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02 August 2012

Crown wants world's best hotel for Sydney

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Billionaire casino mogul James Packer says he will build the world's best hotel in Sydney if he gets approval to include a gambling facility for high rollers in the development.

Mr Packer, the executive chairman of casinos operator Crown Ltd, said on Thursday that Crown wanted to build a hotel at Barangaroo South that would attract millions of tourists to Sydney and create thousands of new jobs.

Barangaroo is a residential, office and parkland development currently under construction on Sydney Harbour.

Crown and Lend Lease, the developer of Barangaroo, have signed a two-year exclusive dealing arrangement for the hotel development, but building approvals are still required from the NSW government.

"Sydney deserves one of the world's great hotels on its magnificent harbour," Mr Packer said in a statement.

"My desire is for Crown to build the best hotel in the world at Barangaroo."

Mr Packer said Crown wanted to incorporate a "VIP-only" gambling facility into the hotel, which would require approval from the NSW government and gaming authorities.

He said a facility for high rollers was "necessary to provide the commercial underpinning for any development and for the operation of a world-class six-star hotel resort".

Acting NSW Premier Andrew Stoner appeared to welcome Mr Packer's plan to build a world-leading hotel at Barangaroo, but stopped short of commenting on plans for a gambling room.

"The creation of a hotel of this stature would deliver new jobs in construction, off-site manufacturing and the tourism industry, along with hundreds of millions of dollars for the state economy each year," he said.

Crown chief financial officer Ken Barton told AAP that Crown said detailed costing of the project would be developed in the next two years.

He said if Crown was to operate a gaming facility in Sydney it would require the NSW government to issue a new licence, or it would have to be done as part of the existing licence which is held by Echo Entertainment Group, the operator of The Star casino in Sydney.

"I guess that's part of the two-year program as well: working through a licensing scenario," Mr Barton said.

"If the NSW government were to issue another licence between now and November 2019, it would be exposed to a requirement to pay compensation to Echo."

Asked if Crown had engaged with the NSW government to sound out its attitude towards a second licence, Mr Barton said: "Not in any conclusive way."

Crown operates casinos in Melbourne and Perth and is pushing for a presence in Sydney, where it holds a stake of around 10 per cent in Echo.

Crown has applied to regulators in NSW and Queensland for permission to lift its stake in Echo to up to 25 per cent.

Crown has been upgrading its casinos in Melbourne and Perth in a move to entice more high-rolling VIP gamblers from Asia.

It is planning to spend $568 million building a new six-star hotel at its Burswood complex in Perth.

Shares in Crown closed eight cents lower at $8.39 on Thursday. (AAP)

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