Australian billionaire James Packer (pictured), chairman of casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd, is reportedly in talks for an investment in a casino project at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.
The gaming investor is said to be eyeing the site of the former New Frontier Hotel & Casino, next to where Malaysia-based Genting Bhd will soon start building its US$4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas.
Plans by Israeli businessmen Nochi Dankner and Yitzhak Tshuva to build a Plaza casino resort on the New Frontier site stalled following the global financial crisis.
But Credit Suisse Group AG later helped helped arrange a US$625 million loan tied to the lot.
Bloomberg News reported that Mr Packer has acquired a portion – less than 10 percent – of the loan backed by the land, which covers 34.5-acres (14-hectares). He is said to be interested in building a casino-hotel there.
The Australian investor is negotiating a potential deal with other creditors party to the loan, including Oaktree Capital Group LLC, Bloomberg added, quoting unidentified sources.
Mr Packer is the biggest shareholder in Crown, which jointly owns Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. Crown was recently granted a gaming licence to operate a casino in Sydney from 2019 onwards. It is also bidding for a casino licence in Brisbane. The joint venture Melco Crown is developing a casino property in the Philippines, and one of the JV partners, Melco International Development Ltd, has invested in a casino project in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East.
Crown did not respond to GGRAsia’s requests for comment.
Union Gaming Research LLC analyst Robert Shore said Mr Packer’s interest in Las Vegas “lends credence to the Strip recovery story, and has fuelled the positive news flow centred on the North Strip in the recent months”.
“We maintain that discussions, proposals, and even speculation around large-scale projects speak to ongoing and increasing interest in Las Vegas assets,” Mr Shore said in a note to clients.
Last month the Nevada Gaming Commission granted Crown, and some of its U.S. subsidiaries and directors, a preliminary approval of suitability, according to a notice published by the commission.
A deal would mark Mr Packer’s return to Las Vegas after losing money on investments including Fontainebleau Resorts LLC and Cannery Casino Resorts LLC. The company ended earlier plans for Crown Las Vegas in 2007 and, two years later, it terminated a US$1.8 billion deal to purchase Cannery Casino Resorts.
In April this year, Mr Packer was said to be among the potential buyers of the Cosmopolitan casino hotel in Las Vegas. The property however was sold to the Blackstone Group LP.
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”According to Macau law, the security personnel of casinos and the management staff do not have the law enforcement power that the police have”
Wong Sio Chak
Macau’s Secretary for Security