Brisbane Poised to Award License

It’s Crown versus Echo for a gaming license in the Queen’s Wharf section of Brisbane (Echo’s design at left). The license could be awarded any time now that the state has released its budget to the public. Packer “going the extra mile.”

At any time, the Queensland government could announce its choice of a casino licensee in Brisbane. The decision to award the license to either James Packer’s Crown Resorts or Echo Entertainment was set to be announced when the state budget was released, July 14.

As of last week, the rivals put the final touches on their proposals. Packer said his company, Crown Resorts, plans an A$3 billion (US$2.2 billion) integrated casino resort on the Brisbane waterfront. He told reporters he’s “going the extra mile” to win the Brisbane license, and would buy 1,500 to 2,500 slot machine licenses from local clubs and hotels to add to the resort. Packer said the complex would help turn Brisbane into a global destination with an integrated hotel and entertainment resort “they can be proud of.”

According to the Casino News Daily, Crown’s proposal also features the first six-star hotel in Brisbane, two five-star hotels, and a water park as well as a two-story, five-bedroom penthouse that would sell for A$100 million. Crown is working with Chinese real estate developer Greenland Holdings on the project, which Crown estimates would create more than 3,000 new jobs and generate more than A$638 million in revenues.

Lavish as the Crown proposal may be, many industry observers say Echo and its partners, Hong Kong-based Far East Consortium and Chinese casino operator and developer Chow Tai Fook are favored to win the Brisbane license. Echo operates the city’s Treasury Casino. Deutsche Bank, for one, says Echo has a 75 percent chance of winning the tender. CLSA also has said it expects Echo to prevail.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane has been “a fierce battleground” for the two companies since 2013, when Crown won the rights for a second Sydney casino license at Barangaroo. That victory means Echo will lose its gaming monopoly in New South Wales in 2019.

Meanwhile, Packer would welcome another win; Deutsche Bank just cut earnings forecasts for the company due to the slump in Macau, where Packer owns 34 percent of Melco Crown, his joint venture with Lawrence Ho. In a statement, the bank said, “We have reduced our earnings forecasts by 5 to 6 percent to reflect lower earnings from Melco Crown, CrownBet and Aspinalls, partly offset by higher earnings from Crown Melbourne.”

As Melco Crown prepares to open its Hollywood-themed Studio City resort on Macau’s Cotai Strip, revenues in the world’s premier gaming destination have plummeted for 13 consecutive months. From January to June, the numbers dropped 37 percent year-on-year to MOP121.6 billion from MOP193.1 billion.


Sun Int’l Wraps Times Square Plan

South African gaming operator Sun International has finished Phase I of its plan to relocate the Morula Sun Hotel and Casino to Menlyn Maine, despite a legal challenge to its plan to transfer the accompanying gaming license.

Gambling Board also named in suit

Sun International, a leading gaming operator in South Africa, has completed the initial planning of its new casino at Times Square in Menlyn Maine, though it is still fighting Goldrush Group Management over a plan to transfer its license from another location.

Sun’s original license was issued by the North West Gambling Board for the Morula Sun property in Mabopane. It expired in March 2006 and was never renewed, but was replaced by Gauteng in June 2007, the Pretoria News reported. The transfer application was filed in July 2014.

Sun International previously pointed out that once completed, the property would generate more than R1.7 million (US$137,000) in gaming and other taxes in the first five years of operation. The total amount that would be contributed to both the local and national governments is expected to reach R2.7 billion (US$217 million) over the same five-year period. Times Square will have up to 2,000 slot machines and 60 gaming tables, plus a 5-star hotel, a conference hall, retail and restaurants. The relocation of the property is expected to cost about R3 billion.

Michael Farr, spokesman for Sun International, said preliminary work on the site has been completed. The second phase will include the preparation of the casino site. The construction phase of the development is expected to take up to 30 months.