A $1 billion private bid to build a second casino in Victoria, Australia on Geelong’s waterfront is being considered by the Andrews government.
According to The Age, casino developer John Haddad, who has been involved in the development of Wrest Point in Tasmania and Crown at Melbourne among others, has presented the idea for a casino through Victoria’s market-led proposal process, and Treasury and Gaming Minister staff are eyeing the idea. That revelation came on the heels of the Queensland and NSW government’s recent announcements of major casino development’s benefits to the fragile economy of Geelong. The waterfront’s close proximity to tourist attractions and the Avalon airport make it suitable for a new gambling mecca.
International visitors could be drawn to Geelong by an international “boutique” hotel and casino complex, according to Haddad, and while he confirmed that he had contacted the government, Haddad pointed out that the idea was in a very early stage. Community groups and anti-gaming campaigners concerned with the effects a major gaming venue would have on the city that is already dealing with unemployment and extreme disadvantage are expected to provide stern opposition to any plans for a second casino.
Gaming Minister Jane Garrett said “there are no plans for a casino in Geelong,” and “If a second casino was to ever to be built, there would have to be a huge amount of work done, a huge amount of community consultation, none of that is taking place. At this point it just so beyond hypothetical, it is such a thought bubble.” According to local media, Haddad has also discussed the casino idea with prominent Geelong businessman Frank Costa, but his daughter quickly put the notion to rest and said her father would not be interested in the casino idea.
The possibility of a second casino license could also undermine Crown Resorts’ current monopoly in Victoria, which could result in a collision between the Andrews government and billionaire owner James Packer. Premier Daniel Andrews agreed to honor a deal leftover from the former Napthine government, which extends Crown Melbourne’s license from 2033 to 2050 in return for an additional $910 million in taxes to be paid by Crown. However, the government refused Crown’s request for license exclusivity in Victoria. A 1991 law limited Victoria to one casino, but an amendment last year deemed Crown ineligible for damages if the government grants another person or entity other than Crown a license.