Australian Tourism Minister Wants to Build Gold Coast Casino Hub

Thursday, March 7th, 2019 | Written by April Bergman
Australian Tourism Minister Wants to Build Gold Coast Casino Hub

Despite years of controversy, the Queensland government has been asking casino companies to discuss their interest in building a second Gold Coast casino. Now it appears that the state government is getting more directly involved in the Gold Coast casino proposition.

Kate Jones, Queensland’s Minister of Innovation and Tourism, said her ministry is now conducting a “world-wide search” to determine the best casino proposal. Jones said she was to create a boost for the “tourism and entertainment” industry in or around Gold Coast, a city of around 650,000 people.

Due to its beaches, surfing, subtropical climate, and theme parks, Gold Coast is a major tourist destination along the southern coast of Queensland. Jupiters Casino & Hotel (Star Gold Coast) is one of the country’s largest gaming venues.

Jupiters Casino, owned by Star Entertainment Group division, a division of Tabcorp previously named Echo Entertainment, boasts 65,000 square feet of gaming space, 1600 machines, 78 table games, and a poker room. The resort also has a 594-room hotel, 11 restaurants, and 3 bars on the premises.

Crown Resorts Not Interested?

Despite the layout, the Queensland government has played around with the idea of building a rival to the Star Casino in the city. Like Star Entertainment’s casino operations in Brisbane and Sydney, many expected Crown Resorts would bid to place a competitor in Gold Coast.

Many residents believe Queensland has enough gaming venues. It has 6 land-based casinos, 7 dog tracks, and 131 horse tracks with wagering opportunities. While the racecourses and turf clubs’ gambling is restricted to pari-mutuel wagering and tote boards, the six casinos provide widespread casino gambling opportunities to generate revenue and lure gamblers.

Gold Coast’s Global Tourism Hub

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants to develop a Global Tourism Hub (GTH) similar to the properties in the MICE program (MICE: Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions). If Palaszczuk gets her way, the Gold Coast tourist hub would have several integrated casino-resorts in due time: a vast strip complete with casino resorts and entertainment venues.

Each casino complex would be integrated with luxury hotels, spa facilities, convention spa, retail stores, family-friendly attractions, high-end food, beverage venues, bars, and nightclubs. In effect, the Queensland premier wants to build a Gold Coast Strip.

6000 Casino Jobs, 1 Million Tourists

The hub would create 6,000 permanent jobs and draw roughly 1 million visitors per year, according to Queensland’s projections. Kate Jones, who agrees with Annastacia Palaszczuk’s plans to build the hub, says the goal is to create “world-class entertainment and convention facilities, events, tourism experiences, and attractions.”

Gaming would be restricted to a certain point. Only 5% of any resort’s space would be allotted for gaming space. The 5% threshold is a nod to critics and dovetails with the same restrictions as Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf. Singapore and Japan have 3% thresholds, so the amount of gaming offered is bigger than potential rivals.

Too Much Gambling for Queensland Residents?

Opponents of the plan say Gold Coast does not need a brand-new gambling hub. Australians gamble the 2nd-most per capita each year than any other nationality on Earth. Stephen Mayne of the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s said Australians bet AU$1,000, which at the current exchange rate translates to US$703.

Those who back a Gold Coast Strip say that most of the visitors would be foreigners and VIP high rollers, so concerns about problem gambling and other social issues are not as concerning. Those who wish to stop Kate Jones’ plans argue that some Australian problem gamblers doubtless would be created by the increased gambling — as would a few international gamblers.

Collapse of Chinese VIP Market?

They also point to the declining VIP revenues in existing land-based casinos like Crown Melbourne. Last year saw a marked decline in the revenues for Asian high rollers at Crown. While the same number of Asian tourists visited Australia’s largest casino, the high rollers spent less money per person due to the slowing Chinese economy.

With that in mind, opponents believe planning an entire multi-billion dollar hub around those high rollers is risky. Star Entertainment makes the same argument, though Erik Gibbs of CalvinAyre points out Star’s qualms are driven by a desire to avoid direct competition.

If not, then Star Entertainment would not be investing AU$2 billion (US$1.405 billion) to expand and renovate its casino in Broadbeach. When completed, the Broadbeach property will have 5 new towers and upgraded amenities. At the same time, Star Entertainment is investing in its property at Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane.

Caesars and Hard Rock Casinos

Several international casino operators are expected to answer the call from Kate Jones. Caesars Entertainment and Hard Rock International (Seminole Tribe of Florida) each have expressed interest in building a casino in Gold Coast in the recent past. With an open licensing in the offing, Caesars and Hard Rock could be expected to make bids.