JAMES Packer’s crowning glory — a $1 billion hotel resort and casino on Barangaroo — could begin development by next year, with key crossbench MP Reverend Fred Nile set to back his proposal to the state government.
NSW Cabinet is set to sign off on the first stage of the unsolicited proposal for Mr Packer’s six-star Crown Sydney Resort on the coveted CBD site, which could be granted the city’s second casino licence from late 2019.
It means Mr Packer would no longer need to increase his stake in The Star casino owner Echo Entertainment to utilise its exclusive licence.
It is understood that once planning approval is given, Mr Packer’s Crown Limited and site owner Lend Lease could begin exploration and remedial work next year on the Barangaroo site, which is expected to take 18 months. Mr Packer visited the Christian Democrats yesterday who, with the Shooters and Fishers Party, are essential for such a project to go through parliament.
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Is James Packer’s new resort casino good for Sydney?
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Crown is negotiating with Lend Lease to extend a two-year exclusivity agreement the two companies have to build on Barangaroo.
Both minor parties are weighing up the proposal, but say they are «positively» looking at it.
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Christian Democrat MP Reverend Fred Nile confirmed the meeting with Mr Packer and said he would back the project — with strict terms.
«We need a firm guarantee there will be no poker machines, not one, now or in the future,» Mr Nile said.
«We also want legislation protecting staff from passive smoking. Mr Packer has guaranteed he will do this but we want it to be part of the legislation.»
Mr Nile’s final condition to green-light the legislation is increased funding for counselling, including a chaplaincy service at the Sydney Crown casino when it is built.
«We will require the casino to support a chaplaincy on site,» he said.
Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak said the party would be «very favourably disposed» to looking at the proposal, and would approach it with a «positive view».
Last night upper house opposition leader Luke Foley said Labor would back the Crown proposal as long as it passed planning requirements and guaranteed no poker machines.
If all goes to plan, remedial work will take 18 months and building the 350-room hotel will begin by 2015.
The project, which is expected to generate more than 1300 jobs during construction and 1400 jobs a year once complete, will be finished by 2018. It is understood Crown may seek to amend its current proposal, raising the height of the glass tower to 70 storeys to accommodate luxury apartments and «salons» — which are villas that high rollers can stay and gamble in.
By 2018, the development will include a Mahogany Room for high-rollers, which will sit in mothballs until the government’s exclusivity arrangement with The Star owners Echo runs out in November 2019.
Before work begins, the design will need to be approved by an international design panel.
Former prime minister Paul Keating’s support for the plan, along with the state government, is crucial to approval.
Mr Keating has previously said there was «little doubt», Mr Packer «could build a hotel of world rank».
Premier Barry O’Farrell would not comment on whether the project would be ratified by Cabinet, but said: «If any proposals are submitted under this policy, a public announcement is made if the NSW government determines to proceed to the detailed consideration stage.»
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Barangaroo casino — James Packer’s crowning glory