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Published 05 July 2013 08:06, Updated 07 July 2013 23:34
The new Packer network could eventually spread around Australia and through parts of Asia. Photo: Louise Kennerley
And so, surprise surprise, James Packer gets his prize.
The boss of casino group Crown seemed to take a big punt when he sold his stake in rival casino group Echo Entertainment, thereby ending any thoughts he could lob a takeover bid for the operator of Sydney’s existing casino, The Star.
But Packer bet right, backing his proposal for a luxury hotel and VIP casino at the new Barangaroo development in the head-to-head battle with a proposal from Echo.
“There is still a lot more work to do but we are obviously delighted,” Packer told The Australian Financial Review . “It’s been a long journey and I’m extremely humbled to be given this opportunity.”
Crown isn’t home yet. Thursday’s announcement means it gets to the next stage of the NSW government’s approval process. But Packer’s laser-beam focus on this goal suggests he won’t let it slip away from here.
Packer has long talked not just about building a casino, but building a luxury brand. A Sydney casino, to go with his properties in Melbourne, Perth and Macau, would certainly help with that ambition, particularly with its VIP-only clientele.
And while Packer still has plenty of work to do in Sydney, he’s also interested in building a casino in Brisbane (where Echo already operates and will be nervously watching Crown’s progress).
Is there much benefit from having that sort of chain? There would be some back-of-house synergies to be sure, but the real value would surely be in the luxury travel offering to the high-rollers that Crown wants.
Being able to offer wealthy Asian tourists the ability to travel between Crown properties in Australia and overseas would give Packer something that few other casino companies in the regions can match.
If Crown could continue to expand in the region as other gaming markets open up – and the company is looking at new opportunities in Sri Lanka and the Philippines – then the luxury brand proposition gets even stronger.
Once upon a time, the Packers had a network of television stations in Australia’s major cities.
Casinos in Brisbane and Sydney, to go with the existing Melbourne and Perth properties, would represent a very different network, but a network all the same.