Crown Casino and James Packer news

Crown Casino and James Packer News, by Greg Tingle - 9th May 2011

Australia's most successful gambling - media tycoon and billionaire, James Packer of Crown Casino fame is spending up big on casino revamps and is eyeing a number of internet companies down under. Media Man's Greg Tingle with the story...

James Packer Whacks Another $100 million Into Crown Casino Revamp...

Packer's Crown Ltd is set to disclose details of a $100 million expansion of its gambling operations at Melbourne's Crown Casino as it looks to take its business to the next level.

A Crown Casino powers that be boardroom meeting just last week is understood to have green lighted plans for a new gaming, food and drinking area at the west end of the casino.

The plans are understood to include a new casino targeted at a younger patrons, utilizing the additional gaming table licences made available to the casino after the state government's extension of its overall licence to operate in 2009.

Under the terms of that deal the government extended the number of tables permitted under Crown Melbourne's licence by 150, in exchange for a higher tax on electronic gaming machines.

Via the deal, Crown is paying $132m in extra taxes over four years to raise the number of gaming tables allowed at Crown to a health 500.

"This development will help broaden the appeal of the complex to the growing mass-market," a leak said.

The details of the new project, understood to be valued at about $90m, are expected to be announced in roughly one week.

Crown and its competitor Tabcorp Holdings, owner of Sydney's Star City and Jupiters Hotel and Casino on the Gold Coast, are spending billions on big revamps, with a focus on VIP's and the entertainment dollar.

Packer's Crown is investing more than $300m this year to refurbish the casino in Melbourne and the Burswood casino in Perth. It will invest another $700m in the next two years.

Between 2009 and 2013, it will have invested in excess of $1.5 billion on upgrades and the like.

JP, holding 43% in Crown Limited, advised Rupert Murdoch's The Australian newspaper last March that the investment would be a key focus of the business over the next two years. "To be honest, the cap-ex in Australia has been more expensive than any of us thought it would be. For the next couple of years getting our cap-ex program right in Australia and continuing to see the improvements we are seeing in Macau is the main priority. That cap-ex is vital to help Crown fend off growing competition at home and abroad."

Crown has opened private VIP gaming areas or "salons" and VIP "villas" in its Crown Towers hotel to help combat a drop in its high roller business after last year's opening of two competitor casinos opened in Singapore, the $4.4bn Resorts World Sentosa and $5.94bn Marina Bay Sands, both world class.

It is doubling the size of its premium gaming floor, the Mahogany Room. It has a big presence in the Chinese gaming enclave of Macau through a joint venture with Lawrence Ho's Melco.

Tabcorp is also investing in its Star City in 'Sin City' Sydney and has up and running its first personalised jet service for high rollers.

News of the latest spending comes as speculation continues that Packer may use some "creep laws" in the Corporations Act to boost his interest in Crown Ltd.

Last October, he spent in excess of $200m to increase his interest and has bought more shares since mid-April. "I was happy to increase my shareholding at that time," he said back in March of the October purchase. He was unsure if he would buy more.

James Packer And Late Father Kerry Packer Keen On Whale Hunting...

"Whales" are a special breed of gambler - very big fish. The late, great, Kerry Packer was one himself.

As one might imagine, it makes good sense to do your best for "whales", if your in the casino or larger gambling industry.

The Age newspaper out of Melbourne was lucky enough to get a gander at luxury gaming salons at JP's Crown Casino, and the team down there have done a fine job by all accounts.

The gambling tables have been crafted beautifully, yet are practical. They even boast an exhaust extraction system, allowing "whales" to puff away while gambling at full tilt, stacks of chips... the works.

The Fairfax Media publication went to print with a ripper yarn...

"Kerry rang me up and all I heard was a voice saying, 'What's wrong with the porn in this hotel?'," recalled the well-known Melbourne raconteur. "It's not the real stuff, it's the fake stuff."

Kerry was disappointed with the quality of the late-night programming - the porn. The employee tired hard to explain to the king of the whales that state laws prohibited the distribution of hard-core pornography, and that he would likely go to jail if he started screening it in the hotel. KP explained that his query was not for his own entertainment, of course, but for his high-rollers guests. "He said these high-rollers expect the best of everything." Yeah, porn included. We're not going to get into room service or black books here.

JP Eyes A 'Catch Of The Day' Online Venture...

Likable gambling and media billionaire James Packer looks about ready to buy almost half of the company behind mega popular coupon websites Catch Of The Day and Scoopon, as the tycoon ramps up with the view to penetrate a market sector estimated to make half-a-billion dollars in three years.

Packer is fully expected to announce the details of a deal to buy 40% in the red hot websites next week, reported the Fin Review.

The Aussie firm behind the websites, which Mr Packer’s offer values at $200 million - models itself on a US internet coupon service known as Groupon, which last year amazingly turned down a lucrative $6 billion takeover offer from internet giant Google.

The two websites Catch of the Day and Scoopon offer daily discounts on products or services, which become live after a number of people commit to buying it online.

The news comes a month after Packer’s private equity firm Ellerston Capital was rumoured to be in talks to buy discount e-tailer Deals Direct.

In a strong sign the online coupon biz is becoming red hot, analysts at telecommunications consulting outfit Telsyte at the time said group-buying websites were expected to make half-a-billion Australian dollars in revenue by 2014.

Packer is following the lead of venture capitalists across the globe, who are now cashing in big time via online start-ups at the fastest rate since the internet bubble burst more than a decade back.

In excess of $US5 billion ($4.7 billion) of investors’ money has been spent on internet companies so far this year, according to a study released by Thomson Reuters Deals Intelligence.

Don't leave this dotcom space as we continue to report the news on one of Australia's most liked and respected billionaires and his growing empire.

*The writer is a shareholder in Crown Limited


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