Queen's Wharf, Brisbane

Echo Entertainment could add 1,000 pokie machines to their new Queen’s Wharf resort in Brisbane. (Image: Destination Brisbane Consortium)

Echo Entertainment may bump up its pokie machine offering by 1,000, according to reports.

The casino developer, a major rival of James Packer’s Crown Resorts, is proposing a massive increase in its pokies floor space after speaking to the Queensland government.

Originally, around 1,500 pokies were planned at the new $2 billion Brisbane Queen’s Wharf resort, but if the deal goes ahead, up to 2,500 machines could be seen at Echo’s casino.

The Queen’s Wharf project will also feature over 1,000 new hotel rooms and 2,000 apartments, Echo revealed earlier this week.

The project is slated to be completed in 2022.

Payday For Queensland Government

Echo Entertainment, which currently operates Sydney’s The Star, was triumphant last week after winning the bid to develop the mega-resort in Brisbane.

In the process, they beat bitter rivals Crown and strengthened their hold on casino gambling in Queensland.

Originally, Echo’s plan was to transfer the machines from its existing Treasury Casino but it looks like the state government is putting provisions in place that that shouldn’t be necessary.

In addition to giving Echo a massive pokies footprint, it will also spell a ton of cash for the QLD government; $100,000 is paid to the government for every pokie licence it dishes out.

The new Queen’s Wharf project will actually take in the historic Treasury Casino, as well as prime real estate, plus new restaurants and bars.

Focus on VIP Asian Gamblers

With Macau continuing to take a hit from the economic slowdown in China and crackdowns on gamblers and corruption by the mainland government, Australian casino firms like Echo and Crown are desperate to take advantage.

Echo’s new Brisbane casino will try to attract big-spending Asian VIPs who have been denied access to Macau in recent months.

Singapore and the Philippines have also been attempting to pick up any footfall with new mega-resorts of their own.

Last week, Echo CEO, Matt Bekier, was keen to stress company expectations that Queen’s Wharf would match The Star for VIP revenue.

“We anticipate a very similar mix to what we have at The Star [and] that implies quite substantial bespoke facilities,” said Mr Bekier in the Australian Financial Review.

“We’ve had a good run in VIP the last few years and we don’t see that will abate anytime soon.”

The Treasury Casino is limited in its ability to offer VIP gambling due to its relatively small footprint. By encompassing the ageing casino within the Queen’s Wharf project, Echo are hoping that will change.

“The challenge with Treasury is there is nothing you can do within the footprint of the current heritage site,” Mr Bekier said in an interview with Fairfax Media.

“That’s why this project was important for us. We believed we could very much transform the earnings potential of this location if we could move to a new site.”

Battle for Sydney Intensifies

While Brisbane seems to be Echo’s dominion for now, in Sydney the picture is rather different.

Recently, Echo lost its exclusivity deal to provide casino action in the city.

From 2019, the deal with the NSW state government comes to an end.

Crown wasted no time in launching proposals for its next casino, and the multi-billion dollar Barangaroo casino resort is expected to open in or around 2019.

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