WIN ON THE SLOTS

Star prom­ise no ex­tra pok­ies in spec­tac­u­lar new $2 bil­lion de­vel­op­ment

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - RYAN KEEN

THE boss of the Star En­ter­tain­ment Group says its pro­posed $2 bil­lion Broad­beach mas­ter­plan does not re­quire any more pok­ies added at the site.

Star CEO Matt Bekier, who re­vealed to the Bul­letin new artist im­pres­sions and de­tails of its seven-tower vi­sion, promised the ex­pan­sion plan would in­clude no re­quest to add to its 1600 pok­ies.

“I’m happy to put that stake in the ground,” he said.

“If you look at our ex­pan­sion plans they are re­ally fo­cused on the tourism busi­ness.

“We think this mar­ket has enough slot ma­chines and if those tourists gam­ble, they are mostly likely to play table games where we have spare ca­pac­ity. These plans are not con­tin­gent on ex­pan­sion of pok­ies.”

The com­mit­ment is a ma­jor line in the sand from The Star as de­bate heats up on the Gold Coast about whether the State Gov­ern­ment should green light an­other in­te­grated re­sort de­vel­op­ment and an as­so­ci­ated sec­ond casino li­cence.

THE boss of the Star En­ter­tain­ment Group says its pro­posed $2 bil­lion Broad­beach mas­ter­plan does not re­quire any more pok­ies added at the site.

Star CEO Matt Bekier, un­veil­ing ex­clu­sive new artist im­pres­sions and de­tails of its seven-tower vi­sion, promised the ex­pan­sion plan would in­clude no re­quest to add to its 1600 pok­ies.

“I’m happy to put that stake in the ground,” he told the Bul­letin. “If you look at our ex­pan­sion plans they are re­ally fo­cused on the tourism busi­ness.

“We think this mar­ket has enough slot ma­chines and if those tourists gam­ble, they are mostly likely to play table games where we have spare ca­pac­ity. These plans are not con­tin­gent on ex­pan­sion of pok­ies.”

The com­mit­ment is a ma­jor line in the sand from The Star as de­bate heats up on the Gold Coast about whether the State Gov­ern­ment should green light an­other in­te­grated re­sort de­vel­op­ment and an as­so­ci­ated sec­ond casino li­cence.

In to­tal, the city is al­ready home to 7500 poker ma­chines, with about 5900 at pubs, surf clubs and RSLs.

In­dus­try ex­perts believe the busi­ness case for any new large in­te­grated re­sort and as­so­ci­ated sec­ond casino would need to be an­chored by 2000 to 2500 pok­ies.

Un­der that sce­nario, Queensland’s Gov­ern­ment would face pres­sure to en­sure The Star had an even play­ing field with any ri­val, mean­ing its 1600 pok­ies could be al­lowed to in­crease 900 to 2500.

The Star is­land site at Broad­beach, where its orig­i­nal ho­tel and gam­ing com­plex was joined by The Dar­ling suite ho­tel two months ago, breaks new ground on a third tower in Au­gust.

It is dubbed Tower One.

The site mas­ter­plan, re­vealed by the Bul­letin in March, in­cludes four more pro­posed tow­ers – stand­ing 52, 54, 65 and 74 storeys.

The Star vi­sion in­cluded a “hero pool” fea­ture and five to six new food and bev­er­age op­tions with each new tower that goes up, Mr Bekier said.

Mr Bekier said the site would

WE THINK THIS MAR­KET HAS ENOUGH SLOT MA­CHINES ... THESE PLANS ARE NOT CON­TIN­GENT ON EX­PAN­SION OF POK­IES.

STAR CEO MATT BEKIER

also boast a qual­ity day spa in the fu­ture too.

“Not ev­ery tower will get its own spa but ev­ery one will have its own pool,” he said.

But Mr Bekier has pre­vi­ously in­di­cated the progress of the fi­nal four tow­ers – at a rate of about one ev­ery two years – de­pends on the com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment at the time.

Asked at the week­end what im­pact a new in­te­grated re­sort and ri­val sec­ond casino be­ing granted would mean for The Star’s am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion plans, Mr Bekier said: “The chal­lenge com­pet­i­tively if ad­di­tional slot ma­chines come in is it will just erode our base earn­ings and it makes it harder to in- vest in the tourism sec­tor.

“We know what the com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment is to­day, what pubs and clubs there are, what ho­tels are be­ing built and in that con­text we have com­mit­ted to build Tower One – for ev­ery­thing else in the fu­ture we need to have greater cer­tainty.”

The Gold Coast City Coun­cil voted to back the long-term pro­posal in March and it is now be­ing con­sid­ered by the State Gov­ern­ment, which has fi­nal say on the ex­pan­sion plans.

Queensland Tourism In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Kate Jones is about to em­bark on a scout­ing trip to Las Ve­gas and Ma­cau to meet po­ten­tial pro­po­nents of re­sort de­vel­op­ments.

It is likely she will meet gi­ants MGM Grand and Cae­sars En­ter­tain­ment to dis­cuss their pro­pos­als for a “global tourism hub” in Queensland.

The Bul­letin has al­ready re­vealed Cae­sars’ internatio­nal head of de­vel­op­ment has twice vis­ited the Gold Coast to in­spect op­por­tu­ni­ties for the global brand’s first Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion.

THE Star En­ter­tain­ment Group’s ‘no more pok­ies’ pledge raises an im­por­tant chal­lenge for our city.

The Gold Coast needs to ask it­self some big ques­tions about pok­ies, most press­ingly how many poker ma­chines or “slots” are enough and how many casi­nos are enough.

For a city with a pop­u­la­tion of 600,000 these are im­por­tant ques­tions to weigh up.

Un­like up the road in Bris­bane where the en­ter­tain­ment gi­ant’s $3 bil­lion Queens Wharf project is pro­ceed­ing, the Star has not yet paid a fee for a monopoly on the Gold Coast.

It must be said the com­pany’s pro­posed vi­sion for its Broad­beach site to be home even­tu­ally to seven tow­ers almost aims to be a de facto li­cence fee in that re­gard.

The quan­tum of money to be in­vested in the next 10 years (and it’s al­ready start­ing come Au­gust when the third tower’s first sod will be turned) is gi­gan­tic.

The as­so­ci­ated boost for the econ­omy will be gi­nor­mous also, and as Star CEO Matt Bekier points out, add to the ho­tel, food and bev­er­age of­fer­ing tourists crave.

Any city plan­ner’s key aims should be to foster com­pe­ti­tion but there are other fac­tors to con­sider in the loom­ing de­bate about the need for a sec­ond casino.

One key point is what would likely be the out­come on this city and its res­i­dents of hav­ing a sec­ond gam­ing hub.

Any ex­pert will tell you you need 2500 poker ma­chines to an­chor a sec­ond en­ter­tain­ment and ac­com­mo­da­tion re­sort busi­ness model. Bris­bane’s Queens Wharf project is pred­i­cated on it.

Some ar­gue the Gold Coast is al­ready at sat­u­ra­tion point with poker ma­chines.

Star would be well within its rights to pull back on its pro­posed long-term in­vest­ment if faced with hav­ing to stave off a ri­val. Equally, Star would be ex­pected to seek to raise its cur­rent 1610 poker ma­chines to a to­tal of 2500, were a ri­val to be granted that many ma­chines.

Mel­bourne has one casino, Syd­ney is the same. Is the Queensland Gov­ern­ment about to gam­ble with this city’s fu­ture?

Artist’s im­pres­sions of the pro­posed tow­ers and de­vel­op­ment at The Star Gold Coast is­land site at Broad­beach.

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