NSW gives green light to Packer casino at Barangaroo

Packer casino gets green light: Legislation to allow a second Sydney casino licence will be introduced to parliament this week. barangaroo
Nanjing Night Net

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A casino is set to operate at Barangaroo from November 2019 after the state government announced an agreement with James Packer’s Crown Resorts for VIP-only gambling at its proposed $1.3 billion hotel complex.

Premier Barry O’Farrell announced cabinet had struck an agreement with Crown on Monday night and said legislation for a second Sydney casino licence would be introduced to parliament this week.

While the government has entered into a “binding agreement” with Crown to develop the “VIP restricted gaming facility” at Barangaroo, approvals are still needed before the project can proceed. The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will need to consider if Mr Packer’s company Crown is a suitable casino operator and the proposed six-star hotel resort will need planning approval.

Mr O’Farrell said the public would be invited to comment on both.

Crown is unlikely to have difficulty proving to NSW authorities it is a fit and proper operator of gambling facilities having passed a probity test in May to increase its stake in rival Echo Entertainment, owner of the Star casino.

Indications are that the legislation is likely to pass the NSW upper house with the support of the government and the cross bench.

Labor may consider whether to support the legislation at its shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

In a statement, Mr Packer said he was “humbled” by the government’s decision.

“Sydney is one of the world’s great cities,” he said. “It deserves one of the world’s great hotels. I am going to do everything I can to try and make Crown Sydney the best hotel in the world.”

He said Crown believed the development would “help attract Asian high net worth travellers to Sydney, in particular from China”.

Opposition Gaming and Tourism spokesman Steve Whan said while he had yet to see the legislation, the government appeared to have met the conditions set by Labor to receive its approval. They included no poker machines, no encroachment of public space and VIP membership restrictions.

Draft legislation reveals the government proposes to grant Crown a 99-year gaming licence to operate a casino without poker machines and minimum bet limits of $30 for baccarat, $20 for blackjack and $25 for roulette.

It states only “members and guests” are allowed to gamble at the Barangaroo casino.

Those from overseas or interstate must prove they are already VIP members of other casinos or participate in “high roller” gambling elsewhere.

NSW residents will be allowed to become members but will be subject to a 24-hour “cooling off” period unless they are already registered for VIP gambling at other casinos.

The conditions of the agreement include a guarantee from Crown that the casino will deliver at least $1 billion in licence fee and gambling taxes to the state over the first 15 years of “full operation”. The green light from cabinet comes more than a year after Mr Packer first revealed his desire for permission to run a casino to fund construction of his hotel resort at Barangaroo.

The NSW government has dealt with the project through its unsolicited proposals guidelines for unique development proposals from the private sector.

Last week Crown unveiled the latest proposal for its proposed 70-storey, six-star hotel resort at Barangaroo. They include plans for 30 luxury apartments, bars and restaurants at Barangaroo South.

Mr O’Farrell said the government supports the plans “because of its economic benefits to NSW” which included 1,200 extra jobs, the $1.3 billion investment in an “iconic” hotel and the additional gambling tax revenue.

However, the Greens MP John Kaye criticised the government’s unsolicited proposals process as “anything but transparent and open”.

“NSW will now have another casino with more corruption pressures, more money laundering from Asian drug and prostitution cartels and more opportunities for problem gamblers,” he said.

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