The Australian gaming landscape could be set for dramatic change under the new Queensland State Government of Campbell Newman as signalled by Clive Palmer’s intentions to create a Las Vegas-esque casino strip on the Sunshine State.
A revealed in the Brisbane Sunday Mail, Queensland’s richest man is hoping at lure high rollers from south east Asia by adding a casino at the Hyatt Regency Coolum (pictured left) – the luxury resort and golf course he purchased last August, vowing to invest "a couple of billion dollars” to create a top-class resort precinct.
He said that would attract international visitors to the region and help Queensland reclaim its place as a leading tourist magnet. When the would-be tourism tycoon registered the new name Coolum Resort and Spa the day before last weekend’s state election, he also took a trademark on the name Coolum Casino.
It includes several classes of goods and services covering everything from gaming facilities, stage productions and musical shows, cabarets, nightclubs and conventions right down to specific items such as branded playing cards.
The trademark was registered through one of Mr Palmer’s companies, Queensland Nickel Pty. It has also bought the website domain name www.coolumcasino.com.au.
Mr Palmer, who topped the Queensland’s top 100 rich list with an estimated wealth of AUD $6.08 billion last year, took back day-to-day control of the 140ha resort last week when he paid Hyatt Hotels an undisclosed sum to remove them as managers after 24 years. It clears the way for redevelopment of the resort with plans expected to be unveiled mid-year.
It is understood Mr Palmer has earmarked $1.5 billion to build a tourism and leisure empire. It is not known how much of that would be spent at Coolum. A casino would probably create some controversy locally, but would be a shot in the arm for the region’s struggling tourism industry and would boost jobs. The resort employs 650 people. It would be the fifth casino in Queensland and the first since the Reef Casino in Cairns was granted a licence 16 years ago.
Mr Palmer, the Liberal National Party’s (LNP’s) biggest donor, would need approval from the newly elected State Government but that is unlikely to be a barrier.
Premier Campbell Newman has made tourism one of the four pillars on which his government will build a rejuvenated economy, and has pledged to return the state to its position as Australia’s number one tourist destination.
The LNP has set a target of doubling visitor spending to $30 billion a year by 2020, with a focus on attracting cashed-up people from new markets such as China, India, Malaysia, South Korea and the Middle East.
The Federal Government’s tourism strategy expects more than half the growth in numbers over the next decade to come from Asia, the majority from China. Mr Palmer’s strong business links to China give him an advantage.
The high-stakes gambling market is proving a powerful driver in tourism, with fierce competition to attract an estimated 30 million Chinese keen for a premium punting experience. Singapore’s tourism revenue rose 49 per cent last year, with much of the credit given to two new glamorous resorts, each with a huge casino.