Wharf Casino’s future in doubt without lease

Jono Browne
Jono Browne
One of Queenstown’s two CBD casinos is likely to fold its cards next year.

Applications to the Gambling Commission by SkyCity, which operates both casinos, reveal Wharf Casino’s landlord may not renew the lease for its Steamer Wharf premises past September 8, 2021.

The lease is held by SkyCity subsidiary Otago Casinos Ltd (OCL).

According to the paperwork, the landlord would not renew the lease unless OCL made a significant capital investment in the venue ‘‘which would not be commercially viable’’.

OCL’s casino licence, however, does not expire until September 11, 2024, with a subsequent right of renewal.

SkyCity acknowledged the licence would be unusable if it could not secure a new lease beyond September next year.

Nevertheless, it told the Gambling Commission it did not want to surrender the licence until it expired, and gave two reasons.

Firstly, SkyCity said the landlord’s decision not to negotiate a new lease ‘‘on commercially viable terms’’ might change.

Secondly, it said a law forbidding a casino venue to be changed — which it called ‘‘an anomaly’’ — could be reviewed.

Last June, Mountain Scene revealed SkyCity had bought land on Frankton Rd for $16million for a proposed five-star hotel.

It would not be drawn on whether it wanted to include an in-house casino.

Last year, Queenstown SkyCity general manager Jono Browne said relocating one of the two CBD casinos was not on the table.

‘‘It requires a change of legislation, and currently it’s not possible.’’

Mr Browne this week refused to comment on the applications to the Gaming Commission.

Public submissions close on January 31.

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