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Crown gains Labor support for Sydney casino; Sportsbet deadbeat skips court

TAGs: Australia, Crown Ltd., david walsh, Eddie Hayson, James Packer, punters club, Sydney

crown-sydney-casino-sportsbetHe’ll have to wait until 2019 to open it, but it looks like Crown Ltd. boss James Packer will realize his dream of having a casino in Sydney, Australia. Packer has long desired to build a $1b hotel-casino in the Barangaroo redevelopment in Sydney Harbor, but rival operator Echo Entertainment’s Star Casino holds a monopoly license on casinos in Sydney until 2019. Packer already had the support of New South Wales’ ruling Liberal party and Premier Barry O’Farrell, but the opposition Labor party has now agreed to back Packer’s casino aspirations, subject to certain conditions.

Chief among these conditions is maintaining Echo’s monopoly until 2019 so as to avoid requiring the state to pay hefty compensation. Crown also won’t be able to install any video poker machines on the premises, but the focus of Crown’s new venue will be on the Asian VIP gambling market, and whales don’t play the pokies, so no big whoop. Labor also insisted on the development providing “a fair rate of return for the state,” which is sufficiently vague to allow room for haggling down the road.

The project is expected to be formally accepted by O’Farrell’s cabinet on Monday but will still face a lot of legislative i-dotting and t-crossing, and there is some grumbling that NSW should put the second casino license out for public tender lest it miss out on extra revenue that a bidding war could provide. But no tender would be required if Crown could demonstrate that its facility would offer a “unique service.”

Earlier this year, Packer had applied to increase Crown’s roughly 10% stake in Echo to 25%, reportedly for the purpose of installing enough friendly votes on Echo’s board to compel Echo to share its monopoly license via a joint venture with Crown. The Australian reported that newly installed Echo chairman John O’Neill admitted having a “preliminary” and “informal” discussion with Crown on a potential JV. However, Packer’s gambit was complicated after Asian gambling outfit Genting took its own stake in Echo with an idea toward entering into its own JV. Whether either party will now follow up on those share purchase applications remains to be seen.

ONE GAMBLER DEALS, ANOTHER DISAPPEARS
David Walsh, founder of Tasmania’s popular Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and member of the Punters Club mega-whale sports betting outfit, has reached a settlement on his $37m back-tax court fight with the Australian Tax Office (ATO). The ATO went after Walsh for years of unpaid taxes on his share of the Punters Club’s winnings, based on the ATO’s opinion that the Club was a business and thus the winnings represented taxable earnings. From the start, Walsh maintained that he was willing to pay taxes on his winnings going forward, but resented the ATO’s obsession with the past. Neither party has revealed the size of the check Walsh wrote to end the matter, but Walsh issued a statement saying the matter had been “completely resolved.”

Yet to be resolved is Aussie betting outfit Sportsbet’s case against Eddie Hayson, owner of the Stiletto brothel in Camperdown, a suburb of Sydney. Hayson ran up a $1.7m marker with Sportsbet and the two parties had worked out a deal for Hayson to pay it off via installments, with the understanding that the authorities would be involved if Hayson didn’t honor the agreement. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Hayson owes a further $1m to bookie Tom Waterhouse, but at least that debt is covered by caveats attached to Hayson’s properties. (Waterhouse gets the cathouse!) When Hayson failed to make his Sportsbet payments, a date was set this Tuesday in NSW Supreme Court, but Hayson failed to appear. It’s not known whether Hayson appeared Wednesday in a separate court hearing regarding a request for a restraining order made by Hayson’s ex-wife. Stay classy, Eddie…

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