Singapore a test for Echo

Echo boss says firm has faced stronger-than-expected competition in Singapore, hopeful on new casino in Brisbane.

Echo Entertainment’s recently appointed boss says the company has faced stronger-than-expected competition from the Singapore gambling market, as it remains focused on targeting VIP customers in Sydney and hopeful of securing the rights to operate a new casino in Brisbane.

On Friday the casino operator’s chief executive, Matt Bekier, said at the Macquarie Group Australia conference in Sydney that Echo’s overall revenue for the March quarter increased 13.2 per cent, and April trade showed a similar trading trend.

Singapore had been vastly more successful than the company had anticipated. “I think we underestimated the depth of the Southeast Asian market that they have been able to tap into,” Bekier said. “I don’t think anyone knew how much latent demand there was.”

The company was responding to competition in Singapore the same way it was responding to competition in Macau, he said, and Echo had to have a competitive position with its product.

Singapore had a similar tax rate to Australia and the company needed to have a reasonable proposition to encourage the customer to fly six hours further.

Bekier said there had been good demand at The Star in Sydney in the premium market in the past two months, but it was an area where the company needed to do more.

“It’s the one area we have neglected in the past, and over the next few years, particularly with Barangaroo coming on, that is where we will channel our attention and our investment.”

Echo is competing against Crown for the licence to build a new casino in Brisbane and Bekier said the company was in talks with potential property groups to work in partnership.

An update from the government on the shortlist was expected next month, he said, with development proposals due by December.

Echo operates the Jupiters casinos in Townsville and the Gold Coast and The Star in Sydney, along with the Treasury Casino and Hotel in Brisbane.

Shares closed down 2c to $2.89.