UPDATE 12.00pm James Packer’s push for a six-star hotel and VIP gaming resort at Sydney’s Barangaroo has moved to the second stage of the state government’s “unsolicited proposals” process, in what his company Crown describes as “a major step forward".
A day after media reports that the NSW cabinet would soon give its backing to Crown’s plan for a second casino in Sydney, Premier Barry O’Farrell confirmed today it had been assessed and advanced to the next stage.
Crown and the Government will now work on the development and assessment of a more detailed casino plan.
If that is approved, the $1 billion development will then pass to a third stage involving the negotiation of a final binding offer.
Parliament would also have to approve legislative change to allow a second casino licence - a step that would certainly occur because the Labor opposition supports the Packer proposal.
Mr O’Farrell said the Government would honour the exclusive licence held by Star Casino owner Echo Entertainment, which expires in 2019.
He also gave assurances that the Government would not permit poker machines to be part of a Crown development at Barangaroo, saying the casino facilities would be limited to an invitation-only high rollers’ room.
"It is about trying to ensure that Sydney attracts investment, it is about trying to ensure we get value for money for taxpayers, it’s about the creation of jobs, it’s about growing the tourism sector,” Mr O’Farrell told reporters in Sydney.
"What they’re talking about is something like 1300 jobs during the construction phase, around 1200 jobs when operational. When fully operational it could inject more than $300 million a year into the State’s economy."
Mr O’Farrell denied it was now inevitable that Sydney would get a second casino.
"It is a three-stage process. At the end of each stage, including the third stage, the government if it is not satisfied with the proposal is able to red-card it, not green-light it,” Mr O’Farrell said.
Crown chief executive Rowen Craigie said moving to the next stage of the unsolicited proposals process was “a major step forward for this exciting project".
"No other organisation can deliver this unique project at Barangaroo,” Mr Craigie said.
"A six-star hotel resort on the waterfront at Barangaroo will assist Sydney to compete with the best cities in the world for international tourists and for major conferences and events."
Echo chairman John O’Neill told his company’s AGM there was no point worrying about the possibility of Crown getting a casino licence after The Star’s monopoly expires in 2019.
"Truthfully, in the next seven years anything could happen,” he told shareholders on the Gold Coast.
"We’re not going to spend a lot of time worrying about what may happen in 2019."
Mr O’Farrell said he disagreed with former prime minister Paul Keating, who said the Crown hotel should be be built over the harbour as originally intended.
Lend Lease relocated the proposed hotel back on land after lobbying from the Premier.
"Whilst I find myself agreeing with Paul Keating on many things ... I think that would be a terrible precedent given the harbour is one of the greatest assets and attributes this city has,” Mr O’Farrell said.
However, Mr O’Farrell supported Mr Keating’s view that the Crown hotel should be an iconic Sydney landmark.“It would be good if this proposal does proceed for it to be an iconic building, for it to be a stunner,” he said.
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