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SkyCity Entertainment Group will give priority on Thursday to its membership-based customers before the general public and use electronic facial recognition technology to keep track of people under alert level 2.

The business has released details on what it plans to do in a day's time when it gradually re-opens its major venues, shut since late March when New Zealand moved to alert level 4.

It plans to initially limit casino entry to its premier rewards members before other people. New members start on a ruby class then go to sapphire, gold, platinum and VIP black giving greater benefits at each level on aspects including free carparking, drinks, food and discounted hotel rates.

Certain "membership tiers" would get priority at Auckland and Hamilton properties "to enable comprehensive contact tracing, assisted by facial recognition technology, and implementing guest registers at all other SkyCity venues. New casino customers can sign up to the SkyCity premier rewards programme with appropriate photo identification," the business said today.


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SkyCity was reported around 2013 to be installing facial recognition technology in Auckland in an attempt to identify people and reduce problem gambling. That was around the time it gained concessions to allow it to expand in return for building the $703m NZ International Convention Centre.

"It's just another tool we have to support us and to know where players have been and who they have been near to," said Liza McNally, SkyCity chief marketing officer.

The face recognition technology was in Auckland, Hamilton, Queenstown and Adelaide, she said. "We have been doing a number of trails over a number of years."

SkyCity today pointed to low player numbers at tables, restricting how customers move around its properties and bars staying shut till later next week as some measures planned as the country moves to alert level 2.

The business which yesterday announced it would lay off 700 staff will open its Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown properties on Thursday but plans to keep Adelaide shut in the meantime.

After Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday outlined the move to alert level 2 this week, SkyCity today outlined how Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown properties would re-open but with restrictions on who gets in.

"SkyCity will reopen its New Zealand properties in a staged manner with reduced operating hours initially based on expected customer demand," the business said.


The larger SkyCity Queenstown property will reopen on Thursday but the smaller Wharf Casino property will stay shut, it said.

"The ongoing border restrictions continue to have a detrimental effect on the local Queenstown economy in particular, which is largely dependent on tourism," the company said.

New health and safety measures include:

• The creation of distinct zones on the main Auckland and Hamilton gaming floors to ensure under 100 customers and staff in one place at one time;

• Configuring electronic gaming machines to allow physical distancing between players;

• Reducing the number of seated players at each gaming table with no "back betting" - people standing behind those seated - to avoid crowding;

• Venues that operate primarily as bars, including Bellota and twentyone in Auckland and The Local Taphouse in Hamilton, will be initially;

• Physical distancing at all properties, including when waiting to go into a venue or for takeaway;

• More frequent and thorough cleaning of surfaces in all properties;

• The availability of hand sanitisers and wipes for staff and guests;

• Guests and employees can wear masks if they wish;

• All employees will do more health and safety training.

SkyCity said in early April it would lay off 200 staff. Yesterday it said it planned a further 700 job cuts. Joe Carolen of Unite Union said those were mostly in Auckland where the business had 2500 to 3000 part and full-time staff.

"This further restructure is expected to be completed by the middle of June," SkyCity said today.

It expects annual cost savings of around $50m "once the full restructure is implemented for both salaried employees and rostered or waged employees - around 900 in total," it said today.

In South Australia, the Adelaide Casino will remain closed pending guidance from the Australian Government.

Meanwhile, speculation is rising the business - expected to suspend its dividend - could announce a capital raising before the end of this month.

The Australian has reported in the last day that it could be one of the next big companies to look for new funds after fuel retailer Z Energy sought $350m yesterday through Goldman Sachs.

Around $1b has been wiped from its market capitalisation of the business listed on the ASX and NZX. Goldman Sachs is expected to assist it with any raising. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website