Crown Barangaroo set to open by the end of March

By Mia Chapman Updated
Crown Barangaroo set to open by the end of March

The highly anticipated opening of Crown Resorts’ Sydney casino in Barangaroo is slated for March.

The Daily Telegraph reports that New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chairman Philip Crawford said Crown’s gambling floors would be open “before the end of March.”

“We are looking towards getting their gaming open on a conditional basis in this first quarter of the year,” he said.

Crown chief executive Steve McCann said: “We think we are getting close to announcing an opening date shortly.”

But it will be a different model with the emphasis on the full resort experience.

“We are no longer dealing with junkets, we will be looking to convert the typical high roller to a mass premium customer,” he said.

The news comes as welcome relief for Crown, which reported a $196 million half year loss in recent days.

Crown posts $196m half year loss

Crown’s result comes as Victoria is pressing ahead to become the first state to force gamblers to limit their losses on poker machines, but only at Crown’s Melbourne casino.

Steve McCann said the mandatory precommitment rule will be ineffective if not applied across the entire gaming industry.

His comments came as the group tumbled further in the red as it battled stop-start shutdowns and Australia’s border ban shutting out cashed-up Chinese gamblers and other high rollers.

“The objective of mandatory precommitment is to provide a more responsible gaming environment and also to reduce the risk of money laundering, and if that is confined to one destination then clearly it will divert that activity elsewhere,” McCann said.

The pokies loss rule was one of the raft of recommendations from the Victorian royal commission into Crown to tackle problem gambling following revelations the company facilitated money laundering and other organised crime and did not pay millions of dollars in taxes.

But Crown has almost 2700 poker machines, less than nine per cent of Victoria’s total.

“So from our perspective, it’s very important that it’s an industry-wide initiative,” McCann said.

He said it was difficult to gauge how the rule would affect Crown Melbourne’s earnings.

“We’re continuing to discuss with the government the way that the second tranche of legislation will be implemented,” he said.

“They’ve asked for input and consultation from various parties. So that’s work in progress.”

Crown, which has agreed to sell its casinos in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth to US private equity giant Blackstone for $8.9 billion, is yet to reinstate its dividend after suspending it mid last year.

CEO bullish about Crown’s prospects

But McCann is confident the group has “turned a corner” after being battered by forced government shutdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19 and losing all its international VIP revenue from international border closures.

With Australia set to fully re-open to overseas tourists in late February, McCann is optimistic about the return of cashed-up gamblers.

But it will take time to rebuild its VIP business after it ditched junket operators amid NSW’s explosive Bergin inquiry.

“The VIP business will be a different business to what it has been historically given we are no longer dealing with junkets,” McCann said.

“We will be looking to convert the typical high-roller customer to a mass premium customer. That will take some ramping up and we’ll be doing that on a staged basis.

“Obviously, from the time that borders open, we expect to have significant inbound inquiries from some of our international customers.”

Crown’s overall half-year loss deepened 62.4 per cent to $196.3 million.

The company also paid $20 million of a $125 million class action settlement, which is subject to Federal Court approval, during the period.

Meanwhile, revenue jumped 34 per cent to $778.6 million.

Crown’s new $2.2 billion casino in Barangaroo is yet to open its gaming floors as the company continues to work with the regulator to regain its suitability to hold a NSW casino licence.

Jarden analyst Ben Brownette said while Crown Melbourne delivered a “very strong revenue result”, almost tripling to $265 million, it was offset by higher-than-expected closure costs, which totalled $94.5 million.

This limited earnings gains, with Crown Melbournre porting a loss of $79.6 million, versus $87.8 million in the previous corresponding period.

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