Brisbane Sets Cap for VIPs

A new multibillion-dollar casino resort project (l.) in Brisbane, Australia, recently awarded to the market’s current sole license-holder, Echo Entertainment, will pull out all the stops to bring in big-spending players.

Yacht cruises, truffle tastings

An editorial in the Brisbane Courier-Mail said the awarding of a second casino license in the waterfront city to Echo Entertainment is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn Brisbane into a truly world-class destination.”

The editorial went on to say Echo “must honor and deliver on what it has promised, including the relocation of its headquarters from Sydney to Brisbane. It is essential that the government tick all the boxes and hold Echo to account. This is a terrific chance to stimulate the economy, with up to 10,000 jobs in the pipeline.”

Echo, which already runs Jupiters casino in Brisbane, recently beat out Crown Resorts’ multibillion-dollar bid for the license, which would have brought new competition to the marketplace where Echo now enjoys a monopoly.

Several media outlets report that Echo will lure VIPs with luxury amenities. For example, according to the Australian Financial Review, the property’s loyalty program will offer yacht cruises and truffle tastings to people who spend more than HK$1 million (US$129,000) a year at Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. stores. The jeweler’s sister company, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd., is an investor in the project, along with property developer Far East Consortium.

“The universe of very, very serious VIPs is probably 1,500 to 2,000 players,” said Echo CEO Matt Bekier. “We can de-risk the project by building a pipeline of visitors back into China.” The Chinese investors, each of which will hold 25 percent of the resort, “have a very large customer base in Asia,” Bekier said, and win earn fees for each VIP they bring to the new property.

Those connections will “add value to the Brisbane VIP business, given their relationships and deep knowledge of the high-end consumer in China,” agreed Sam Theodore, a Sydney-based analyst at UBS AG, in a July 20 note.

Bloomberg News reports that Australia “has the best image” among Chinese consumers, but ranks 14th among destinations they actually visit.

“You’re looking at a massive trend where as people become wealthier they seek to have more experiences,” Bekier said. “There’s a lot of investment flying out of China right now, so that group of customers is growing very quickly.”

Echo Managing Director Geoff Hogg told Casino News Daily that the project will include the renovation of “beautiful heritage buildings” in the city. Construction on the facility is expected to start within six weeks and is to be completed before the beginning of the Commonwealth Games in 2018. The operator is to spend about $345 million on the new hotel.

Echo’s Star Casino in Sydney “has undergone a major makeover in recent years and is setting record benchmarks under the company’s new management structure,” the Courier-Mail noted. “It is a positive sign for the Brisbane redevelopment,” a $3 billion project and the most “grandiose” development in the history of the state capital.