Opposition politicians in New South Wales are getting antsy to learn more about the government’s position on Crown’s proposed luxury casino in Sydney, but Premier Barry O’Farrell says they will have to wait.
One key to the fate of the A$1 billion, six-star hotel and high-roller casino, which is planned for prime real estate at the Barangaroo commercial complex on Darling Harbour, is a Deloitte report that O’Farrell says will not be released until the government hears from an independent panel formed last year to assess the project and its economic potential.
The panel’s report was due at the end of April, at which point the government was to make a decision, the Liberal Party leader said.
“There is a process under way, arm’s length, independent of government,” he told reporters recently. “Whether that decides to proceed or not proceed, reports will be released after this point. But midway through that process we’re not going to be releasing documents that endanger that process.”
Meanwile, Echo Entertainment is asking for an extension of its Sydney casino monopoly, a request which if granted could deal a mortal blow to Crown’s plans to enter Australia’s largest city with a competing resort.
“Both of these proposals are going to be considered under the same process because both can’t proceed,” New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell told reporters in April.
Echo’s Star Casino in Pyrmont on Darling Harbour has six years left on its exclusive license. Crown, which operates casinos in Melbourne and Perth and owns 10 percent of Echo, wants to build a A$1 billion VIP-only casino with supporting facilities on the harbor at the Barangaroo development complex.
“The high-roller gaming market in the Asia-Pacific region is worth a lot of money, and if Echo wants to get into it more, if Crown wants to get into it more, that is fantastic for New South Wales,” O’Farrell said.
To sweeten its application, Echo is expected to play down the gaming element and focus its expansion proposal on non-casino attractions. This could include ruling out an increase in slot machines entirely, mirroring a strict condition that was placed on Crown Sydney from the state government and the Barangaroo Delivery Authority.
The premier forwarded Echo’s request to an independent panel currently assessing the Crown proposal in a process that opposition lawmakers say is lacking transparency and fundamentally flawed because it was never opened to competing bids.
“The O’Farrell government has dropped the ball when it comes to due process, and honesty, openness,” said Labor Party Leader John Robertson.
Greens MP John Kaye called the panel’s review a “farce.”
“The behind-closed-doors process has raised serious questions of the exercise of influence and the potential loss of revenue,” he said.
The panel’s reports on both proposals are expected to be submitted to the government by the end of May.