Veiled Garden Ceremony and Ballroom Reception

New Zealand's Most Famous Casino Personalities and Their Stories

When it comes to the world of gambling and casinos, New Zealand has its fair share of colorful personalities who have made their mark. From professional poker players to casino owners, these individuals have left a lasting impact on the industry. In this article, we will explore the stories of some of New Zealand's most famous casino personalities and delve into their achievements and contributions.

1. The Rise of SkyCity Casino

The Birth of SkyCity Casino

One of the most well-known names in the New Zealand casino scene is SkyCity Casino. Located in Auckland, it has become a prominent landmark in the city and a popular destination for both locals and tourists. The casino first opened its doors in 1996 and quickly gained a reputation for its luxurious facilities and exciting gaming offerings.

SkyCity Casino offers a wide range of games, including blackjack, roulette, poker, and slot machines. It also boasts several high-end restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, making it a complete entertainment complex. With its success, SkyCity has expanded its operations to other cities in New Zealand, including Hamilton and Queenstown.

The Visionary Behind SkyCity

The man behind the success of SkyCity Casino is Graeme Stephens. Born in New Zealand, Stephens has had an extensive career in the hospitality and gaming industry. He joined SkyCity Entertainment Group as the CEO in 2017 and has since played a crucial role in the company's growth and expansion.

Under Stephens' leadership, SkyCity has embraced technological advancements, introducing online gambling options to cater to a wider audience. This move has further solidified SkyCity's position as a leader in the New Zealand casino industry.

Best Online Casinos NZ

2. The Poker Prodigy: Lee Nelson

The Early Years

Lee Nelson is a name synonymous with poker in New Zealand. Born in 1943, Nelson started his career as a lawyer before transitioning to professional poker. His passion for the game led him to compete in various tournaments around the world, including the prestigious World Series of Poker.

Nelson's success came in 2006 when he won the Aussie Millions Poker Championship, securing a prize of AUD $1.29 million. This victory catapulted him into the spotlight and earned him the respect of the international poker community.

A True Poker Legend

Nelson's achievements in the poker world have solidified his status as a true legend. He has cashed in numerous tournaments and has consistently showcased his skills and strategic thinking. Nelson's success has not only brought him fame but has also inspired a new generation of poker players in New Zealand.

Apart from his poker prowess, Nelson is also known for his book, "Kill Phil: The Fast Track to Success in No-Limit Hold 'em Poker Tournaments." This book has become a valuable resource for aspiring poker players, providing them with insights and strategies to improve their game.

3. The Casino Mogul: Michael Hill

The Jewelry Empire

Michael Hill is a name associated with luxury jewelry, but his influence extends beyond the world of diamonds and gemstones. Hill is the founder of the renowned Michael Hill jewelry brand, which has grown into an international success story. With his entrepreneurial spirit, Hill ventured into the casino industry and made a significant impact.

The Visionary Casino Owner

Hill's foray into the casino business began with the purchase of a small casino in Queenstown. He transformed it into a thriving establishment known as the Wharf Casino. Hill's vision was to create a sophisticated and elegant casino experience for visitors.

The Wharf Casino quickly gained popularity, attracting both locals and tourists looking for a unique gambling experience. Hill's attention to detail and commitment to providing exceptional customer service set the casino apart from its competitors.


New Zealand's casino scene is enriched by the presence of these exceptional personalities. From the visionary owners to the skilled poker players, their contributions have shaped the industry and provided unforgettable experiences for gamblers and enthusiasts alike. Whether it's the luxurious SkyCity Casino, the poker prowess of Lee Nelson, or the sophisticated Wharf Casino owned by Michael Hill, each personality has left an indelible mark on the New Zealand casino landscape.

As the industry continues to evolve, we can expect more fascinating stories to emerge, further cementing New Zealand's position as a hub for gambling and entertainment.

The Wedding Team


Venue: Veiled Garden & Abernethy ballroom, Abernethy Center

Photographer: Kayla Bowen Photography

Floral: Garden Inspirations

Catering: Abernethy Center

Dessert: Mama’s Artisan Sweets

Bridal Boutique: Adorned in Grace

Hair & Makeup: Rebecca Bodgan

Coordination: Susan Ma