No Pokies For Barangaroo Just Yet

Written By Janice Doughtrey

The laughing Kookaburras kingfisher birds in New South Wales have even more to make noise about such that the woods are now echoing with tales of Crown casinos latest foray into Australian politics as the government has denied poker machines from making an appearance at any future casinos. Barangaroo (a high-profile suburb of Sydney) will remain a VIP casino aimed at getting the revenue incoming from high-rolling overseas customers who used to have a myriad of other options.

The Crown company is still one of the best in the business at “printing money” as a former chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority Chris Sidoti termed it. The Crown Resorts Limited organization pulls in a market capitalization which has been in the range of $7.5 billion over the past few years, but that has not been without controversy. 15 Crown staff in China were arrested to that governments crackdown on offshore gambling, and three of those facing charges are Australians. This was all due to the fact that in China gambling or the promotion thereof is still very illegal. That was bad news for the company and its shareholders in more than one way, but primarily it meant that Crown’s largest shareholder James Packer was feeling the loss as the company was no longer to attract overseas customers to that venue.

His net worth has seen a decline recently, but not enough to knock him out of the list of Australia’s 200 wealthiest, and James Packer wants to do everything in his power to reverse that lag. Poker machines would be a good investment decision if they would be allowed, but the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed that one of her earliest initiatives since taking over following the resignation of her predecessor is to insure that the policy is upheld. In her words: “The policy hasn’t changed — that’s a VIP room.”

VIP rooms in Australian casinos are not viable locations for “pokies” which is the slang word for video slots and poker machines that has held dominance since even the earliest days of Australian legalized gambling. With nearly 100,000 pokies within New South Wales alone, it makes that southeastern Australian state the brightest area on a heat map that enumerates the various gambling venues. Australian citizens who love gambling are for the most part highly drawn to these type of machines, and so there may still be a rebuttal in order for James Packer and his Crown Resorts retinue to try and open up more casino floor to these sought after machines.

That remains to be seen, but there is still a vicious debate over Crown’s $100 million dollar payment which allowed the company to get the necessary restricted license for its new casino in Barangaroo. Chris Sidoti, the chair of the gaming authority mentioned earlier, argues that any review before the license was delivered was “superficial” at best. Gladys Berejiklian respects his experienced opinion but argues otherwise, and the debate looks to continue well into the future.