Future of Sydney casino market unknown

Future of Sydney casino market unknown - 21st Feb 2013

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Casinos Australian Casinos Crown Limited Echo Entertainment Property Sydney

Casinos operator Echo Entertainment Group is unsure about how the Sydney casino market may develop as billionaire James Packer seeks a presence there.

Echo operates The Star casino in Sydney under the only casino licence in the city. The licence runs to 2093, with exclusivity to November 2019.

But billionaire James Packer's Crown, which operates casinos in Melbourne and Perth, wants to build a $1 billion six-star hotel and casino at the nearby Barangaroo site.

Echo has been subject to takeover speculation, given that Crown has a 10 per cent stake in Echo and sought permission from gaming regulators to lift its stake to as much as 25 per cent.

Echo chief executive John Redmond says is unable to speculate on whether Crown would end up competing with Echo in Sydney, become a joint-venture partner with Echo, or even end up owning Echo.

"Obviously, there is no way to predict the future," Mr Redmond told reporters on Thursday as Echo reported a 5.3 per cent fall in first half net profit to $66.5 million.

"So, to try to have any clarity on those issues is impossible.

"But, clearly, it stands to reason, as we have mentioned a couple of times in the past, there should be one licence in the Sydney market.

"And our licence has another 80 years to go, so whatever the plans are, they involve us (Echo), and beyond that we have no clarity."

Crown reports its half year financial results on Friday.