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Sky City resort casino joint venture rethinks its figures

By Chris Hutching

Friday 19th May 2000

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Queenstown's newly opened Wharf Casino has been forced to lay off staff after getting fewer punters than expected and its Sky City-backed competition is rethinking its projections.

The fears of anti-gambling campaigners in the resort town about having two casinos have proved overplayed, judging by a lower-than-expected level of patronage since opening last October.

A second joint-venture Sky City and Skyline Enterprises casino costing $14 million is due to open in Queenstown near the end of this year but its promoters are now reconsidering their financial projections.

The manager of Wharf Casino, Mike Stone, said he had cut his wages bill 25%, offering redundancy to some of the 81 staff who started just a few months ago. "I don't believe there's room for two casinos in a town this size. A second casino might bring in more business but not twice as much. We're a low-cost operator with six tables compared to the 12 that our rivals were planning and we offer some benefits to regulars that they won't, so I don't know how they'll fulfill their forecasts," he said.

The spokesman for the Sky City/Skyline Enterprises joint venture in Beach St, Queenstown millionaire Barry Thomas, acknowledged the situation could be a battle for survival. "It's been the general consensus there's only room for one casino. The Casino Control Authority was unanimous in its decision for ours but it was split on the Wharf Casino. One thing in our favour is we'll have bar and restaurant facilities in the gaming rooms. We're reviewing some things but we're still planning to build the same- sized facilities that we outlined in our license application," Mr Thomas said.

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