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Australia – The Star to expand to rival Barangaroo’s Chinese appeal

By - 4 January 2016

The head to head between Australia’s two biggest casino operators is intensifying once more in Sydney where existing operator Star Entertainment is hoping to build a 200-metre Ritz-Carlton hotel tower casino opposite Crown Resorts’ future Barangaroo resort.

Star is playing out the last three years of its exclusive casino licence with the 2019 deadline culminating in the launch of Crown’s high-roller resort on the opposite side of Darling Harbour.

Star has presented plans to tap into the same VIP Chinese market as Crown and is planning to partner with Hong Kong-based jewellery retailer Chow Tai Fook and Far East Consortium, the operator behind a casino resort in Eastern Russia. Both are in discussions with Star Entertainment to expand the Star Casino to a six-star integrated resort.

The three entities have already partnered for a joint venture to build a A$3bn casino and resort in Brisbane at Queens Wharf.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel is likely to be located at the northern end of The Star’s casino complex.

“We are in discussions with The Ritz-Carlton to progress branding of the proposed hotel tower,” a spokesman for The Star said. “We will have a Ritz-Carlton as part of the Queen’s Wharf Brisbane project and look forward to the prospect of a Ritz-Carlton in Sydney. The affluent Chinese middle class is on the rise and looking further afield. There’s an opportunity to capture some of that. In Sydney, occupancy rates at the high-end are at spillover capacity. There’s certainly demand that requires additional supply.”

Crown secured the opportunity of building Barangaroo with the sole aim of attracting high rolling Chinese gamblers. Star claimed it would have gone after the Chinese VIP spend with an upgrade to its Sydney casino and hotel complex, similarly to what it is doing in Brisbane, regardless of whether Crown had pressed ahead with its Barangaroo plans.

With 4m members, 1.4m VIP members, and a link with China Travel, which books holidays for 50m mainland Chinese tourists, Chow Tai Fook is seen as being the ideal partner to bring Chinese VIPs to Sydney.

The NSW government’s Department of Planning and Environment confirmed that The Star had asked for the environmental assessment measures needed to apply for the new hotel tower.

A spokesperson said: “The department is assessing this request. If it does receive an application, the department will thoroughly assess it as it would any hotel proposal, including a community consultation program and public exhibition period of concept plans.”

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres added: “The impact this hotel will have on jobs and opportunities for Sydney cannot be underestimated. We are the absolute envy of every other state.”

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