Packer eyeing Qld casino

Fresh from Sydney win, Crown may move against Echo's Qld monopoly.

Fresh from beating Echo Entertainment Group Ltd in Sydney, Crown Ltd chairman James Packer has flagged a move to take on his rival's casinos in Queensland too.

Echo lost its monopoly position in the Sydney casino market when Crown was given the go-ahead by the NSW government last Thursday to proceed to the third stage of planning for a development at Barangaroo.

Part of the reason Echo's own Star casino expansion bid lost was because of its poor performance attracting VIPs, in contrast to Crown's strong history with VIPs for the last two decades at Melbourne's casino.

Mr Packer said Echo was also doing a terrible job in Queensland, where it operates casinos in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Townsville.

Tabcorp said it planned to spend $625 million on expanding the three Queensland casinos in 2010 before Echo was demerged from it but that money has not been spent.

"The quality of the properties in Surfers Paradise and Brisbane are a disgrace," Mr Packer told the Nine Network's Financial Review.

"It will be interesting to see where Premier (Campbell) Newman ends up on the ideological question of competition."

Mr Packer proposes to build a $1.3 billion resort and invitation-only VIP casino at harbourside Barangaroo development to operate from 2019 (see Cliona O'Dowd's Collected Wisdom).

He said Australia's share of the Asian high roller market would need to increase from 2.5% to 4.0% to make strong profits.

"This project is squarely aimed at the more affluent part of Sydney in terms of the local VIP," he said.

"There has never been a casino in the world built for what this casino is going to cost without slot machines ... we have taken a pretty bold view that we can make the project work."

He also said he hoped his late father, media tycoon Kerry Packer, would be happy for him saying that all sons crave their father's approval.

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