Billionaires Shortlisted in Battle for Brisbane Six-Star Casino

Companies controlled by billionaires James Packer and Cheng Yu-tung have been shortlisted to develop a new casino resort in Brisbane, Australia, as the nation’s government pushes to lure Asian tourists amid an export slump.

Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd. and a venture including Cheng’s Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd. in Hong Kong have been picked to submit detailed proposals for the riverside site in the center of Brisbane, alongside Echo Entertainment Group Ltd. and an affiliate of Chinese property developer Greenland Holding Group Co., the state’s Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said in a statement posted on its website today.

With a shoreline longer than India’s that’s lapped by the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland is seeking to emulate the success of Singapore, where resorts owned by Genting Singapore Plc and Las Vegas Sands Corp. drew Asian tourists to raise about $5.2 billion in revenue in 2013.

Chinese and Hong Kong-based investors planning new casinos in Cairns and the Gold Coast valued at about $14 billion will also be allowed to submit detailed proposals, Seeney said yesterday.

In Brisbane, “we will be looking for the brightest and best proposal that delivers the greatest benefits to Queensland,” Seeney said in a statement. The government wants to “create an iconic new world city that draws increasing numbers of international tourists and businesses.”

Six-Star Hotels

The development will include six-star hotels, shops, restaurants, entertainment zones, convention facilities and public open spaces, Seeney said. The bidders will have to lodge fully developed proposals later this year, and a winning bidder will be picked in early 2015, he said.

Queensland is looking for new sources of state income amid a slump in prices for its largest export, coal. The state’s royalties from resource extraction will fall by A$324 million ($300 million) over the four years to June 2017, the government said last December.

Shares in Echo, which currently operates the only casinos in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, have climbed about 4 percent since Oct. 14, when Queensland said it may issue as many as three new licenses for gambling resorts. That’s trailed the 6.2 percent gain in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index over the period.

Competing bids from Lend Lease Group and Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd. were excluded from the running for the site at Queen’s Wharf on the Brisbane River. Echo already has a casino on part of the site, operating inside Queensland’s former state Treasury building with a lease expiring in 2070.

Aquis at the Great Barrier Reef Pty, controlled by Hong Kong investor Tony Fung, will be allowed to submit detailed plans for a new resort in the Great Barrier Reef gateway of Cairns, Seeney said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

A consortium led by Australian-listed Chinese investor ASF Group Ltd. will also be able to make a detailed proposal for a proposed casino and cruise ship terminal in the Gold Coast, where Echo currently has the only casino, Seeney said.

Crown is also building a A$1.3 billion casino and hotel complex on the shores of Sydney Harbour that will compete with Echo’s nearby site in that city.

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