New Zealand is apparently beginning to return to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic. That is good news for SkyCity casinos, which can now begin to count on traffic from Australia and other countries.
While the rest of the world was in the middle of dealing with the pandemic, New Zealand seemed to be immune. That changed, and the country has been dealing with an increase in cases even as many others saw declines.
That led to a late slowdown in traffic that impacted SkyCity and its casinos across the country. New Zealand announced a couple of days ago that it is relaxing some COVID-19 restrictions, which is good news for the casino operator. It can restore its normal capacities and ditch the social distancing requirements in place since January.
SkyCity Ready for New Action
In January, New Zealand put the country under its “Red” alert status. Under this condition, the use of facemasks indoors is obligatory and capacity limits are in place. The country is now moving to “Orange,” which relaxes some of the requirements.
SkyCity explained in a regulatory filing today that with the changes, patrons of its three casinos in the country will no longer need to wear masks. Employees, however, will. In addition, there is no need to show proof of the COVID-19 vaccine, and QR code readers will no longer be in use.
In addition, the casino operator can likely expect to see more inbound traffic from Australia. Two days ago, New Zealand lifted its travel restrictions and began to allow Aussies into the country, provided they are fully vaccinated. It’s the first time since the middle of last year that they have been allowed, and the first flights already arrived this past Tuesday.
At the beginning of next month, New Zealand will allow additional international travel. As of May 1, it will lift restrictions on entry from the US, the UK, Japan, much of Europe, Singapore and South Korea.
It’s too early to determine what type of positive impact the anticipated increased traffic will have, and SkyCity isn’t willing to offer any predictions. It indicates that it is monitoring the situation and will return to its 2019 earnings level “when fully operational.”
SkyCity chief operating officer Callum Mallett is confident that the move to Orange will benefit the company’s operations. However, he cautions that it won’t lead to an immediate increase in activity. It’s likely that it will take a few days for normal operations to resume.
NZ Casino Gaming on the Rise
Last year, SkyCity Auckland shut down entirely for 107 days, SkyCity Hamilton for 65, SkyCity Queenstown for 22, and SkyCity Adelaide for eight. There were online alternatives to offset some of the losses. But the land-based segment held an overwhelmingly strong position before the pandemic.
Despite the closures and the reduced capacities, gaming spend in New Zealand has steadily risen. The gambling industry reported a year-on-year increase of 17% in revenue for its most recent fiscal year.
That was part of a trend that began several years ago. In 2020, the figure was a record NZ$3.48 billion (US$2.36 billion). A year earlier, it was $2.4 billion (US$1.62 billion), $49 million (US$33.2 million) more than in 2018.
With things finally returning to normal in New Zealand and many other countries, consumer spending will likely increase once more. The casino segment will probably need time to find its rhythm once again, but it’s apparently on its way.
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