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