Following an initial period of gradual re-opening, casinos in New Zealand are now open for business and free of any pandemic-related restrictions. This follows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dropping the nation’s alert status to its lowest level after several weeks free of new COVID-19 cases.
Coronavirus and NZ
The country’s first COVID-19 case was discovered on February 28th and since then; the nation has reported a total of 1,504 infections and 22 deaths.
The last known case was observed on May 24th with the final recovery being recorded on June 8th. The nation is tentatively proud to be a global exception, having freed itself from the deadly pandemic.
New Zealand created a special set of threat levels to aid in its fight against COVID-19. The levels themselves are quite detailed, but this is a summary of the most impactful measures.
Level 4 – Lockdown
- Citizens should stay home, except for essential movements.
- Closure of public venues and prohibition of public gatherings.
- Institutions of learning are closed.
- Except for essential services, all businesses are closed.
Level 3 – Restrict
- Individuals maintain a distance of at least 2 meters from other people outside of the home.
- Work from home wherever possible.
- Schools opened at limited capacity.
- Gatherings up to 10 people are permitted.
Level 2 – Reduce
- Gatherings up to 100 people are allowed.
- Businesses may reopen to the public.
- Sports and recreation activities are back on the cards.
- A physical distance of 2 meters in public and 1 meter in the workplace must be maintained.
Level 1 – Prepare
- Restrictions on personal movement and domestic travel are all waived.
- Schools and workplaces may reopen completely.
- Any size of gathering is permitted.
- International borders remain closed.
- Intensive testing.
- Rapid contact tracing for any positive cases.
SkyCity opens its doors again
SkyCity was forced to close its Queenstown, Hamilton, and Auckland casinos on March 23rd. They were, fortunately, able to reopen on May 14th on condition that they maintained certain safety measures:
- Elimination of “back betting.”
- The gaming floor was divided into zones, with a limit of 100 people in each zone.
- Fewer seats at gaming tables.
- Increased distance between pokies.
- Casino access restricted to premier rewards members.
With the alert level being lowered, casinos can now operate restriction-free. Social distancing guidelines are a thing of the past, so both table games and electronic machines can resume normal operations.
Aside from its Queenstown venue, SkyCity properties are also due to resume normal business hours. The group’s Adelaide location is likely reopening in late June or early July, as Australia makes progress in its battle against coronavirus.
Online gaming boom
The drop-off in business seen by land-based casinos has been inversely mirrored by the growth of online gaming. SkyCity’s online gaming platform has helped the group mitigate the effect of the closure of its venues. The site saw explosive growth with 21,000 new customers signing up as of May 31st; a significant number of the new members are younger players.
The relaxing of restrictions is great news for New Zealand, which has a strong gaming culture that rivals even Australia. Recent studies have reported that New Zealanders spend more than $2 billion per year on various forms of gambling.
SkyCity workforce cuts
The reopening, unfortunately, comes too late for many now-unemployed former employees. Factors resulting from the nationwide lockdown, including reduced disposable income, a weaker economy, and a ban on travel into the country prompted SkyCity to launch an employee reduction scheme which is projected to save the company close to $50 million annually.
The most recent cut saw 700 staff members being let go. SkyCity has indicated that in the interim it intends to focus on operating as a “smaller, domestically-focused business.”