The best option for Sydney is to not renew the Star casino licence in 2019 and certainly not to award Mr Packer a second licence. But in a world of Liberal-Labor Party practicalities that won’t happen. Mr Packer is seeking the award of a second casino licence gratis in 2019 when the Star licence expires. He has assembled a board of business heavies (Geoff Dixon, John Alexander, Chris Corrigan) to promote the case for a free handout and secured political support on both sides of politics by employing Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar and Helen Coonan to grease the necessary paths.
But it seems that even dumbo Barry O’Farrell is having second thoughts. He now leaves open the possibility of a competitive tender for a second licence unless Packer’s Crown makes a “satisfactory” offer. If you are going to have one of these awful casinos at least tender the damn thing. It is not the responsibility of State Governments to make the incredibly wealthy even wealthier.
Packer’s budget of $1 billion will not be recouped by targeting Chinese “high rollers”. The property development component of the project will be the major earner. Packer has a lot of talent on his side. I wonder how the State Government dumbos will emerge from considering “satisfactory offers” without the tax payers of NSW being fleeced.
Two updates: The regulations governing the requirement for a tender for use of the public land at Barangaroo were relaxed a few days after James Packer met Barry O’Farrell and a few days before Crown lodged a formal proposal. David Murray will review the proposal. Its a done deal and Packer will be handed out several hundred million dollars of benefits at the expense of the NSW taxpayer (here is a low end estimate of $120m). As Mike Carlton says – about the best you can hope for is that it has some limited architectural merit but looking at the crass, ugly Crown complex in Melbourne that seems difficult to forecast. (674)