James Packer Earns License for Sydney Casino

Posted on: July 14, 2014, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: July 13, 2014, 11:13h.

James Packer has received r egulatory approvals for his Barangaroo casino project in Sydney.
James Packer’s Sydney casino is scheduled to open in late 2019. (Image: forbes.com)

There really wasn’t any drama left in the process, but Australian casino magnate James Packer is be breathing a sigh of relief. That’s because the NSW government has finally made the official decision to allow a VIP casino to be built and operated in Sydney, a move they hope will lure big-time gamblers away from Macau and to Australia’s shores.

The New South Wales (NSW) government has approved a license for Packer’s casino, as regulators have signed off on the proposed high rollers casino in Barangaroo. Packer’s company, Crown Resorts, was given five business days to pay the A$100 million ($94 million) licensing fee to the state government.

Packer Passes Probity Check

The decision came down after what is known as a probity check into Packer and Crown. The investigation was conducted by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, and determined that Packer and his associates were of “good repute having regard to character, honesty and integrity.”

The move makes official what has long been expected: the monopoly on casino gambling in Sydney that has long been held by Echo Entertainment will be coming to an end. However, The Star will still have another five years as the only game in town, as the new Crown establishment won’t be opening until November 2019.

License Restricts Gaming Activities

The Barangaroo construction site is already active, as Crown is expecting to build a A$2 billion ($1.88 billion) complex that will include residential properties, a six-star hotel, and the casino itself. The casino will be limited by its “restricted gaming license,” which does not allow for slot machines, but will permit as many table games as the venue wants to spread. According to Packer, the casino will have high minimums to ensure it is a specialty casino that doesn’t directly compete with The Star.

The regulatory investigation looked into Crown’s financial viability, as well as the background of its key employees to ensure that it “remains free from criminal influence, exploitation and undesirable or unsatisfactory financial sources.” The investigation looked at both domestic activity and Crown’s investments overseas, but found nothing to prevent the Packer project from moving forward.

One potential issue didn’t seem to make an impact on the regulators. In May, Packer engaged in a public street fight with long-time friend David Gyngell in the Sydney suburb of Bondi. The brawl between Packer and Gyngell, the head of the Nine Network television station, came after Packer demanded Gyngell remove a news truck from outside Packer’s home there. Some thought the public spectacle could harm Crown’s chances of being licensed by the NSW government, but it apparently wasn’t a factor.

The NSW government will collect a minimum of $1 billion from licensing fees and gaming taxes over the first 15 years of the new casino’s operation. Most gambling revenue from the casino will be taxed at 29 percent, while revenues from international VIPs will be taxed at just 10 percent.

Crown Resorts currently owns and operates two casinos in Australia: one in Melbourne, and another in Perth. The firm also owns interests in casinos in Macau, the UK, Sri Lank and the United States.