SkyCity Entertainment Group today plans to open a new VIP machine gaming area as part of a $35 million Auckland property upgrade.
Chief operating officer Michael Ahearne said the new invitation-only zone - labelled Black - was twice the size of the current VIP machine gaming space.
The area on the level-nine floor, previously a partly-open deck, is at the top of the SkyCity Hotel Auckland and casino building at the Victoria St end between Hobson St and Federal St.
"A previously little-used open-air balcony has been given a complete transformation to create a tactile, voluptuous and highly refined space," Ahearne said.
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"Black is twice the size of the current VIP gaming space and includes two bars and an invitation-only area for SkyCity's highest-value customers," he said.
The floor was previously accessed via stairs from level eight but chief executive Graeme Stephens said extra floorspace had been added on to the Federal St side to create an entrance from existing lifts. VIPs could also get to Black directly from the basement carpark.
The previous VIP gaming machine area was in a much smaller space on level three.
Now, 150 gaming machines have more space around them, better seating and bars and food service areas within the VIP zone.
"This is business class," Stephens said of the first VIP area with its own reception area and glass roof where the Sky Tower is visible.
"Now, you're entering first class," he said as Ahearne opened twin golden doors to an even more luxurious zone whose centrepiece is a $32,000 15L golden bottle of Brut Armand de Brignac champagne in a glass display case.
"We wanted something really different," said general marketing manager Jon Spittle of the drink, also known as the Ace of Spades after its logo. The champagne would be drunk in the next year. "This is the only one of these in New Zealand, we imported it."
But why is SkyCity opening new VIP areas designed for global high-rollers when the borders are shut and those big-time gamblers aren't coming here?
"International VIP business is only 10 per cent for us," Stephens said. "This level and the one below is for local VIPs who are an important part of our domestic business."
Some VIPs arrive in private jets, spend hundreds of thousands a day and bring guests and staff.
The project was designed by Warren & Mahoney's Andrew Barclay and Australian designers Lombard & Jack. Head contractor was Naylor Love and Beca were the engineers.
One floor below Black, SkyCity has refurbished Eight, which opened in March, another VIP area but dedicated to table gaming, not machines.
"Eight is an exclusive club for SkyCity's high-value table game players where they can relax and play in complete comfort and luxury," the business says.
Down a corridor off Black's main reception area are seven suites and private rooms for high rollers.
Ahearne said the $35m two-floor project was part of a wider $50m upgrade of SkyCity's Auckland property which will also result in a new bar for the main casino floor and a new food court, both yet to open.
"We used the lockdown period to our advantage," Stephens said, explaining how construction work which could have been disruptive to ongoing operations was done when the casino was shut.