August was a great month for online casinos. iSoftBet, the leading online games supplier, unveiled Secrets of the Sorcerer, a pokie game themed on the world of dungeons and dragons and magic. With a new Bonus Chance mechanic, this pokie is expected to deliver huge wins. August was also when Wazdan, the global supplier of iGaming products, partnered with LatAm-based platform provider Virtualsoft. This means that the platform provider’s customers can now access some of Wazdan’s features, including the popular Volatility Levels feature. But as exciting as many of the new casino product launches have been during August, Adam Lambert was probably one of the happiest singer-songwriters during August 2021 when he added a sixth show on the Las Vegas Strip. For more news, join us as we skim through some of the leading gambling news for August 2021.
Dunedin Casino Re-branding as Grand Casino
Work has begun on the very popular Dunedin Casino, which has now been re-branded as Grand Casino. Dunedin Casino opened its doors in 1999, and at the time, was given a gaming license for the next 25 years. However, in 2003 there was a change in legislation, and the 25-year license was reduced to 15 years. This had happened before in 2019 when Christchurch Casino’s license was renewed even though the permit was valid until October 2024.
Dunedin’s Casino’s application for renewal had to be filed with the Gambling Commission by October next year, and work would start officially on putting the application together in the “next few months.” Once the application was filed, the Gambling Commission would hold a series of hearings and possibly even public forums. The Gambling Act 2003 only allowed for existing casinos to renew their licenses. While there is still speculation whether Dunedin Casino will get its new license, it will be a surprise if the licensing doesn’t go according to plan.
Risk of Pokie Dens at NZD Casinos
With the economy causing fewer clients to visit land-based casinos, operators are increasingly moving away from casino game tables to more pokie machines. However, after public outcry that casinos were at risk of becoming “pokie dens, ” this matter was submitted to the Gambling Commission by Dunedin Casinos Management Ltd. The casino wanted to remove the mandatory requirement that they have at least one gaming table open for their clients between noon and 6 pm. Because of lost revenues due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the subsequent loss from regular cruise ship passengers, the casino was forced to make this official request to the Gambling Commission.
The Ministry of Health warned that fewer tables and more pokies could result in pokie dens and were concerned that pokies are already seen as the most harmful form of gambling in New Zealand. The Gambling Commission came back with its decision to relax the Dunedin license stating that the venue was not required to offer table games between 6 am to 6 pm. This has been done before. During the Level 1 Covid days, SkyCity received interim permission from the Gambling Commission to operate only pokies at its Hamilton and Queenstown casinos. They said the pandemic had significantly reduced the number of patrons, which meant a sharp decline in revenues.
NZ Gaming Charities Demand More Money
Under the Gambling Act 2003, online gambling in New Zealand boosts local charities. According to the Act, each of the six New Zealand casinos has to provide a level of funding to assist charities in the country. To promote fair and responsible gaming, the Department of Internal Affairs has taken the promotion of fair and responsible gambling to heart.
This idea to donate to charities was established in 2019 when Christchurch Casino received a 15-year license with a clause that forced them to donate 3% of its net proceeds to charitable organizations.
Class 4 gambling operators are required by law to return 40% of their earnings. However, as there are no clearly defined rules, some casinos donate less than 0.7% of their financial gains to charity each year. SkyCity Hamilton gave close to 2% of its earnings, while SkyCity Queenstown Casino donated 2.5% of its annual net profit, or NZ$100,000 yearly. SkyCity Auckland provided 0.7% of its turnover, Christchurch Casino donated 2.5% of its annual net profit, and Dunedin Casino paid at least NZ$52,000 to an independent charitable trust and NZ$110,000 to community and sports groups.
The former Casino Control Authority will define the amount of annual contribution made by these casinos to a charitable action that will be under the terms of the casino’s venue license.
SkyCity Land Based Casinos Close
As New Zealand locked down again, the SkyCity Entertainment Group announced its Auckland and Hamilton casinos’ temporary closure and Queenstown casino and entertainment facilities. This is to comply with New Zealand government Covid-19 protocols. The indefinite closure began at 11:59 on the 17th August 2021 after discovering a single case of Covid-19 in the Auckland Community.
Auckland and Coromandel will remain at level 4 for seven days, while the rest of New Zealand will be at the same level for three days. SkyCity’s Auckland hotel will stay open to accommodate existing guests, while SkyCity Adelaide will be unaffected by the changes and will continue to operate with social distancing and hygiene requirements.
No More Junkets says SkyCity
Junket operators specialize in recruiting high-rollers into organized casino trips and then collecting a commission from the casino based on the collective gambling of their clients. This move follows other strategic changes signalled after the group’s half-year results. The SkyCity board has terminated its relationship with all junket operators and will continue to operate under a revised operating model.
Although there was no reason given, junkets had come under scrutiny recently after an Australian inquiry into a Sydney-based casino found a link to money laundering. SkyCity announced it will now consult with local businesses in New Zealand and South Australia.