NSW advances Crown's Sydney casino bid

O'Farrell moves Crown's Barangaroo proposal to third round of consideration; Echo, Crown shares halted ahead of decision.

New South Wales premier Barry O'Farrell has advanced Crown Ltd's proposal for a second Sydney casino at Barangaroo to the third stage of the state government's unsolicited proposal process for major projects, effectively killing a rival bid from Echo Entertainment Group Ltd.

Mr O'Farrell was clear the approval for Crown's bid was "not a licence to build" but a licence to move to the next stage.

The NSW premier said the tax paid on the business would be 29%, higher than the 27.5% proposed by Crown in its bid.

Mr O'Farrell also flagged some provisions in the VIP gaming business of Crown.

Mr O'Farrell said the unsolicited proposals of both Crown and Echo were welcomed by the NSW government, as they presented opportunities to increase the "econcomic prosperity" of the state.

The head of the independent panel reviewing the proposals, David Murray said there were "commonalities" in both proposals and reiterated, becuase the bids were unsolicited, the NSW givernment retains the right to renege on the agreement at any time.

Crown's proposal for a six-star hotel and high-roller casino at the Barangaroo development was being considered simulataneously with Echo's proposal to expand The Star casino in nearby Pyrmont (see Cliona O'Dowd's Collected Wisdom).

Mr Murray submitted his report to Mr O'Farrell yesterday.  

Echo, Crown shares halted

Crown shares were placed in a trading halt ahead of the decision regarding the Sydney casino licences.

Crown said the trading halt was necessary for the group to make an announcement in relation to the unsolicited proposal process for the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort at Barangaroo South.

Shares in Echo were also halted ahead of the announcement.

Crown shares last traded at $12.21, after opening the session at $12.02. Echo shares last traded at $2.91, after opening the session at $3.09.