SkyCity Encouraged By Business at Reopened NZ Casinos

SkyCity Entertainment Group reopened some of its casinos last month and attendance figures are encouraging. SkyCity closed its four casinos, three in New Zealand and one in Australia, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its Australian property remains closed, but its two of its three Kiwi venues reopened for business on May 14.

The company issued a trading update to the stock exchange last week. It said although its Queenstown property remains closed, business is increasing at its reopened venues. The update said gaming activity at Hamilton and Auckland was “very pleasing, particularly in electronic gaming machines.” Table games, including blackjack and roulette, is “steadily improving from a slow start.”

Table games tend to be played and fuelled by high rolling VIPs. Foreign VIPs are unable to play at SkyCity because New Zealand’s borders remain closed.

Hotel occupancy is averaging around 32%, although this increase to 90% on weekends. Food and beverage sales are growing as a result, but won’t fully recover until borders reopen. Members of SkyCity’s Premier Rewards loyalty programme are the only gamblers allowed in the casinos. This limited number of higher volume players is ensuring SkyCity is running profitably despite reduced footfall.

Its online casino arm is also thriving with 15,000 registered customers, up from 3,500 reporting in February.

An Encouraging Start For SkyCity

This early update is extremely positive for SkyCity whose directors feared the worst. SkyCity closed its three Kiwi properties in mid-March as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Its casino in Adelaide also locked its doors to the public.

More than 200 staff were laid off in April following the closures. An additional 700 staff temporarily lost their jobs in May.

SkyCity directors were not looking to the future with any degree of positivity. Investors in the company learned it could take several years for business to return to previous levels. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however, at least based on these early indications.

Those staff remain on sidelines for now, but are now hopeful of returning to work. Graeme Stephen, the CEO of SkyCity, said the temporary job losses are a necessary evil to safeguard other jobs. Fingers crossed those affected can return to some sort of normality sooner rather than later.

Update Gives Hope To Aussie Casinos

Seeing old customer flock back to these new Zealand casinos is a positive sign for Australian casinos. Major players Crown Resorts and The Star have been closed since late March with little to no income. They laid off the majority of their workforce much as SkyCity did.

This relatively successful relaunch, done with strict social distancing measures in place, is something Aussie venues hope to replicate. A special task force is working to convince the government to allow gambling venues to reopen in July.

The government is keeping its cards close to its chest at the moment. It’s likely they’re monitoring the SkyCity reopenings and others around the world.

King’s Resort in the Czech Republic reopened in early May. Two months passed with no trading at all. It is one of the world’s first casinos to open back up for business. King’s is unique in that its multi-millionaire owner tends to do as he pleases for the most part.

Las Vegas casinos opened again on June 4 after several months with their doors bolted shut. The state’s government hasn’t released any attendance or revenue figures yet but several videos are in circulation showing business as usual. Crowds of people are walking down the famous Las Vegas Strip and casinos look busy.

Our cousins in the United Kingdom look set to reopen casinos on July 4. This date isn’t set in stone, but looks likely based on talks involving key figures. We’d expect Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make his decision after seeing how matters unfold elsewhere.