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Investor Plans Remake of Townsville Casino

Nov 12, 2014
Chris Morris will revive the Jupiters casino

Chris Morris will revive the Jupiters casino

Everyone was wondering why Chris Morris would buy a dying casino, but the businessman has big plans for the Jupiters in Townsville.

Founder of Computershare, Morris told reporters his dream was to create an exciting new package for all tourists to enjoy, and Jupiters will play an important role in his plan.

According to the latest gambling news
, he is looking to get more international tourists to come to the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree and the outback, by building a small resort complete with a gambling venue.

“Having the casino allows you the cash flow to do other things,” he explained.

Australian gambling companies have been targeting mostly Asian high-rollers and Echo Entertainment and Crown Resorts have even fought over a casino spot in Brisbane and a proposed $8 billion casino project in Cairns.

But Chris Morris is planning on focusing his attention and investing all his efforts in Townsville to draw more locals, not just foreign visitors. There are several direct flights to the regional centre and the businessman plans to take advantage of this.

Business Review Weekly: Why Rich Lister Chris Morris bought ‘worst-performing casino in Australia’

The Business Review Weekly has estimated Morris’ fortune at $700 million. The businessman built a reputation by working in the tech industry. He co-founded ASX-listed share registry business Computershare, but nowadays he’s focusing mostly on tourism.

His tourism and entertainment company, Colonial Leisure Group, owns 15 businesses, including a pubs, a brewery on Margaret River and the Daintree Eco Lodge located in north Queensland. With the Jupiters deal sealed, the total amount invested in Queensland over the past three years reaches $100 million.

In addition to these businesses and properties, Chris Morris recently bought an outback cattle station, Mount Mulligan, and owns Orpheus Island Resort plus a Queensland helicopter charter company.

While he opposes the idea of installing pokies in pubs, Morris says offering these gambling machines in casinos is okay, arguing that “people make a conscious decision to go to casinos.”

The Australian businessman doesn’t have much experience in the gambling industry, but he believes the Jupiters casino has “huge potential”, which is why he brought Brad Morgan on board, who recently ran SkyCity Entertainment’s Darwin casino.

The Australian: CLG pays $70m to snap up Jupiters

The private company owned by Chris Morris, the founder of Computershare, has offered $70 million to buy Echo Entertainment’s Jupiters Townsville casino. The deal was struck through ANZ Corporate Advisory.

The price of the casino equates to 10 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization for the previous financial year. The new buyer is looking to invest money in redeveloping the casino, to make it part of a large-scale integrated resort.

John Redmond, managing director at Echo, said: “Recent performance of Jupiters Townsville has been positive. However, given the scale of operations and the size of the local market, we saw more limited expansion opportunities, and therefore strategic fit, with the group’s other assets.”

The company would make an $8 million pre-tax profit on the $70 million sale.

A statement by Colonial Leisure Group added: “We are excited about the opportunities and synergies this acquisition represents. Combining our extensive expertise in hospitality management and ability to further invest, we will develop Jupiters Townsville Hotel and Casino into a leading regional resort, improving the operational and financial performance of the property.”

MyWealth News: International high rollers drive Echo’s earnings higher

According to a financial report released at the end of October, Echo Entertainment said it expects its normalized earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) to reach between $245 million and $260 million in the first half of the 2015 financial year. The figure reflects a 31% increase from the previous year.

The current financial year has already brought the company a revenue of $216 million, a 78% rise compared to the previous year within its international VIP rebate business, which was “breaking previous records” according to chief executive Matt Bekier. Between 2010 and 2013, Echo’s VIP business has expanded by 224%.

“The positive trading momentum generated in 2H FY14 continues to prevail. We are experiencing good demand in all properties, especially in domestic electronic gaming,” he said.

But Echo has bigger plans in Australia. Taking advantage of the country’s favorable gambling laws, the company recently submitted a proposal to develop a multi-billion dollar resort at Queen’s Wharf Brisbane. Echo was shortlisted for the location along with rival casino developer Crown Resorts.

“In terms of the Brisbane bid, we can’t yet disclose the details of what we are proposing to build, or the scale of the tourism, economic or job-creation benefits to Queensland,” Bekier said. “But let me assure you that we have put forward a responsible offer that delivers a truly iconic precinct.”

