SkyCity to Sell Its GIG Interest to Pay Down Debt

SkyCity Entertainment Group, the New Zealand-based casino operator, has announced the sale of its entire 10% stake in Gaming Innovation Group Inc. (GiG). This transaction marks a strategic shift for SkyCity, as GiG is a key player in the European online gaming market, providing platform services and media operations that have been integral to SkyCity's online gaming ventures.

The SkyCity Adelaide casino resort in Australia. (Source: The Shout)

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The deal, announced early Tuesday, is set to yield considerable financial returns for SkyCity. The net proceeds from the sale are estimated to be around NZD55 million (US$33.7 million) after accounting for associated costs. This sum reflects the value that SkyCity's shareholding in GiG has accrued over time, highlighting the lucrative nature of the online gaming sector.

SkyCity has earmarked the proceeds from this sale for debt reduction, a prudent step that aligns with the company's broader financial strategy. By paying down existing debts, SkyCity aims to strengthen its financial position and enhance its ability to invest in future growth opportunities. This move also provides the company with greater financial flexibility, allowing it to navigate the dynamic and competitive landscape of the entertainment industry.

However, the sale comes at a time when SkyCity is grappling with significant financial obligations. The company is currently facing a hefty AUD67 million (US$45 million) civil penalty imposed by AUSTRAC, Australia's financial crime watchdog, due to past anti-money laundering (AML) failures at its SkyCity Adelaide property. This penalty underscores the regulatory challenges that companies in the gaming sector often encounter and the importance of robust compliance systems.

Additionally, SkyCity has committed NZD76 million (US$47 million) towards the completion of the New Zealand International Convention Center, located at SkyCity Auckland. This project represents a major investment in New Zealand's infrastructure and tourism sector and, upon completion, is expected to provide a significant boost to the local economy. The financial commitment to this project further illustrates SkyCity's role as a key stakeholder in the nation's entertainment and hospitality industry.

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SkyCity Regulatory Issues Continue

An independent review into the operations of SkyCity Adelaide in Australia has been reignited following a green light from the Australian Federal Court. The review, initially launched in July 2022, was put on hold in February 2023 due to ongoing civil penalty proceedings initiated by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) against SkyCity.

The Federal Court's approval of the settlement between SkyCity and AUSTRAC has cleared the path for the review to resume. The settlement pertains to alleged anti-money laundering (AML) failings at SkyCity Adelaide. The independent review, led by retired Supreme Court Judge Brian Martin AO KC, will examine the suitability of SkyCity Entertainment Group Limited to hold a casino license in South Australia.

This review is a direct response to concerns raised in inquiries into casino operations in other Australian states. Findings from these inquiries uncovered significant governance issues within the casino industry.

The review is expected to be completed by December 31. The findings will be crucial in determining whether SkyCity Adelaide remains suitable to operate under its current casino license. The review also comes amidst the appointment of an Independent Monitor for SkyCity Adelaide.


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