

The myriad of legal issues for SkyCity put the operators at a crossroads. As one of the most successful online casino operators, their reputation will take a big hit in light of these recent issues and the financial implications could also impact long-term operations.

Learning from their mistakes and operating within strict regulatory frameworks could help them turn things around but only time will tell.

As improved connectivity across Australia and New Zealand continues to improve mobile gaming, the online casino sector is set to experience further growth. Emerging technology is set to create even more immersive online gambling experiences for consumers, and SkyCity has the opportunity to resolve any existing issues and be at the forefront of this gaming revolution.