GRATTAN INSTITUTE. Special deals for special interests. Packer’s casino licence

How rent seekers and lobbyists work  – The Casino Licence

 In February 2012, James Packer proposed building a hotel-casino on the Sydney Harbour foreshore at Barangaroo. The NSW premier and opposition leader were quick to back the idea, saying it would bring jobs and tourists to Sydney. Both major parties ignored the public interest.

In August 2012, Packer personally pitched the project to Premier Barry O’Farrell. Just a week later, a requirement for independent evaluation of unsolicited proposals was removed .Two weeks after that, Packer formally lodged his proposal. Packer hired former Labor Senator Mark Arbib and former ALP National Secretary Karl Bitar to help secure Labor’s support.

The unsolicited proposal won the backing of the NSW Cabinet in October 2012, survived a late counter-bid by Star Casino in 2013 and won final approval from the NSW Government in 2016. All without a competitive tender process. Independent evaluation had previously been required before an unsolicited proposal could proceed without a tender process. A steering committee chaired by David Murray was set up to compare the two proposals .

Packer influenced the tax rate for the new casino, the development was exempted from smoke-free laws and the area was carved out of the CBD ‘lockout law’ zone.


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