Despite a world wide recession and strong and vocal opposition against casinos and gambling in Australia, James Packer has pulled off a masterstroke by securing a win - win with his Melbourne based Crown Casino and Melbourne's Victorian government. The late, great, Kerry Packer would be proud.
The timing is excellent for Packer and his Crown empire which is expanding in Australia, Asia Pacific, and specifically Macau and its well publicised City Of Dreams.
It's a win - win - win, at least from the sides of Packer and the state government. Crown furthers its expansion and capacity in the casino, hotel, resort, entertainment sector, and readies itself for expanded world wide poker events, Crown investors and bean counters are happy, the state government guarantees itself a healthy tax revenue from Crown, said to be worth up to $60 million.
In addition it's more revenue and exposure for the Victorian and Australian tourism market.
Packer was recently spotted chatting with Virgin's Richard Branson who has long enjoyed ties to the Australian business market and considers Australia somewhat of a home away from home. One may speculate if Virgin Atlantic, V Australia and Packer's Crown may be in the mist of negotiations to fly casino whales around to the world's premier hotels and casinos. Branson explored a bricks and mortal casino deal in Macau a number of years ago however it never transpired, but has since ramped up the Virgin Games operation and made further inroads in Australia with the Australian Grand Prix and Virgin Active gyms to name but a few. It remains no secret that Crown and the rest of the Packer empire has vast experience and resources to secure many of the world's top entertainment acts. Crown was of course recently host to the 2009 TV Week Logie Awards.
Crown's recent deal with the Victorian government has raised the ire of anti gaming campaigners such as Rev Tim Costello and Dr Zirnsak, with comments being bandied around such as "cosy deal", "appalling", "vulnerable public", "buy off" and "in bed".
Up north in Sydney, Tabcorp's Star City Casino will be watching closely, as it looks to make the most of its $475 million dollar investment into its casino, recently host to an ACP Publishing's Ralph swimsuit fashion competition.
It will be interesting to see how both the casino giants, state and federal governments play their cards as the casinos ramp up in what is shaping up to be the worst recession of the modern era.
Casinos are not merely casinos, but are as much a part of the entertainment and big business sector as much as anything else. Everyone is competing for the entertainment dollar and tourism dollar. These developments come at a time which Australia is attempting to hold off the worst of the world's financial markets collapse, much of which has a trail back to New York's Wall Street, with shades of Gibraltar, and involvement of the once generous banking institutions in the US. In the meantime Las Vegas is almost giving away beds in 5 star accommodation packages to bring in the punters.
Packer is also expanding his Seek.com, Perisher Blue - CPL resort project, but is not pursuing a rumoured Wikipedia.com project. Betfair, once very closely linked to Packer is said to remain on the ACMA's blacklist, despite holding numerous gaming and operating licences. Betfair is in heated discussions with the Dutch government and insiders advise they are likely to fully explore their legal options against the Australian Federal Government. You can bet that both PartyGaming and Harrah's Entertainment will be watching Crown's and Tabcorp's dealings with the state and federal governments, as will Team Schwarzenegger in California.
Australian casinos have bought themselves some breathing space whilst many leading financial analysts are saying that the worst of the recession is now over, at least from a casino owner - operators perspective.
Anti gaming activists up in arms over Crown Casino - Victorian Government deal
The "Health Benefit Levy", now at $4333 per electronic gaming machine per year, will be abolished from July 2012.
Australian casinos using somewhat different tactics to Las Vegas to hold off the worst of world wide recession
Crown Casino to get 150 new tables and up to 200 terminals for fully-automated multi-station table games
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