Crown’s Sri Lanka casino told to move while Crown Melbourne gets new boss

TAGs: Australia, Crown Ltd., crown melbourne, James Packer, Sri Lanka, Sydney

crown-sri-lanka-casinoAustralian casino operator Crown Ltd.’s proposed resort-casino in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo has been told it needs to find somewhere else to stand. Leisure Lake Holdings, the joint venture of Crown and its local partner Rank Holdings, had planned to locate their Crown Complex gaming joint on a car park in Colombo’s new designated gaming zone. But the country’s Urban Development Authority (UDA) issued a letter two weeks ago advising Leisure Lake that it needed to choose an alternate location for ‘aesthetic’ reasons.

The contents of the letter were confirmed to the Sunday Times by Defense and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who said the proposed casino couldn’t be allowed to block the view of nearby Beira Lake. If Crown’s joint venture was dead set on building on their originally planned site, Secretary Rajapaksa suggested the project could be split into two towers to ensure the view was unobstructed. Rajapaksa said neither Crown nor Rank had to his knowledge responded to the letter, but insisted that any revised plans “must come to the UDA to approve. They haven’t come yet.”

While Crown’s domestic eye is increasingly focused on its proposed development in Sydney, owner James Packer has still found the time to shuffle his company’s executive ranks. Barry Felstead, who currently heads the Crown Perth operation, has been elevated to the newly created position of chief exec for Australian resorts. Felstead will report to Crown CEO Rowen Craigie and split his time between Perth and Crown Melbourne, as well as seeking to boost overall Australian VIP operations. Greg Hawkins, who had overseen Crown Melbourne for the past two years, has been let go, although his future may include serving Crown as a consultant.

Management isn’t the only Melbourne department that was given a shakeup. Around 100 staff have been given the sack, about half of them formerly occupying marketing positions. The axe fell following a review by Crown deputy chairman John Alexander, who himself was temporarily out of a job when Packer sold his Consolidated Media Holdings to News Corp a year ago. But Packer reassigned Alexander to the role of targeting Crown’s fatty bits for a good trimming.

Having already walked back previously stated expectations of lucrative tax returns to the NSW government, Crown is now seeking a relaxation of its Sydney casino’s environmental commitments. When its project was still vying with Echo for the casino rights, Crown had claimed its development would be a “world leader in sustainability.” Now Crown says a casino’s special lighting and air conditioning requirements shouldn’t have to adhere to the environmental standards expected of other buildings in the Barangaroo region.

O’Farrell’s government has yet to refuse Packer much of anything, and this case is no exception. A government spokesperson said the existing requirements were “not designed for casinos and therefore accommodations would be made.” Jeff Angel, executive director for green outfit Total Environment Center, argued that “sustainability should not be negotiable” and worried that Crown’s previous sustainability boasts had been little more than a “smokescreen.”

Speaking of, like Las Vegas Sands in Spain, Crown expects to be exempted from NSW’s indoor smoking prohibitions. Crown says the freedom to smoke ‘em if you got ‘em is necessary if the casino hoped to attract nicotine-loving high rollers from China. Tune in next week, when Packer asks to have the Sydney Opera House moved a foot to the left, and O’Farrell – unlike those uncooperative Sri Lankans – at least pauses a moment before agreeing.


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