After gradually easing into things, casinos in New Zealand are now open without restrictions. This comes on the heels of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dropping the nation’s alert status to its lowest level following multiple weeks with no new COVID-19 cases.

The Coronavirus in NZ

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in New Zealand on February 28th. Since then, the island nation has reported a total of 1,504 infections and 22 deaths.

The last known case was reported on May 24th, and the final recovery came on June 8th. For the moment, the nation is proud to be one of the few places on Earth that’s free from the devastating illness.

New Zealand Threat Levels for COVID-19

In case you’re unaware of the threat levels used by New Zealand during the coronavirus pandemic, here’s a brief look. This list is far from complete, as each level contains around a dozen items. Still, this should give you a general feel for things.

Level 4 – Lockdown

  • Other than essential movements, citizens should stay home.
  • All public venues are closed and gatherings cancelled.
  • Institutions of learning are closed.
  • Except for essential services, all business are closed.

Level 3 – Restrict

  • Outside of home, maintain a distance of at least 2 meters from other people.
  • Work from home whenever possible.
  • Schools are open at limited capacity.
  • Gatherings up to 10 people are allowed.

Level 2 – Reduce

  • Gatherings up to 100 people are allowed.
  • Businesses can reopen to the public.
  • Sports and recreation activities are allowed.
  • Keep a physical distance of 2 meters in public and 1 meter in the workplace.

Level 1 – Prepare

  • No restrictions on personal movement or domestic travel.
  • Schools and workplaces open.
  • No restrictions on size of gatherings.
  • International borders remain closed.
  • Intensive testing.
  • Rapid contact tracing for any positive cases.

SkyCity Back in Business

On March 23rd, SkyCity was forced to close the doors on its casinos in Queenstown, Hamilton and Auckland. However, they were able to reopen on May 14th by implementing the following safety measures:

  • Eliminated “back betting.”
  • Divided gaming floor into zones, with no more than 100 people in each zone.
  • Lowered the number of seats at gaming tables.
  • Increased the distance between pokies.
  • Casino access restricted to premier rewards members.

Now, thanks to the alert level being lowered, casinos will be able to open without restrictions. That means social distancing guidelines are no longer required, and both table games and electronic machines can resume normal operations.

With the exception of the Queenstown location, SkyCity properties are also expected to resume normal business hours. Meanwhile, the Adelaide location eyes a late June or early July opening, as Australia slowly eliminates the coronavirus within its borders.

Casino floor at SkyCity in Auckland, New Zealand

Rise of Online Gaming

While land-based casinos may have experienced a drop-off in business, the presence of SkyCity online gaming has helped eased the blow. Their site received 21,000 new customers as of May 31st, with a noticeable rise in younger players.

This news couldn’t come at a better time, as New Zealand residents are almost as devoted to gaming as their Australian neighbors. In fact, a recent study indicated that citizens of the island nation spend more than $2 billion per year on various forms of gambling.

SkyCity Employee Reduction

Despite the reopening of casinos, a lot of former employees now find themselves without a job. Thanks to factors such as reduced disposable income, a weaker economy, and a ban on travel into the country, SkyCity has embarked on an employee reduction scheme designed to save them around $50 million annually.

Recently, they announced that 700 staff members were let go.  For the immediate future, SkyCity intends to concentrate on being a “smaller, domestically-focused business.”

Additional Reading

For more articles on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the gaming industry, please see the following: