Barangaroo casino approved… on the quiet

In Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, National Headlines, New South Wales

From the (Fairfax) 11th November 2013

Business happy with new vision for tourism

It’s either just the kick-start Sydney needs or it’s a kick in the guts for good planning and problem gamblers.

By announcing the Packer casino approval at a surprise 6.30pm Monday news conference, the government avoided much of the instant backlash that might otherwise have come.

Patricia Forsythe, executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber, called it a step forward.

‘‘It’s obviously got significant restrictions in terms of the casino licence but the vision we’ve seen from Crown in attracting Asian tourism, in particular, is going to be very important in terms of the visitor economy and in activating Barangaroo,’’ Ms Forsythe said.

The chief executive of the developer lobby Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, called it a positive step for Sydney.

‘‘Barangaroo still has 50 per cent public space and that’s a remarkable achievement,’’ said Mr Johnson, a former government architect. ‘‘I think the current design for the hotel/resort/casino combination is a pretty exciting design,’’ he said. ‘‘I know it’s an evolution from the original plan for the site, but good cities do evolve.’’

Committee for Sydney chief executive Tim Williams said: ‘‘Now we’ve got to go ahead and build a cracking development. It’s going to be part of a transformation of Barangaroo and we must proceed as quickly as possible.’’

John Mant, a City of Sydney councillor and former planner, said last week that he had concerns about the revised Crown/Lend Lease plan for building the hotel and casino on the waterfront at Barangaroo South and the loss of public land – and about who was representing the public interest.

‘‘I don’t think the state government is prepared to say no to Packer,’’ Cr Mant said. ‘‘We don’t even know what Packer paid for this slice of waterfront land.’’

Joe Agius, the president of the NSW chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, called the new plan a ‘‘diabolical mess’’.

The chairman of the Gambling and Public Health Alliance International, Mark Henley, asked whether James Packer would employ strategies to minimise problems.

‘‘It’s almost certain that 40per cent of the profits which come out of this enterprise will be from people with a gambling problem,’’ Mr Henley said. ‘‘It hurts relationships, it hurts children and it’s a very high price to pay for the sake of having a second casino which Sydney doesn’t need.’’

Senator Nick Xenophon, the anti-gambling crusader, said Sydney did not need a second casino.

‘‘Are people really demonstrating in the streets for their right to gamble?’’ he asked.  ‘‘This is not consumer-driven. This is lobbyist-driven and industry-driven.’’

Lord mayor Clover Moore was at a function on Monday night and unavailable for comment.  But she has made clear her position that Sydney does not need a second casino.

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