In a speech to the Sydney Business Chamber this afternoon, Echo Entertainment boss John Redmond has hit back at Crown, ramping up the battle for the city’s sole casino license.
Redmond told the audience Packer’s proposed development on the Sydney waterfront at Barrangaroo “simply does not offer the scale and diversity of attraction required to draw the Chinese middle class in large volumes as he has claimed.”
As Crown’s plans for the development change so often, Redmond also said simply keeping track of their proposal required a certain “mental dexterity,” and while Packer claimed it was an integrated resort, it was simply a casino.
“Originally it was announced as a boutique VIP gaming facility to support a six-star hotel,” he said. “Now the hotel is only a small part of the project.”
With only 350 rooms, “it [Packer’s proposal] simply cannot have an impact on tourism – no matter how tall it is or how many luxury apartments it accommodates.”
He said Packer’s plans for Crown Sydney had gone from a boutique VIP facility to a casino tower “on steriods”.
“Now, let’s be clear … I like casinos, but do Sydneysiders really know what they might be signing up for? It amazes me as a newcomer to this city that there has been no public response or discussion,” he said.
It was the first time Redmond has spoken publically since Packer sold a 10% stake in Echo last Thursday, brokered by UBS AG, sending the share price down 12% to an all-time low of $3.03.
Packer, who had only just won approval from gaming regulators in New South Wales and Queensland to increase the stake he held in the rival company, said in a statement he offloaded the holding to concentrate on his plans for Crown Sydney.
“Our objective and our ambition is to build the world’s best six-star hotel resort on Sydney Harbour. We are working as hard as we can to make this goal a reality,” Packer said.
An Echo Entertainment source with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider after the speech it was the first “major salvo” fired at Crown by Echo’s new chief executive.
“It is the first time he has spoken out against them,” he said.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has said there can only be one casino license for Sydney, with Former Future Fund chairman David Murray tasked with reviewing both operators’ submissions, with final proposals due with the NSW government on June 21.
Crown’s pitch has leaned heavily on the tourist dollars it could attract to Sydney with a marque integrated resort and gaming complex.
There has been little detail on Echo’s plans, other than a commitment to invest heavily Sydney. In today’s speech though, Redmond said Echo would not be asking for additional slot machines.
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