High rollers in SkyCity's sights

BY DENISE MCNABB
Last updated 14:18 23/02/2009
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
HOUSE BET: Casino operator SkyCity is aiming to lure international gamblers, down in numbers due to the recession, back to its Australia and New Zealand casinos.

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International gamblers at  SkyCity's Australia and New Zealand casinos are down by around 15 percent due to the recessionary climate.

But the casino operator is looking to raise the bar on VIP experiences in its platinum rooms to lure them back, - particularly from Asia into Australia and into New Zealand from Australia.

The company, which posted flat underlying interim profit today and revealed plans to slash dividend payouts, is in the final throws of organising a new office in Melbourne to market the Auckland casino to Australians wanting a change from the local Packer owned Crown Casino.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said today plans to ramp up international numbers also include the appointment of Ejaaz Dean in SkyCity's Auckland head office to run the international side of the casino business. He will look at restructuring the company's position in Asia where it has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore. It also has agents in other Asian cities.

Ejaaz was formerly chief operating officer at the Burswood Casino in Perth.

Morrison recently hired staff from Kerry Packer's Crown Casino to market the Auckland Casino as a change of scene.

He said the Adelaide Casino had been a solid performer in the half-year to December,  delivering 3 percent revenue growth  ($72.08 million to $77.708 million) albeit off a low base. Ebitda (earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation) were $11.942 million at the casino, up from $8.54 million in the previous period in spite of a full smoking ban at the casino since November 2007.

"There's more we can do in Adelaide," said Morrison.

"We've got  a new management team working hard on presentation table games and a better local VIP experience in the Grange room.

"We haven't got anything specific we can talk about but Adelaide does have a good population base to work with."

The company's Darwin Casino lifted revenue from $55 million to $57 million. However, profit was flat at $22.17 million ($22.99 million previously) after three months of disruption on the gaming floor during renovations.

This had caused gaming tables to be relocated and the number of gaming machines to be reduced and bars relocated outside.

The casino now has a new platinum VIP room and Sandbar and an Italian restaurant opened there recently.

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Morrison said Darwin should pick up now it was getting out of the quiet, wet season.

- The Independent

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