The People vs. James Packer

In Featured Home Page News, New South Wales

The debate over James Packer’s personal legacy being built in Barangaroo rages on. Questionable applications, laws being overlooked and the government proud to play along.

Packer’s case for building the casino largely points to Crown’s success in Melbourne, but the Sydney skyline is an infinitely more valuable tourism asset at risk than Melbourne’s ever was.

This is what the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Letters’ contributors had to say.

LETTERS

Thanks, Mr Packer, but the fact remains your whole pitch for a casino is based on the ludicrous premise that profit from running a successful hotel will not recoup the cost of building it (”For the good of Sydney, back this plan”, November 3-4).

It’s not like all those Hiltons and Hyatts still haven’t recouped.

So either you’re not being fully upfront with us, or your business plan needs a serious tweak.

Lloyd Swanton Wentworth Falls

God preserve us from the Packer casino in Sydney, if James Packer is pointing to the Crown Casino in Melbourne as a positive adjunct to the cityscape.

To the south of graceful St Paul’s Cathedral and the famous and recently renovated Flinders Street station, following the line of the Southbank promenade abutting the St Kilda Road arts complex, we come to a grey concrete monolith relieved only by multiple spotty crowns in yellow neon and the word ”Crown” with its huge letters lit up in garish colours. The place is an eyesore and the epitome of tacky. It dominates the riverscape rather than complementing it, and depresses me, a former Melburnian, every time I see it.

Sure, let’s encourage tourists to the Harbour City, but with quality public spaces like the phenomenally successful MONA gallery in Hobart that we can all enjoy, not a tacky casino-hotel for fly-in, fly-out super-rich, for whom it could be Sydney, Macau or Vegas; who knows or cares when you’re inside watching the dice roll?

Jennifer Indsto Pennant Hills

Like any other slick salesman, James Packer tells us why we should embrace his product. Now it is a luxury hotel that can only make a profit if it is a casino. Once it was a phone company, One.Tel, which lost millions. Are we meant to have short memories?

Judy Sherrington Kensington

A very rich man decides to commission, build, stock and administer an art museum at his own expense for the people of his home state, Tasmania (”Building breaks the mould for all the right reasons”, November 3-4). Entry for them is free, and is a modest amount for outsiders. As a result, Hobart has a wonderful addition to its cultural life and hundreds of thousands of visitors revitalise the tourism sector of Hobart and the state.

An exceedingly rich man decides to build a casino to make himself a great deal more money. He disregards the people of his home city, Sydney, and demands they circumvent regulations and give him what he wants. The casino is not for the citizens but for foreign high rollers whose interest is simply in gambling, not tourism. As a result, nothing has been added to Sydney’s cultural life but James Packer will make even more money.

Jennifer Katauskas Wahroonga

Mogul James Packer’s article in support of a casino was a pathetic attempt at using commercial logic. It reminded me of a car salesperson’s spiel.

If we need gambling to attract visitors, better they don’t come. The economic progress that he advocates comes at a heavy price.

Mr Packer is a successful entrepreneur and he views the world through financial glasses – but there are other perspectives.

James Athanasou Maroubra

and from the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Heckler’ column of 5th Nov 2012, in which readers are invited to apply 300 words to whatever gets their goat;

HECKLER

THE redevelopment of Barangaroo has the potential to create a great public space for all Sydneysiders and tourists to enjoy, as well as the chance to restore part of the foreshore of the harbour to a more natural state. So why are we considering allowing even a small part of this land to be redeveloped as a high-rise casino and hotel for the exclusive use of overseas people with more money than sense, the so-called high rollers?

I have a proposal that should please everyone. Barangaroo is a cleared site, so let’s dig a big hole and put the proposed casino and hotel underground. The high rollers will not mind at all. They don’t visit casinos for the view, gaming tables are in windowless rooms with no hint as to the time of day or weather conditions. Underground rooms are thermally insulted and need minimal energy to control temperature, so an underground casino and hotel is environmentally friendly.

Above the casino and hotel, at ground level, there could be a landscaped public park and native gardens for individuals and families to enjoy, and for tourists interested in exploring the harbour foreshore. All this free above ground activity would happen without disturbing the high rollers toiling away at the gaming tables below.

To make the operation even more efficient, the government could extend the underground train system that links the airport to the city with the casino and hotel, thus allowing international high rollers to move seamlessly from their first-class aircraft cabins onto a private train taking them straight to the casino, where they could start gambling with a minimum of lost time.

Given casinos are built for the sole purpose of taking gamblers’ money they must be responsible for creating a degree of negativity about their location. An above ground casino could result in high rollers going away and bad-mouthing Sydney (“Sydney, that’s the city where I lost $10 million”). With an underground casino, they would not have any cues to remember where they were when they lost heavily, thus avoiding any bad PR for Sydney.

The hotel section of the underground casino could be themed appropriately as a goldmine. As the mining boom winds back, out-of-work miners could be retrained as croupiers. They would no doubt appreciate working underground in the heart of Sydney rather than at some remote location in the outback. For marketing purposes, I suggest the following name and by-line: “The Crown Bunker Casino and Mine Hotel – Sydney’s underground jewel.”

Casinos, let’s bury the bloody lot of them!

Allan Ellis

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