SkyCity VIP casino player reimbursed petrol and provided complimentary airfares

Documents obtained by Newshub show SkyCity reimbursed a VIP customer thousands in petrol costs and got complimentary airfares, which they say encouraged them to travel to and from the casino to gamble. 

The VIP player said "complimentary dollars" earned through gambling were also used to pay for babysitting services for her daughter. 

However, SkyCity said that policy has since changed and it has a focus on harm minimisation when rewarding customers. 

The VIP, who Newshub has agreed not to identify, said she found an escape at SkyCity. 

She started gambling there after a relationship break-up and losing a family member. She said she wasn't in a good, healthy place. 

"I was quite vulnerable, emotionally, physically, spiritually," she told Newshub. 

In 2017 and 2018, she spent hundreds of thousands at the casino and was swiftly offered a black card, effectively making her casino royalty. 

Her records show reimbursements for fuel from SkyCity, which allowed her to drive back and forth from her home in the far north to the casino. Airfares were listed as complimentary. 

"The fuel never cost me anything to travel to go to SkyCity," she said. 

And for a while, she told Newsub the "red carpet" service made her feel great. 

"Feeling the luxury, becoming someone important, like a fairytale if that's the right word," she described. 

Problem gambling advocates knew of rewards but didn't know how far they went. 

Problem Gambling Foundation's Andree Froude told Newshub she didn't know perks extended to covering the costs of flights and petrol. 

She believes such benefits are problematic. 

"That's personalising an inducement to then encourage this person to gamble," Froude said. 

The woman said her gambling led to problems. 

"My brain started to operate differently. I became more addicted," she described. 

Then came the gifts, including a dinner set, induction cooker and luxury suitcases.  

There were many other perks - complimentary food, drinks, accommodation, including a night in the Presidential Suite. 

She said she's sharing her story with Newshub as a warning to prevent others becoming trapped. 

"I felt I was obligated to be there because they were paying for everything for me to be there." 

SkyCity told Newshub it takes host responsibility seriously. 

"Harm minimisation issues are considered and addressed in the development of marketing initiatives," a SkyCity spokesperson said. 

"Gifts and rewards are assessed for appropriateness before being offered." 

However, Froude sees it differently. 

"That isn't harm minimisation. That is incentivising people to go to the casino," she said. 

"They target people who are high worth customers if you like." 

The former VIP player also claims complimentary dollars earned through gambling were used to pay for babysitting services for her daughter allowing her to be on the casino floor. 

She explained that is her biggest regret. 

"I should have been a better mother. I feel disgusted to be honest how I let that happen." 

Froude said providing a babysitting service to someone who's gambling on their premises is "just wrong". 

However, SkyCity told Newshub it changed that policy in 2021 and have made "many enhancements" to its Host Responsibility Programme since 2017. 

SkyCity also noted that last year it introduced a dedicated Responsible Gambling team in Auckland and Hamilton. It says the focus of the team is to proactively monitor and interact with players.