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Sydney's 'Asian high-roller' casino wins state backing

12 november 2013, 16:34
©Reuters/Eric de Castro
©Reuters/Eric de Castro
Gambling mogul James Packer on Tuesday said international tourists want to see man-made attractions and not spend their holidays "looking at Ayers Rock" as his plan for a $1.5 billion Sydney casino won crucial support, AFP reports.

The New South Wales government late Monday struck a "binding agreement" for the project aimed at Asian high-rollers to operate from November 2019 in a prime location on Sydney Harbour, under strict conditions that include VIP gaming only and no slot machines.

Legislation will be introduced into parliament this week to officially approve Crown's casino and six-star hotel, although it also needs a green light from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

"We support this proposal because of its economic benefits to New South Wales," state Premier Barry O'Farrell said, adding that 1,300 jobs would be created during construction and 1,200 jobs once it was up and running.

"What Crown is guaranteeing is a minimum of a billion dollars (revenue to the government) over the first 15 years in operation. But their business case model suggests that figure will be far higher."

Billionaire Packer runs Crown, a worldwide gambling empire that already operates casinos in Melbourne, Perth and Macau and is planning complexes in Manila and Sri Lanka.

"The Crown Group is hugely proud and happy and thrilled," Packer told commercial radio Tuesday.

"We believe that Crown Sydney will help attract Asian high net worth travellers to Sydney, in particular from China, creating economic growth, extra taxes and over 1,200 jobs for the people of New South Wales."

He added that Australian tourism had been underperforming and all the great tourist attractions of the world, such as Las Vegas, were man-made.

"Australian tourism has underperformed dramatically and if we sit here and think everything is going great with Australian tourism we are kidding ourselves," he said.

"The natural attractions ... are magnificent but people also want man-made attractions. People do not want to spend all of their holidays looking at Ayers Rock, not to say Ayers Rock isn't fantastic."

Packer's proposal involves building a prominent tower at the Barangaroo development site in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Once complete, the development will encompass a 70-storey, six-star hotel -- Sydney's first -- and a VIP, invitation-only gaming resort that will be the first in the world with no slot machines, which traditionally account for a large slice of a casino's revenue.

Electronic poker machines are the most popular form of betting in Australia, with many stories of gambling addicts losing their homes and relationships, and even committing suicide.

It was for this reason that the NSW Labor opposition demanded no poker machines at the Crown casino in return for supporting the plan.

Sydney already has one casino -- The Star -- but Packer has long said there is room for another.

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