SkyCity Entertainment Group Ltd. originally sought to lower the age of admission to its casinos to 18 from 20 as part of the concessions it wanted in exchange for investing NZ$402 million ($317.1 million) to build a convention center in Auckland, according to documents released on the negotiations which extended over three years. The casino also wanted to eliminate overlap between gaming taxes and GST that it said would save NZ$1.44 million a year and to be able to explore internet gambling and the opening of a casino in Wellington. Documents also show that Treasury and state financial analysts were concerned that the public benefits of the deal were overstated and that SkyCity was discussing its demands even before the government open the project to competing bidders.
Legislators endorsed the convention deal in a preliminary 61-59 vote last week, but it will be voted on again after review by a select committee. The deal will allow SkyCity to add 52 tables and 230 slot machines to its Auckland casino and extend its license 27 years until 2048 with guaranteed compensation if the government changes SkyCity’s gaming concession. The deal also loosens some slot machine rules but requires the company to expand its problem gambling program.
Separately, Nigel Morrison, SkyCity chief executive, said the company would upgrade its VIP offerings in Queenstown following the completion of its NZ$5 million purchase of the Wharf Casino there from Singapore’s Lasseters International Holdings Ltd. this month, which gives it control of both of the city’s casinos.