CRIT­ICS WARN OF CASINO GAM­BLE

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - MARTY SILK MELISSA GRANT

THE State Gov­ern­ment is gam­bling on a new Bris­bane casino and re­sort boost­ing the econ­omy, but crit­ics warn it is chas­ing fool’s gold.

The Gov­ern­ment is spruik­ing the “trans­for­ma­tional” Queen’s Wharf pro­ject, awarded to the Des­ti­na­tion Bris­bane Con­sor­tium – led by Echo En­ter­tain­ment and in­clud­ing Hong Kong- owned Far East Con­sor­tium ( Aus­tralia) and Chow Tai Fook En­ter­prises.

The pro­ject, be­lieved to cost $ 2 bil­lion- plus, in­cludes a casino, five ho­tels, three residential tow­ers, 50 bars and restau­rants, a grand ball­room and a cin­ema.

Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk says it will be an iconic de­vel­op­ment and at­tract mil­lions of tourists an­nu­ally. “The flow- on ef­fects will be felt for decades to come,” she said.

Echo En­ter­tain­ment chief ex­ec­u­tive Matt Bekier also pre­dicted the pro­ject her­alded an Aus­tralian tourism boom. He said Queen’s Wharf would trans­form the in­dus­try.

“This is go­ing to be the next min­ing boom,” Mr Bekier said. “If we look in Asia in terms of the as­pi­ra­tion of where peo­ple want to go to, Aus­tralia stands out as No. 1 in terms of as­pi­ra­tion and de­sire to go to.

“But we’re about No. 14 of the places they ac­tu­ally go to. There’s a huge op­por­tu­nity.”

Echo plans to re­lo­cate its head­quar­ters to Bris­bane to over­see the pro­ject, tipped to cre­ate about 3000 con­struc­tion jobs and 8000 con­tin­u­ing jobs when it is built.

How­ever, prom­i­nent antigam­bling cam­paigner Sen­a­tor Nick Xenophon said the con­struc­tion phase would pro­vide a sugar hit for the econ­omy, but the casino would leave a sour taste.

Queens­land’s ex­ist­ing four casi­nos – in Bris­bane, the Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns – have failed to spur eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and in­stead en­cour- aged gam­bling ad­dic­tion, Sen­a­tor Xenophon said.

“Hav­ing a state de­vel­op­ment model based on gam­bling is chas­ing fool’s gold,” he said. “There’s no ques­tion that this pro­ject will lead to more ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing by other gam­bling venues try­ing to com­pete with it.

“This is a clas­sic case of the public in­ter­est los­ing out to the cor­po­rate in­ter­est.”

The Aus­tralian Fam­ily As­so­ci­a­tion also ques­tioned the need for the casino, even if it of­fered dis­counted din­ing.

“They will say it cre­ates em­ploy­ment and it has cheap good food, but I see that as a lure for some­thing that’s so­cially neg­a­tive,” na­tional spokes­woman for the as­so­ci­a­tion Terri Kelle­her said.

Queens­land’s Gov­ern­ment has clearly avoided us­ing the cword when re­fer­ring to the precinct. The word was used once in a 400- word news re­lease yesterday an­nounc­ing the pro­ject had been awarded.

The casino was not even men­tioned in a list of key high­lights of the pro­posal.

FOOL’S PAR­ADISE? Artist im­ages of the Queen’s Wharf pro­ject in Bris­bane, which has been panned by anti- gam­bling cam­paign­ers.

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