Thu, Aug 13, 9:53am by Ethan Anderson
New Zealand’s biggest casino has been forced to close its doors once again after the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the country.
Asgam reports Auckland’s SkyCity casino has closed after the government revealed four new COVID-19 cases, acquired via community transmission.
The cases have come as a huge shock to the country, which had celebrated 100 days without a single locally transmitted case of coronavirus a day ago.
Auckland has immediately returned to stage three restrictions for three days, with the rest of New Zealand on stage two.
Stage three lockdown means bars and many businesses will be closed, gatherings are restricted to ten people and travel in and out of Auckland is mostly prohibited.
On Wednesday, SkyCity said it would shut its casino and entertainment facilities while stage three restrictions were in place.
Hotels will remain open for existing guests.
Its casinos in Hamilton and Queenstown will remain open.
“SkyCity is fully complying with this latest update from the New Zealand government,” chief executive Graeme Stephens said.
“SkyCity is well prepared to respond quickly to these changes and is in a strong financial position to withstand the financial impacts of these temporary restrictions.”
— Gambling Magazine (@GamblingMag) August 12, 2020
New Zealand casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group was warned by the government in July that its Malta-licensed online casino was flouting local advertising laws.
The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs issued a formal warning to SkyCity regarding its Malta-licensed SkyCityCasino.com site.
The DIA found that an email SkyCity sent its loyalty program members in March had breached rules against promoting internationally licensed online gambling sites.
SkyCity’s Malta-based subsidiary launched its Gaming Innovation Group-powered online casino in August 2019, offering a mix of RNG and live dealer casino games.
Customers were required to be physically located in New Zealand, despite the country having yet to authorise online casino gambling.
The offending email informed SkyCity customers that, while its land-based gaming operations had been halted by COVID-19, its online casino was “operating as usual”.
A customer viewed this pitch as contravening Kiwi rules regarding the promotion of prohibited gambling products and filed a complaint with the DIA.
The DIA launched a month-long investigation, eventually concluding that SkyCity hadn’t ‘deliberately’ violated the Gambling Act 2003.
DIA director Chris Thornborough reportedly told the complainant that education was the DIA’s preferred first step regarding such complaints but the government would “take any further breaches seriously.”
A SkyCity spokesperson told local media that the March email was intended to simply “advise customers of the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on SkyCity’s operations.”
SkyCity maintains that it didn’t break the rules but the company “respects the view of the department however and will take into account the feedback received.”
New Zealand did a better job than most countries of keeping a lid on its COVID-19 infection rate, resulting in SkyCity getting permission to partially reopen its casinos in mid-May.
The casinos were cleared for full-fledged operations last month but the country is still limiting who gets to enter the country from abroad, putting a serious dent in SkyCity’s international VIP gambling operations.
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