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Star CEO warns of investing in tourism hub

Wed, Jun 12, 12:36pm by Staff Writer

With the Star Entertainment Group set to shed 400 jobs from its three casinos, its head Matt Bekier is suggesting that investors should “think twice” before embarking on a Gold Coast Global Tourism Hub.

Mr Bekier said he could not comment specifically on the state government-instigated tourism hub process, but said that market conditions were challenging across the sector globally, The Bulletin reports.

“If anybody else was thinking about (investing in a casino) now, they’d probably have ot think twice,” he said.

His warning follows a less guarded letter from Star Queensland managing director Geoff Hogg to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Cabinet ministers last year, saying the proposal threatened Star’s $9 billion investment in southeast Queensland.

In it he referenced research by Macquarie that showed a second Gold Coast casino would have difficulty recouping an investment of more than $400 million and a ReachTell poll confirmed the majority of residents were overwhelmingly opposed to it.

Sites for hub remain a mystery

The Gold Coast Tourism Advisory Panel has been investigating a number of possible sites for a Global Tourism Hub, but those locations remain a guarded secret.

Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said the government had been shocked by the Star’s announcement, but planned to push ahead with its global tourism hub.

“Obviously my immediate thoughts are with the staff who are going to lose their jobs,” she said.

“I will reach out to The Star to have a meeting with them so we can beter understand what impact their financial position will have on their future plans for the Gold Coast.”

When asked if this would impact the progress of the Global Tourism Hub, Ms Jones said: “I think it’s important to remember that some of the major global entertainment companies have worldwide loyalty customers in the tens of millions.”

Caesars have 55 million loyalty members worldwide and target a different market to The Star, casino sources said.

“How can Gold Coasters trust them to build what they’ve promised,” a casino source said.

“This is just more proof that the Gold Coast needs an integrated resort – a global player that has the ready-made customer base to bring millions of international tourists to the Coast.”

The pane’s consultation finished on Monday and a report is expected in the coming weeks.

Chairman John Witheriff said he could not comment about the impact of The Star’s announcement on the viability of a global tourism hub but “certainly community feedback around that issue will be included” in the report.

Several Asian consortiums have registered their interest in building the second Gold Coast casino, while Caesars Entertainment and Hard Rock International have also shown interest.

As many as 12 bidders expected for GC licence

The Queensland government announced in March that it had resurrected plans for an integrated casino resort after the idea was abandoned ahead of the 2017 state election.

After months of speculation, Tourism Minister Kate Jones confirmed the government was calling for expressions of interest for the development, but that there was no preferred site.

Ms Jones said the Global Tourism Hub project would not involve an increase to the 7,500 poker machines licensed on the Gold Coast.

At present, The Australian reports that 600 licensed machines are not in use.

Ms Jones said the tender process should drive greater investment in Gold Coast tourism.

At least 11 potential sites have been identified by the government for the project, which is expected to have a strong entertainment emphasis.

There will be a limit of five per cent of the resort’s floor space being dedicated to gaming.

Ms Jones said the government would not be revealed the potential sites at this stage.

“We have had more than a dozen operations from around the world come forward saying they would like to have a look at what sites are suitable,” she said.

“We have confidence a competitive process offers a better outcome for the people of the Gold Coast,” she said.

“There is a possibility that just like Brisbane, (Star) will be the only operator if they can promise and deliver a true integrated resort with additional convention space, entertainment facilities, quality restaurants and cafes and bars” Ms Jones said.

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