James Packer’s “unsolicited proposal” for a second casino in Sydney has received a major boost. While NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been keen on the idea for some time, the NSW Opposition have now come to the party and formally endorsed the proposal, paving the way for legislative changes which will deliver a high-roller, poker-machine-free casino and hotel complex in Barangaroo.
This proposal will go ahead, and the effects will be widely felt. Star Casino will be relegated to little more than a sprawling RSL, which is how most locals see it anyway. And as a bargaining chip, Star will give up their exclusive rights to unrestricted multi-terminal gaming machines (MTGMs) such as electronic roulette and blackjack, allowing O’Farrell to fulfil his promise to the clubs industry to give them unrestricted scope to install these machines in clubs across the state. They’re not quite poker machines, so any reforms currently on the table won’t apply.
It must give the people of NSW a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that their leaders and aspiring leaders agree wholeheartedly on such important issues. There are few issues in politics that receive bi-partisan support, but apparently “more gambling” is one of them.
Mind you, the last time we saw such a unified, bi-partisan stance on gambling in NSW, especially with regards to a second casino, was almost exactly five years ago… and it was a very different story then.
It was in October 2007 that Premier Morris Iemma announced that there would NOT be a second casino in NSW. This is what he had to say at the time:
“What I’ve come along today is to end this silliness, end the nonsense that is going on. NSW remains a one-casino state. Exclusivity has been negotiated and I’m able to say that at a point in which I am advised, we’ve got a very good deal for the NSW taxpayer.”
That announcement came hot on the heels of a new exclusivity contract for Star City Casino (now simply “Star”) which doesn’t run out until 2019.
The NSW Opposition was in furious agreement. This was the reaction from the Opposition Leader:
“The real winners today are the community. This is the first sign in 12 years that this State Government understands that there is damage caused by the amount of gambling that is introduced into this state.”
And who was the NSW Opposition Leader in 2007?
I guess he’s had a change of heart.