Echo to bulk up Star casino ahead of Crown threat


Echo to bulk up Star casino ahead of Crown threat, By Perry Williams - 25th May 2015

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Greg Hawkins, managing director of Echo Entertainment's The Star, says the casino's hotels are running at 90 per cent capacity. Photo: Christopher Pearce


Echo Entertainment is developing a masterplan to add new hotel rooms and expand its gaming offering at The Star casino in Sydney ahead of the opening of James Packer's $2 billion Crown Resorts development at Barangaroo in 2019.

The Star managing director Greg Hawkins, who was poached from his role running Crown's Melbourne casino last year, said the casino was studying how to increase its hotel offering in the next five years in a bid to gain greater customer loyalty.

The Star has just 650 rooms compared with more than 1600 rooms at Crown Melbourne and Mr Hawkins said there was momentum to boost its offering.

"By many benchmarks of comparison, our total room base of 650 is low," Mr Hawkins said. "I think we can build the number of hotel rooms within an appropriately presented vision for the property and we are working our way through that with various authorities."

Mr Hawkins said no decision had been made on whether a new hotel might be created within The Star property or whether additional rooms could be added on its existing Astral Tower or Darling hotels.

"It's still early days of thinking that through," said Mr Hawkins. "But having more customers based on site is what these integrated resorts are all about so we are able to drive utilisation of our non-gaming and gaming amenities. Our hotels here are run at about 90 per cent capacity so they're full, but the more people we can drive from a domestic perspective to stay at the property is important."

Capital works

Mr Packer's Crown has won the right to operate a high-end casino at the Barangaroo development precinct on the western edge of Sydney's central business district from November 2019, which is when the exclusivity period on Echo's licence runs out.

In response The Star is spending $500 million in capital works over the next five years in addition to a recently completed $870 million refurbishment.

New private gaming rooms have recently opened on Level 17 of The Star while new food and beverage outlets will also be developed.

Mr Hawkins said while The Star is capped on the number of poker machines it can offer, it can install as many gaming tables as the gaming floor allows.

"We're not capped on manual table games or multi-terminal gaming machines so they present expansionary opportunities for us," Mr Hawkins said. "We're certainly looking at further development of the casino floor here to reflect the optimisation of gaming as well."

The Crown Sydney resort will be permitted to have unlimited "multi-terminal gaming machines" – or fully automated table games without a croupier, with minimum bets of $20 for blackjack, $25 for roulette and $30 for baccarat.

The Star is also working with its junket operators to lure a greater share of VIPs to its harbour-front casino. It recently bought a 100 foot boat to attract more high rollers while earlier this year it spent $50 million on a new private jet to bring in valuable gamblers from around Asia.

(The Sydney Morning Herald)