Gambling giant SkyCity Entertainment Group believes
the Queenstown Casino is ripe for expansion and more
investment. Anne Gibson, property editor of The New Zealand
Chief executive of SkyCity Entertainment Group Nigel
Morrison predicts a bright future for Queenstown as a
tourism and entertainment centre. Photo by The New Zealand
Skycity Entertainment Group is looking at expanding in
Queenstown with accommodation, big-ticket sponsorship and new
Chief executive Nigel Morrison said New Zealand's sixth
largest NZX-listed firm, which has a market capitalisation of
$2.2 billion, saw the lakeside tourist drawcard as ripe for
expansion and more capital investment.
But unlike at many of its other New Zealand and Australian
venues, SkyCity could not offer accommodation within the
casino and he hoped to change this, particularly for
international big-spending VIP clients.
SkyCity does not own the Beach St building in which it is
based in Queenstown and Mr Morrison said it was examining a
range of options.
In Auckland, it spent $30 million developing areas above its
SkyCity Hotel into Federal suites, opening the Horizon suites
dedicated to qualified customers before the Rugby World Cup.
A similar project might be considered for Queenstown.
''We would like to have accommodation, developing [a]
Horizon-style product with VIP gaming rooms and suites,'' he
Ten to 15 large presidential-style suites were needed, at
''We've bought Queenstown as a potential tourism and
''The view is that Queenstown has a great future. We've got
right behind the NZ PGA golf championship as the inaugural
sponsor of that.''
''We can see ourselves getting more involved in getting major
events into Queenstown to bring more high net worth
individuals there. Many people fly from China to Auckland and
it's very easy to go on to Queenstown.''
Casino visitors now mainly stayed at the Sofitel Queenstown
or Hotel Novotel Queenstown because they wanted to be in the
heart of the tourist township and near the venue, he said.
SkyCity has also held discussions with major Auckland
restaurant owners about setting up in Queenstown ''and
they're open to it''.
Award-winning chefs Peter Gordon, Al Brown and Sean Connolly
all opened at SkyCity Auckland and Mr Morrison indicated this
group - including Nic Watt - might consider Queenstown
offered them good opportunities. But he emphasised nothing
He refused to give a figure for SkyCity's Queenstown
''It's too early to say what we would spend but we believe it
will be a city of the future for tourism.''
One critic said the three-pronged strategy smacked of SkyCity
trying to cosy up to Queenstown and be a good corporate
citizen by legitimising and reinforcing its existence there.
In December, it sold its half share in Christchurch Casino to
co-owner Skyline Enterprises for $80 million, buying
Skyline's 40% share in Queenstown Casino for $5 million.
Under joint Skyline Enterprises/SkyCity ownership, bets were
limited to $15,000 but Mr Morrison said it would now be
possible to increase these to $150,000, the same as in
''We want to make sure we have systems in place to bring this
in this year,'' he said of changes to the venue.
Some wealthy overseas visitors to the Queenstown casino spent
an average $10,000 to $15,000 a day at shops, sightseeing and
Many SkyCity high rollers flew into Auckland and Mr Morrison
said it would be ''easy'' to take them on to Queenstown. Mark
Brown, OnePath head of equities, said the Queenstown strategy
made sense ''as long as the maths, profitability and return
on investment capital stacks up ... Queenstown is one of New
Zealand's premier destinations for tourists and that should
be no different for high rollers.''
''You just have to look at the wealth down there so this is
not as much of a surprise as Manila,'' he said, referring to
SkyCity's investigations of a new Philippines investment.
SkyCity's half-year result is due out today.
Biggest NZX stocks
• Fletcher Building ... $6.21b
• Telecom ... $4.38b
• Contact Energy ... $3.84b
• Auckland International Airport ... $3.82b
• Ryman Healthcare ... $2.33b
• SkyCity Entertainment Group ... $2.27b
Source: NZX, figures based on market capitalisation.