Some NZ casinos reopen after COVID-19 lockdown

By William Brown Updated
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The easing of coronavirus restrictions in some parts of New Zealand is welcome news for casinos operated by SkyCity Entertainment.

Gambling Insider reports the casino group expects to reopen its Hamilton and Queenstown casino and entertainment facilities on September 8.

The New Zealand government announced on September 6 that, excluding Auckland, the COVID-19 alert level for the country will move to alert level 2 from 11.59pm on September 7.

This allows the casino operator to reopen its Hamilton and Queenstown facilities, both of which will reopen in a “staged manner and with additional health and safety measures in place to reflect the Ministry of Health’s latest recommendations and guidelines form operating at Alert Level 2”.

The larger SkyCity Queenstown venue will reopen, but the smaller Wharf Casino venue will remain closed due to the ongoing border restrictions which, according to SkyCity, have a negative impact on the local economy, which is largely dependent on tourism.

SkyCity Auckland will also remain closed due to Auckland’s Alert Level 4 status.

The operator added that its businesses outside New Zealand – SkyCity Adelaide and SkyCity Online Casino, remain unaffected by the latest government announcement, with the former open with physical distancing and hygiene requirements in place.

“SkyCity will provide further updates as new material information becomes available,” the group said.

SkyCity’s latest financial results are in

In late August, SkyCity reported revenue decrease of 15.4 per cent to NZ$951.9 million, which it said has coincided with a 33.7 per cent fall in profit to NZ$156.1 million in the 12 months to 30 June 2021, impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 disruptions.

The release of SkyCity’s FY21 results comes as the company’s New Zealand casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown are currently closed due to a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciations and amortisation for the period fell 8.9 per cent year-on-year to NZ$317.3 million, with the company declaring a dividend of NZ$0.07.

Chief executive officer Michael Ahearne said the results were positive given the challenges posed by the pandemic and the disruption to its international business, including a decision to cease working with junket operators in response to recent inquiries into Australian casino giant Crown Resorts.

“Local gaming has performed well when open and operating without restrictions, while our tourism-related businesses including hotels, food and beverage, attractions and international business had weaker results primarily due to ongoing international and domestic border closures,” Ahearne said.

“COVID-19 has continued to significantly impact the business and operations at each of SkyCity’s properties in FY21.

“Government mandated lockdowns in New Zealand and South Australia resulted in the closure of SkyCity Auckland for 29 days and SkyCity Adelaide for four days.

Change of tact for SkyCity

In April 2021, the New Zealand-headquartered SkyCity Entertainment vowed to permanently cease all dealings with junket operators at its casinos in Australia and New Zealand.

The decision to bring SkyCity’s international VIP operations in-house was made following the conclusion of a strategic review into the company’s International Business division.

The ban follows the decision by Crown Resorts to suspend its junket operations, shortly before the release of a report into the suitability of the operator to hold a casino licence in New South Wales.

In an ASX announcement, SkyCity said it has determined to permanently cease dealing with all junket operators and will instead operate its International Business under a revised operating model.

That model will see SkyCity “deal directly with International Business patrons after appropriate Know Your Customer and customer due diligence requirements are satisfied.”

The company added that it will consult with relevant gaming regulators in New Zealand, where it operates casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and in Australia, where it recently completed an A$330 million upgrade of SkyCity Adelaide.

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