At the moment, there is only one true casino in New South Wales – The Star Sydney Casino & Hotel in Sydney.
However, there are plans to expand casino options, with a plan to add a second casino in Sydney having met with approval in 2012.
Here’s the inside scoop on casino options present and future in NSW.
NSW may not lead the nation in quantity of casinos, but there are few casinos in Australia that are as highly-regarded as The Star.
The Star Sydney Casino & Hotel is located in Pyrmont, Sydney, and is the second-largest casino in all of Australia (behind only the Crown Casino).
Originally opened in 1995, The Star recently received a 12-year extension to its license that extends through at least 2020. The casino overlooks Sydney Harbour, and recent renovations and expansion projects have recently been completed to both bolster the casino’s offerings and make the casino a true part of the harbour, including the addition of a beautiful entrance on the harbour side of the casino.
The Star provides a complete selection of gaming options to players. There are nearly 1,500 electronic gaming machines. This number mainly refers to pokies, but also included video poker as well as bingo and electronic roulette games. The exact selection of games is constantly changing, though the facility is limited to a maximum of 1,500 machines at any one time.
Plenty of table games are also available at The Star. Most of these are worldwide favourites, such as blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, and Three Card Poker. The Australian favourite Pontoon is also spread, as are Caribbean Stud and popular Asian games like Pai Gow and Sic Bo.
The Star poker room features 20 poker tables, as well as weekly poker tournaments along with more prestigious tournaments throughout the year. In many years, The Star has played host to an event on the Australia-New Zealand Poker Tour.
Gaming is handled on four different floors. The main gaming room is enough to suffice for most gamblers, featuring the full range of games at a variety of stakes levels; this is also where the poker room can be found. High rollers can be invited to the Sovereign Room, where stakes start at a minimum of $25 per bet and have maximums of up to $75,000. Even more exclusive is the Inner Sanctum, where table bets can get as high as a half-million dollars.
More recently, The Star has added a super-exclusive area above the Sovereign Room that is known as the Vermilion Room. According to reports, fewer than 100 players worldwide have been given access to this invitation-only VIP area. All of the high-roller areas include private gaming rooms and additional dining options.
If you’re looking to have a good time without placing a bet, The Star has plenty to offer to visitors – even those who never want to play a pokie. As part of the recent upgrades to the facilities, a new nightclub called Marquee opened in early 2012. If a nightclub isn’t quite your speed, you can also get a drink at one of nearly a dozen bars on the site.
For food, The Star has seven full restaurants along with several smaller venues, as well as the Garden Buffet, which is known for offering an all-you-can-eat prawn meal. For those saying overnight, the casino includes a small hotel with over 350 rooms.
While some of the bars will occasionally have live entertainment, the main draw is definitely the Lyric Theatre, which regularly hosts a variety of entertainers and musicals. For instance, 2012 saw performances of Legally Blonde and An Officer and a Gentleman, and the 2013 featured show was War Horse.
While The Star has an exclusivity agreement as part of their license, it appears as though Sydney will receive a second casino in the near future. The new casino, which would be built by James Packer and Crown, will be located in Barangaroo and will avoid exclusivity problems by featuring only table games – not pokies.
While details on the new casino are yet to come, it is clear that the vision for the new site is one of an exclusive resort for high-rollers. The site would feature a casino with a limited number of table games designed specifically for VIP players, as well as a six-star hotel, which would likely service both casino visitors and those seeking high-end accommodation in Sydney, which is very limited at present.
While the new casino will have to pass some legislative hurdles, it appears that both the government and the opposition are in favour of the plan, which should smooth the road for the Packer casino. Some have questioned why a second casino license wouldn’t go to public tender, suggesting that Packer’s wealth and power are allowing him to circumvent the normal procedure for building a new casino, while others question whether Sydney needs a second casino at all. However, with strong support across the aisle, it’s probably more a question of when Sydney gets a second casino rather than “if.”