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Can Australian Casinos Truly Make Inroads into Asia?

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James Packer is planning to build a casino that will make Sydney a top destination for Asian high-rollers.

Australian casinos have come up with what they believe is a sure strategy for success: targeting high-rollers. With so many big spenders in the world of gambling, casino mogul James Packer is planning on investing $1.5 billion in building a new casino in Sydney, aimed at Asia’s richest.

The New South Wales government has already announced its support for the project, which is supposed to be carried out under the Crown Limited brand. The casino will offer VIP gambling only and no slot machines and is expected to start operating by November 2019 in one of Sydney’s finest locations: by the beautiful harbor area.

Will the plan work? The local authorities seem to think so. If it does, the new VIP-only casino will bring significant profits for both the state and the investors.

Hunting whales

In casino slang, high-rollers are called “whales”. The list contains up to 500 names, but these players prefer to stay away from the media and keep a low profile, so you’ll rarely read about them in world gambling news. They are among the world’s richest people and they are all big spenders. It is said that 80% of them are Asians.

With instant credit lines of $1 million to $5 million, they spend amounts of money inconceivable for regular players. And naturally, since they are VIPs, they get the appropriate treatment, from USA Visas to private jets, luxurious hotel suites, personal chefs, excellent food and drinks, expensive gifts and impeccable service.

It is said that Baccarat is their favorite game, followed by Blackjack, roulette and craps, but no matter what they choose to play, the casino is also risking a lot when accepting a bets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A single win for a high-roller can take a big chunk of the casino’s total profits, but the amounts of money spent here will bring significant revenues for the Australian state.

“We believe that Crown Sydney will help attract Asian high net worth travelers to Sydney, in particular from China, creating economic growth, extra taxes and over 1,200 jobs for the people of New South Wales,” James Packer promised.

Billion-dollar revenues

With the impressive profits to be made, the authorities are eager to help Packer’s dream come true. At the end of last year, lawmakers announced they were introducing new Australian gambling laws into parliament, to gain official approval from the luxurious casino and six-star hotel planned by Crown.

The world’s biggest high-rollers are:
 
•James Packer’s father, Kerry Packer

Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian multibillionaire

The Sultan of Brunei, the world’s richest royal

“We support this proposal because of its economic benefits to New South Wales,” Premier Barry O’Farrell stated. “What Crown is guaranteeing is a minimum of a billion dollars (revenue to the government) over the first 15 years in operation. But their business case model suggests that figure will be far higher.”

In addition, it is expected that 1,300 jobs will be created during the construction of the casino and hotel. Another 1,200 people would be working at the venue, once it opens. The project also needs the support of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Competition coming from behind

Packer already owns the biggest casino in Australia, but the VIP resort is expected to be the jewel in his Crown. However, other investors also have their eyes on the Australian gambling market, fully aware that it has great potential to attract Asian players.

Chinese billionaire Tony Fung, son of one of the founders of Sun Hung Kai & Co, announced his plans to invest AUD 4.2 billion into an integrated resort and casino in Cairns. The venue would be close to the Great Barrier Reef and would help the tourism industry grow.

Procedures to get the government’s approval for The Aquis Resort have already begun. The project is large and complex and the authorities asked the developer to prepare an environmental statement. If the project is approved, this will be the state’s biggest casino.

The Aquis Resort would have some 1,500 slot machines, 750 gambling tables, a 25,000-seat stadium for sports and entertainment events, two 2,500-seat theaters, the world’s largest aquarium, as well as a 3,500 square meter area for retail shops. While this project isn’t targeted solely at high-rollers, like Packer’s project, it will surely tempt some of Crown’s Asian customers.

Already a top gambling location, Australia is looking at further growth in the future. Bringing in Asia’s biggest spenders will surely help the country keep its title as Gambling Capital of the World.

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