Rival Echo slammed for Mafia presence
Australian casino magnate James Packer has finally won approval from the New South Wales government to build a luxury casino near Sydney Harbor. It will be designed to appeal to high rollers, particularly gamblers from Asia, who have not yet patronized the Australian market, according to Casino.org.
Packer’s rival for the casino license was Echo Entertainment, which owns Sydney’s only existing casino, the Star. Echo, which had proposed a $1 billion expansion of its own property, will retain exclusive rights to casino gaming in the state until 2019.
“We are disappointed that the New South Wales government does not share our vision,” said Echo chairman John O’Neill in a statement. He added that the company will explore “other initiatives” to expand or upgrade its existing Star property.
The rival companies have also locked horns over a license in Brisbane, which should be awarded after the state budget is finalized this month. According to the Australia Financial Review, Echo Entertainment is the favorite to win that battle. Its partner in the venture is the Hong Kong-based Far East Consortium and Chinese conglomerate Chow Tai Fook. The team will work together to develop a casino, hotel and residential project at Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf.
Back in Sydney, Packer plans a “six-star,” $1.4 billion property at the Barangaroo development across the harbor from the Star. The resort will feature 350 rooms and suites and 80 luxury apartments.
“I want this building to be instantly recognizable around the world and featured on postcards and memorabilia promoting Sydney,” Packer said. “That’s how you attract international tourists, create jobs, and put Sydney on the map.”
The casino will have no slot machines, and will be open only to big spenders who want to play table games. Gamblers reportedly will have to bet a minimum of A$2,100 ($US1,900) per hour to play in the casino.
Meanwhile, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Queensland police and Echo Entertainment “have taken no action to stop known organized crime figures from gambling at Jupiters Hotel & Casino in the Gold Coast, even after they were blacklisted by police in Victoria and NSW.”
The publication alleges that known Mafia figures patronize the casino and play in the high-roller room. The Herald reported that Queensland “has become a haven for underworld gamblers despite the state passing draconian ‘anti-association’ laws in a bid to crack down on the activities of outlaw biker gangs.”
An Echo Entertainment spokesman deflected the criticism, telling the Herald, “Without going into detail, we have a robust exclusions policy and a strong collaborative approach in our dealings with the respective police authorities in both NSW and Queensland.”