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Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney Calls for Decorum between Crown and Echo

Thu, Jul 18, 3:41am by Kevin Pitstock

Sydney, Australia MapDue to the animosity caused by the rivalry over the recent Sydney casino proposals, Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has called for Australia’s two biggest casino companies to conduct their business with more respect for the process. The deputy premier spoke about the need for civility during a hearing of government officials.

Since a new battle over a possible casino resort in Brisbane appears to be on the horizon, Crown Limited and Echo Entertainment have been locked in a public relations battle through the Australian media. Those who followed the last showdown between the rival companies will be familiar with the rhetoric.

George and William Street Casino Project

In recent months, Echo has begun trying to secure approval for a new casino development on George and William Street, a proposed gaming venue and resort which would lock out Crown from building on the spot. This is probably a good thought, if Echo wants to avoid in Brisbane a repeat of what happened in Sydney.

For his part, Crown Ltd’s chief executive officer, Rowen Craigie, has been in Brisbane trying to lobby city and state officials on the need for them to install a duopoly. Crown would like to place a rival to Echo’s Treasury Casino at George & William Street, while building a second gaming venue on the Gold Coast to offset Echo’s establishments there.

James Packer Calls Opponents a Disgrace

Meanwhile, Crown’s chairman James Packer spoke to Queensland’s journalists and called Echo’s casinos in Queensland a “disgrace”. This seems to have drawn Jeff Seeney’s disdain, as Packer’s comments appear to be the main reason Deputy Premier Seeney has called for both sides to stop insulting one another in the papers.

Jeff Seeney Speaks Out

During a budget estimates hearing on Tuesday, Jeff Seeney said, “The casino operators have no need to be taking shots at each other in the public, in the media as we have seen.”

Deputy Premier Seeney went on to say, “We are very much at the beginning of a very long process. Nothing is possible until the 1 William Street is completed and that’s 2016 at the earliest.”

This might be an indication Queensland has a different take on the process than NSW. One thing which is different is Queensland’s indecision whether the William Street real estate’s best use would be a casino property at all.

Otherwise, the discussion between the two sides has centred on many of the same issues the debate in New South Wales centred upon. Echo Entertainment’s representatives have said that Queensland doesn’t need a third casino, and certainly not a fourth one. Crown Limited has countered that Queensland would do better with a duopoly than a monopoly, because the spirit of competition would raise the quality of gaming and provide more revenues for the state.

Pleasing Asian VIP Gamblers

As in the Sydney debate, the prospect of luring the lucrative Asian gambling community to Brisbane and the Gold Coast looms large. Australia currently collects about 1% of the total revenue from Chinese high rollers who travel abroad to gamble. Australian gambling operators argue that brand new, 21st century casinos are what’s needed to bring in the VIP gamblers from China. With these venues, that percentage should rise significantly.

James Packer has been most vocal in putting forth that opinion. Packer’s newest invective for the Queensland debate is his “disgust” with Echo’s casinos in Queensland, which are a bit novel. He claims Echo hasn’t properly invested in their properties, so they offer a sub-standard casino experience.

The implication is Echo doesn’t deserve a second casino in Brisbane, as they won’t be motivated to make improvements in the product if they get one. Whether those arguments carry as much weight in Queensland as in New South Wales is still uncertain. In the end, the decision is likely to come down to money.

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