While Covid-19 left New Zealand real money casinos seemingly unaffected, the same cannot be said for their landbased counterparts. But Could things be changing? Could you start playing your favourite casino games at physical casinos again as opposed to online? The New Zealand listed SkyCity Entertainment Group announced that its Australian property, SkyCity Adelaide, is being allowed to be reopen. The South Australian Government confirmed that the seven-day lockdown in the state has been lifted.
SkyCity’s New Zealand casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown were not affected by Australia’s decision to shut casinos and other places of entertainment, due to the increase in the number of positive COVID cases rose across the pond.
Two weeks ago, the South Australian government imposed new restrictions on the state. Level 4 restrictions dictated that all non-essential retail outlets needed to close. It allowed seated food and beverage sales points to operate but cancelled larger events and made mask-wearing mandatory.
SkyCity Entertainment Group site published its announcement made to the NZX/ASX on its website, saying that SkyCity Adelaide would “reopen in a staged manner from 10.00am (Australian Central Standard Time) on 28 July 2021 with physical distancing and hygiene requirements in place – initially reflecting the Level 3 (medium) COVID-19 restrictions applicable from midnight (Australian Central Standard Time) tonight.”
The fact that New Zealand casinos were not impacted by COVID this time around, doesn’t mean that they have been shielded from COVID-19 closure dramas altogether.
In March this year, the NZ government implemented protective measures by placing Auckland at alert level 3 for a seven-day period. Prime Minister Jacina Ardern ordered the rest of the country into alert level 2 lockdown.
As a result, SkyCity Entertainment Group shut down its operations at its Auckland gambling and entertainment facilities.
During the March lockdown, SkyCity also implemented physical distancing and hygiene requirements at its Hamilton and Queenstown properties, but did not close these casinos are it was not required by law.
In February this year, SkyCity Entertainment announced that COVID-19 continues to cause major disruptions at its properties and was a major contributing factor to its financial performance for the six-month period ending December 31st, 2020.
At the time of delivering the financial report, the CEO for SkyCity, Michael Ahearne praised the New Zealand public for its “local gaming performance resilience”. However, he said that SkyCity’s tourism related businesses such as hotels, food and beverage and international business had been significantly impacted.
“We have been making operational adjustments to the business when necessary, in response to the ever-changing market environment resulting from COVID-19 and we continue to adhere to all government guidance to ensure our staff and customers are managed safely,” he added.
However, the pandemic has brought with it improvement in other gambling fields. SkyCity’s online casino business, which it runs in partnership with Gaming Innovation Group, exceeded all expectations in the last half of 2020 “with significant growth in revenue and EBITDA despite operational constraints.”
It is expected that this upward trend will increase into 2021 and beyond as New Zealand gamblers seek out more convenient and COVID19-friendly ways to enjoy their favourite online casino games.
SkyCity’s online arm has around 30,000 active digital gamblers across the entire country. The online casino platform “presents a significant long-term growth opportunity with potential to monetise omnichannel gaming in the future, subject to regulation of the online casino market in New Zealand.”
In addition to the SkyCity online casino platform, there are hundreds of safe online casinos licensed and regulated by reputable offshore gambling jurisdictions, which offer Kiwi gamblers the opportunity to open accounts and pay in NZ Dollars.
Another major issue which continues to have a long-term impact on SkyCity’s financial performance is the 2019 fire which broke out on the roof of the New Zealand International Convention Center in Auckland. The center was to become part of the SkyCity complex and was undergoing construction.
As a result of the fire, large scale disruption was reported for over 48 hours in Auckland.
Earlier this month, SkyCity and the NZ government agreed to extend the construction deadline for the country’s largest convention center. The fire caused significant delays to the building, while COVID-19 disruptions only added more setbacks.
The long stop date for the $750 million project has now been extended to December 15th, 2027. The Original date was January 2nd, 2025. No changes have been made to the total project cost.
Upon completion, the 32,500 square meter center will boast meeting places, exhibition halls and a theater.