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Sydney casino wars intensify

June 24, 2013

Sydney casino wars intensify

Echo Entertainment Group Ltd chief executive officer John Redmond has attacked Crown Ltd plans for an invitation-only casino and six-star hotel at Baranagaroo, less than a week after it dumped its stake in Echo.

Crown was planning a “casino on steriods” for the site but had mislabelled its proposal as an integrated resort, according to The Australian.

“Now the ‘hotel’ is only a small part of the project, which has substantially become a casino,” Mr Redmond told a private business lunch in Sydney today, the newspaper reported.

“The casino tower is on steroids and the podium appears to be over-running the public open space, filling in a large part of the Southern Cove. The boutique VIP gaming facility is clearly now a significant casino at risk of over-running Barangaroo.”

Mr Redmond said Crown Ltd’s proposal for a second casino in Sydney would not attract as many middle-class Chinese visitors as has been claimed, according to The Australian Financial Review.

According to the newspaper, Mr Redmond said Crown Ltd’s planned casino did not fit the “integrated resort” model favoured by Asian gamblers in Macau and Hong Kong.

Mr Redmond comments came after Crown last week offloaded its 10 per cent stake in Echo, pushing the rivals shares as low as $2.99, Echo’s lowest point since listing on the Australian Securities Exchange on June 6, 2011.

Crown sold its 82.561 million shares for $264 million, or $3.20 per Echo share.

The AFR reports Mr Redmond will be looking to develop an integrated resort complex to compete with others in the region.

The rivals are both lobbying the NSW government over Echo’s casino licence monopoly in the state, with Mr Packer proposing a $1 billion six-star hotel and casino at Barangaroo to compete with Echo’s The Star.

Echo operates The Star in Sydney under the only casino licence in the city.

Mr Packer said Crown wanted to pursue its proposed hotel and high-rollers casino development at the harbourside Barangaroo site in Sydney without speculation about its stake in Echo.

An independent committee established by the NSW government is set to review the exclusivity terms of Sydney’s casino licence, as Echo has announced development plans for The Star to rival Crown’s project.

Earlier this month, James Packer won a bid to more than double his stake in rival Echo to 23 per cent, after getting the green light from the New South Wales gaming regulator.

Echo’s casino licence runs to 2093, with the exclusivity cause lapsing in November 2019, when Mr Packer plans to open his new VIP facility.

The NSW government is considering Mr Packer’s bid and an unsolicited proposal from Echo to extend its monopoly casino licence. Both proposals are at the second stage and only one will win out, with a decision expected by June.


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