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New VIP Casino in Sydney Surrounded by Controversy

Oct 30, 2014
Crown Resorts and the New South Wales government hide info on Barangaroo VIP casino

Crown Resorts and the New South Wales government hide info on Barangaroo VIP casino

Australian newspapers say Crown Resorts and the New South Wales government are hiding information on the new Barangaroo VIP casino.

James Packer’s plan to build a high-roller casino in Barangaroo has received a lot of scrutiny. There was so much attention surrounding the project that everyone just assumed that all details of the agreement had been revealed, in a perfectly transparent approval process.

As it turns out, this is not entirely true. Word got out that both partners of the deal – the government of New South Wales and Crown Resorts – have been keeping important details away from the public eye, and now online gambling news outlets are raging over it.

The Barangaroo casino has received approval last year and is scheduled to open in November 2019. The venue is targeted exclusively at VIP customers and high-rollers.

Sydney Morning Herald: James Packer casino documents referred to committee after NSW government fights public release

The New South Wales government is refusing to reveal redacted information from an agreement with James Packer, regarding measures to combat organized crime and corruption at his new casino in Sydney. The question of whether the information should be made public was referred to a parliamentary committee, which will discuss the matter soon.

Greens MP John Kaye, who has been pushing for the public release of the information, said: “The Parliament has set up a secret committee to look at secret documents. The public is being kept in the dark about critical anti-corruption and organized crime penetration measures at the casino. Neither the public nor the Parliament can have an informed debate about the adequacy of these measures without knowing what they are.”

According to Labor leader Luke Foley, the opposition is in favor of releasing the documents. “The opposition has a bias in favor of public release of all relevant casino documents. When the expert arbiter recommends release, that confirms our view,” he said.

Packer’s company, Crown Resorts, was recently awarded a license to operate a VIP-only casino at Barangaroo, starting November 2019. Significant parts of the deal, the so-called “VIP gaming management agreement”, were kept hidden from the public eye.

After a motion by Kaye, MPs were allowed to see the full document, but they were forbidden from disclosing its contents. However, it was revealed that the deal between Crown and the gambling regulator talks about measures to prevent organized crime infiltration and corruption at the casino.

Casino.org: Packer Sydney Casino License Docs Kept Secret from Public

Newspapers say certain documents related Packer’s license for a new casino in Sydney were stamped secret by New South Wales’ gambling regulator, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

The documents in question relate to official agreements between Crown Resorts, the NSW government and the authority responsible for overseeing the local casino industry and making sure that companies abide by the state’s gambling laws.

Eight of these were particularly interesting, as they were referring to operations that were to be executed when the license was issued. In seven out of eight documents, the names of all those involved were revealed. However, one of them was fully censored. Even the title of the agreement was kept a secret, along with the names of all parties.

The regulator said it was only allowed to reveal information related to the Casino Control Act, and only if it’s in the public interest. The authority added that it was obligated to hide all information that could cause commercial damage, which is why it hid details in the eighth agreement.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “The information redacted in the VIP Gaming Management Agreement document would, in the view of the authority, not promote the objects of the relevant act and be commercially damaging to the licensee or related entities if released. It was the authority’s view the public interest in its disclosure did not outweigh that potential harm.”

The Greens are planning to subpoena the documents in the NSW Parliament next week. “If this is entirely innocent, then the government should be happy to allow upper house MPs to see the documents,” MP John Kaye said. “If not, then it’s clear that they are running cover for James Packer and Crown.”

Premier Mike Baird added: “There’s no secrets. I know the Greens like to talk about conspiracy and secrets but there is none, as much as they look.”

ABC: High Rollers – High Risk?

Law and security experts claim Australian casinos that target Asian VIP customers risk exposing themselves to organized crime. There is a lot of money to be made in the gambling industry, and a large part of profits come from regular players, but Australian casinos seek to attract more high-rollers, particularly gamblers from China.

Since casino games are illegal on the mainland, these players often choose to spend their money in places like Macau or Australia. They are usually brought to the casino by companies called junkets, which locate, transport and provide credit for gamblers.

Crown Resorts, the Australian casino operator led by James Packer, has recently won approval to develop a six star hotel and VIP gambling venue at Barangaroo, on the shores of Sydney Harbour. According to the media, there is evidence linking junket companies to organized crime syndicates, which is why locals fear Packer’s new business will expose the country to illegal operations.

A gambling expert told reporters that junket companies “turn to organized crime to enforce gambling debts, using violence or threats of violence. It looks like casino operators relying solely on VIP customers for its profits could be facing huge difficulties, leaving the government with a problem too.

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