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Echo to beef up Star casino

Australia’s Echo Entertainment plans a revamp of its Star casino property in Sydney to meet expected competition from James Packer’s $2 billion development at Barangaroo in the city, the Australian Financial Review cited managing director Greg Hawkins as saying.

Packer’s six-star VIP-only resort is scheduled to open in 2019.

The Star plan will look at adding new hotel rooms to the current 650 keys and expanding the gaming offering. The company is spending $500 million on capital works on top of a recently completed $870 million refurbishment.

“By many benchmarks of comparison, our total room base of 650 is low,” Hawkins was quoted as saying. “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.”

He added that the hotels are running at about 90 percent capacity. While the casino is capped on the number of slots it can install, it can put as many tables on the casino floor as space will allow.

The report said The Star is also working with junkets to lure more VIPs and recently bought a 100-foot boat, while earlier this year it spent $50 million on a new private jet.

Meanwhile, New South Wales Planning Minister Rob Stokes last week ruled out an independent commission hearing on a controversial proposal to modify Packer’s Barangaroo development.

Stokes said he was confident that having the application examined by a new independent design advisory panel before it was sent to the commission for determination would provide adequate scrutiny.

Developer Lend Lease lodged the modification request, which calls for a 7.4 percent increase in gross floor area and a 275-metre height limit for the hotel and casino building, which is higher than the 170 metre limit in the original plan.

The City of Sydney Council has said the plan was such a major deviation from the original that a separate application is warranted and not just a modification request.

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