New Zealand Casinos Face Trouble as Inbound Travel Restrictions Extended

Posted on: November 25, 2021, 12:07h. 

Last updated on: November 25, 2021, 05:39h.

New Zealand’s tourism industry received some bad news today. New regulations preventing inbound travel by foreigners will keep the country’s borders closed longer than expected. This also means that casinos won’t be able to rely on foreign gamblers until well into 2022.

SkyCity Auckland
An aerial view of SkyCity Auckland, which is hoping to begin post-COVID-19 recovery efforts in December (Image:

When the COVID-19 crisis began, New Zealand seemed untouchable. It didn’t deal with outbreaks like those seen in countries around the world and was able to seemingly operate under normal conditions. That changed, however, as 2020 progressed and 2021 began to unravel.

Now, according to data from Johns Hopkins’ Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the country has gone from a 7-day average of three new cases in the middle of August to 191 as of Wednesday.

This increase and the prolonged issues have health authorities concerned. New Zealand has already been under restrictions for the better part of the year, with borders being virtually closed. Beginning next January, citizens abroad will be able to return, but international visitors will need to wait a little longer.

New Zealand to Remain Under Quarantine

According to the latest information from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, foreigners wishing to visit New Zealand won’t be able to do so without entering quarantine until the end of April. This will have a serious impact on the country’s casinos, mainly referring to SkyCity Entertainment Group. It has built a substantial business around foreign visitation.

Closing our border was one of the first steps we took to keep our country safe from COVID-19, and it’ll be the last thing we open up, following our transition into the traffic light protection framework system and lifting of the Auckland boundary,” explained Hipkins.

With New Zealand’s health measures, fully vaccinated residents will be able to travel from Australia to New Zealand without having to quarantine beginning Sunday, January 16 at 11:59 PM. Vaccinated travelers from other countries won’t be allowed to head to New Zealand without submitting to quarantine until April 30.

Hipkins added, “We are making this announcement today to give families, businesses, visitors and airline and airport companies certainty and time to prepare. It’s very encouraging that as a country, we are now in a position to move towards greater normality.”

SkyCity Under Pressure

According to Intelligent Investor, SkyCity has relied heavily on foreign traffic, mainly from China, to feed its Auckland and Queenstown casinos. Over a decade, Chinese VIP activity grew from NZ$18 million to $123 million (US $12.34 million to $84.31 million) and has been responsible for 40% of the company’s growth. However, the pandemic has forced those numbers to plummet, just as SkyCity was spending big to reinvigorate its properties.

The casino operator is also going to find more pressure as it works to appease regulators. Earlier this year, it announced that it would stop working with junkets. That’s a direct response to the fallout caused by Crown Resorts in Australia. Crown, too, has announced that it will no longer work with junkets.

SkyCity is hoping it can find some relief sooner rather than later. It is going to reopen its Auckland property on December 3, provided there aren’t any more setbacks. The casino will adhere to New Zealand’s new “traffic light” system for COVID-19 protocols, as it looks to welcome patrons back.

The traffic light system, better known as the COVID-19 Protection Framework, is designed to be more flexible than the country’s Alert Level system. Health officials will monitor the country and assign a color (green, orange or red), depending on the coronavirus threat level.

Green requires individuals to wear face masks indoors and allows for stores, schools, and some community events to operate. Orange enforces more areas where face masks are required, while capacities at many public venues are restricted. Red increases the capacity limits and places stringent requirements on the use of face masks.