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"Chinese middle class is going to change the world"
James Packer says man-made attractions important
Mr Packer owns casinos in Melbourne, Perth and Macau
Sydney's The Star already attracting high roller VIP's
Non Packer casino and resorts also want in on the action
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Sunday night's 60 Minutes report 'Packer's punt' got tongues wagging and telephones running hot across Australia - Melbourne and Perth (both home to existing Packer casinos) and 'Sin City' Sydney (site of the Barangaroo development).
Australia's flagging tourism industry can be saved by attracting the Chinese middle class to large casinos, Crown Limited chairman James Packer told the Nine network.
Mr Packer said recognising the Chinese middle class was as important as recognising the internet.
"It's like saying how big a deal is the internet," Mr Packer told his former business co-hearts Channel Nine.
"The Chinese middle class is going to change the world."
He advised Australia cannot rely on its natural beauty alone, because people are more drawn to man-made attractions.
"A lot of the Chinese tourists like man-made attractions as well as natural attractions," he said.
"We need to have better hotels, better restaurants, better shopping."
Mr Packer gave the United States as an example of how man-made attractions win over natural ones.
"Las Vegas gets 40 million people a year," he said.
"I think maybe the greatest natural attraction is the Grand Canyon. It's a half-hour drive from Las Vegas but gets about three million (visitors) a year."
Mr Packer owns casinos in Melbourne, Perth and Macau.
He also pointed out that casinos in The Philippines were doing well and contributed greatly to that country, and that he didn't currently have any casino interests there.
He said he was keen to secure a tables-only Sydney casino complex at Barangaroo to bring in more Chinese tourists.
Responsible Gambling Awareness Week started yesterday and the NSW Government is encouraging problem gamblers to seek help.
Casino King James Packer really aiming for Echo Entertainment...
Gaming analysts believe billionaire James Packer would consider offloading some of Queensland's casinos if he is successful in acquiring the Echo Entertainment Group.
Greg Fraser, a senior analyst at Fat Prophets, said that Mr Packer's real goal in his expected takeover tilt for Echo was to snatch the scandal-plagued Star Casino in Sydney and merge it into his Crown group.
Cairns casino targeting Chinese tourists: Packer's Crown not the only option for Chinese punters...
The famous Pullman Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns is not letting gaming tsar James Packer have all the action when it comes to attracting cashed-up Chinese gamblers to his legal gambling dens.
Mr Packer said the struggling tourism industry could be saved by attracting Chinese middle class visitors to large casinos.
As well, he said many Chinese tourists liked man-made activities as well as natural attractions.
But Cairns casino chief exec Alan Tan said his venue established a China strategy some six years ago.
"I think, while the casino is important, we offer more than just that. The Great Barrier Reef is very important, especially when I talk to the Chinese who say they like to see the Reef and in the evening they like to enjoy time in the casino as well," Mr Tan said.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive officer Rob Giason said the casino was part of the overall experience for Chinese holidaymakers.
Cairns Airport chief executive officer Kevin Brown said the casino complemented other activities the Chinese tourists wanted to experience, including dining, shopping and cultural activities.
Casino marketing executive manager Richard Porter said its China strategy included the relocation of Cafe China restaurant to the casino, Chinese language signage and information.
He said casino reps frequented China at least six times a year, worked closely with inbound operators and leading Chinese businessman Harry Sou.
Mr Porter said when China Southern Airlines started flying to Brisbane the casino experienced a "giant leap forward" in Chinese visitors.
So there you go... Packer is far from the only switched on casino and gambling baron. It's going to be mighty interesting to see how Pullman's Alan Tan continues to fair in the Australian "casino wars", as Packer continues on his quest to also takeover Echo Entertainment operations, as well as push forward for his greater "Sin City" Sydney ambitions.
It's said "The house always wins" in casino talk, but can the trio of Crown, Pullman and Echo Entertainment all continue to win big time, or is something going to give (like a merger or acquisition)? Stay tuned as we continue to probe for developments.
*the writer is a shareholder in Crown Limited and Virgin Enterprises Limited
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60 Minutes (Australia) - 'Packers Punt'
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