Crown’s Packer places another bet on US gaming market with Las Vegas buy

Tuesday, 5 August 2014 01:29 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

SYDNEY (Reuters): Australian gaming mogul James Packer is taking another crack at the lucrative US casino market, with his Crown Resorts Ltd. buying a vacant site on the famous Las Vegas Strip. Crown has established a joint-venture resort company to develop the site with former Wynn Las Vegas president Andrew Pascal, with financial backing from US private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management. “You can’t be in the gaming industry and not have a special reverence for Las Vegas – that’s where it all began,” Packer said in a statement. “As we have built Crown Resorts into a thriving international company with successful casino ventures in Australia, Macau, and London, we’ve always kept our eye on Las Vegas.” Packer scrapped plans to develop a $5 billion casino in Las Vegas with private equity partner York Capital Management in 2008 as the global financial crisis crunched the credit market, with Crown writing off A$44 million in the process. Crown also lost money on investments in US casino firms Fontainebleau Resorts LLC and Cannery Resorts LLC . “While we fell short in past attempts to enter that market, we now have the ideal opportunity,” said Packer, the biggest shareholder in Crown, which jointly owns Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. Crown has paid around $280 million for a controlling interest in the 35-acre vacant site. The company said plans for the new development were still being finalised, but it expected to break ground in the latter half of 2015 and complete the project in 2018. Packer is ranked Australia’s third-richest person with a fortune of $6 billion, according to Forbes. Last year, he cashed out of his family’s publishing and broadcasting assets for about $1 billion to concentrate on his gambling business. His plans for a gaming empire include projects in Japan and Sri Lanka.