SkyCity Reopens for New Zealand with Caution and Layoffs

New Zealand is one of the countries that identified and contained COVID-19 most quickly and effectively. Its response to the coronavirus pandemic was swift and thorough, so when the country announces that its casinos are prepared to reopen, it is not a rash decision. They are ready.

Much-Hailed Response

Not all countries have responded well to the coronavirus pandemic spreading within their borders (ahem, United States). New Zealand, on the other hand, did the opposite.

The results of a complete shutdown followed by swift and widespread testing was a relatively low number of cases overall. As of May 16, those numbers were:

  • Total confirmed and probable cases: 1,498 (1,148 confirmed, 350 probable)
  • Total deaths: 21
  • Total active cases: 49
  • People currently in hospital for COVID-19: 3
  • People in ICU for COVID-19: 0

The only change to these numbers in the previous 24 hours was a reduction of active cases by seven and increase of hospitalized cases by one. Over the past week, the number of total cases jumped by only six cases with no increases in the number of deaths and only one more person in the hospital, but not in ICU.

New Zealand hit its high point in the first week of April and reduced from there, hitting a bump in the second week but pushing a mostly-downward trend from there.

This seems a prime example of a country that scientists say is ready to begin its reopening process.

Reopening Phases

New Zealand did so well at the restrictive Level 3 recently that officials moved to Level 2 this week. This means New Zealanders may resume most of their regular activities. With safety measures in place, all businesses are allowed to open, schools resume classes, and travel between regions begin again.

People are still required to keep their gatherings small and social distancing in place.

At Level 2, official rules state that casinos may open with a limit of 100 customers in one place at any given time. (That number includes guests and staff.) They people must maintain one metre of physical distance between each other, and the casino must keep detailed records of activities.

Upon reaching Level 1, whenever that may be, there will be no restrictions in place whatsoever.

SkyCity Casinos Reopen

When the New Zealand Ministry of Health approved the move, SkyCity Auckland was one of three locations reopened this week – the Sky Tower, some restaurants, and the casino. Hamilton and Queenstown locations also reopened in a limited capacity.

The first patrons welcomed will be rewards members of Gold, Platinum, and VIP Black status on May 14. That will open up to all rewards members, including Ruby and Sapphire status, on May 21.

The Auckland casino implemented the following measures before reopening on May 14:

  • Physical distancing measures throughout the property
  • Increased cleaning activities for surfaces
  • Made hand sanitizer available to all guests and staff
  • Trained employees with regard to their safety and that of guests
  • Started visitation registers to assist with contact tracing

The casino also makes certain requests of their customers:

  • Use hand sanitizers provided.
  • Do not enter if experiencing any flu-like symptoms.
  • Maintain physical distances from others.
  • Avoid hugs, hongi, and shaking hands.
  • Use safe hygiene practices and cough etiquette.

The gaming floor will look different in most cases. The casino is limiting table games to three players maximum for games like blackjack. Every second slot machine is disabled.

In addition, the main casino floor will have limited hours at first. By closing from 6am to 10am Monday through Friday, it allows the opportunity for deep cleaning.

Not All Fun and Games at SkyCity

As SkyCity planned its reopenings with limited staff and much still unknown in the timeline going forward, the company had to stand down more employees.

Specifically, SkyCity blames the weaker economy, lower personal disposable income, reformed entertainment habits, and mass gathering restrictions. The company is reopening as a “smaller, domestically-focused business.”

SkyCity Entertainment Group CEO Graeme Stephens announced a further reduction in the company’s workforce with 700 more people let go. “For a company that is centred around its people,” he said, “this is incredibly difficult for all involved. At SkyCity, we are a family, and it is incredibly tough to say goodbye to valued team members, however, we need to ensure our business is best prepared to operate in the new environment.”

The move is expected to save the company approximately $50 million.

Stephens emphasized that the company will work with former workers and unions as the hundreds of employees depart.

As for the SkyCity Adelaide Casino in Australia, this property is still in limbo regarding a reopening. The Australian coronavirus spread had been tougher to contain, and the government and health officials are taking more time with the reopening of businesses. Casinos will likely be in the last phase of most reopening orders.

Overall Company Outlook

Shares of SkyCity Entertainment Group Limited (SKC) on the New Zealand Stock Exchange were up overall on the openings of NZ casinos, but the last few months have been a jumbled mess.

In 2019, share prices rose approximately 15% overall, bringing it up from a less-impressive three-year record. But as 2020 got underway, the coronavirus began to spread through China, limiting the number of travelers to New Zealand casinos. As those limitations increased, the price began to drop.

  • January 3, 2020: $3.97 per share
  • February 3, 2020: $3.57 per share
  • March 2, 2020: $3.17 per share
  • March 23, 2020: $1.30 per share

The massive drop in March was a result of New Zealand shutting casinos and all non-essential businesses with no ability to foresee plans for reopening. But SkyCity’s drop mimicked that of most other companies, especially in the entertainment industry.

The past month has been a roller coaster:

  • April 16, 2020: $2.19 per share
  • April 20, 2020: $2.78 per share
  • April 24, 2020: $2.12 per share
  • April 30, 2020: $2.68 per share
  • May 15, 2020: $2.46 per share

The reopening announcements contributed greatly to the fluctuations in the past few weeks, as did the release of another 700 employees from their positions.

SkyCity will push forward through the tough times. And its shareholders’ reactions will tell much of the story as the year progresses.

 

Rose Varrelli

Rose Varrelli has always been passionate about online casinos, as she's been a player at a variety of places for years. Rose turned her personal knowledge and insight into a writing career. She aims to provide readers with the most up to date, informative news in the world of online casinos!

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