Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich has questioned the integrity of the State Government’s ‘unsolicited approvals process’ after James Packer’s Crown Casino consortium won approval to proceed with its plan for a high rollers casino and six star hotel/apartment complex at Barangaroo.
Last week, a NSW Government panel examining rival bids by Crown and Echo Entertainment announced it favoured the Packer proposal.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said while the Packer plan could now proceed to “stage three” of the assessment, it was not yet a licence to build.
But with the State Government giving Crown its blessing, many believe the planned 60-storey tower and casino are now a foregone conclusion.
Tourism and gaming advocates hailed the news but Mr Greenwich and other local politicians called the machinations into question, highlighting concerns about due process and transparency.
“The government must release all documents associated with this deal,” said Mr Greenwich.
“I’ve asked the Auditor General to review the process, which had no input from gambling experts, welfare organisations or the community as far as we know.”
Mr Greenwich said there may even be a need for the state’s peak corruption body to investigate.
“The unsolicited proposals process needs to be made more accountable and transparent so that the community can have confidence in outcomes. There may be scope for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to look at the process,” he told City News.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore also expressed concerns about a lack of transparency around the deal, which would see Mr Packer reap untold revenue from the development of public land.
“I have always said the development of Barangaroo should be done in full public view and considering the public’s best interest,” said Ms Moore.
“Sydneysiders have a right to be concerned about the lack of a transparent public process.”
Concerns were also raised about the impact of more gaming options on problem gamblers and low-income earners.
While the Packer proposal targets Chinese ‘high rollers’ and currently excludes poker machines and low-betting tables, NSW Greens MP John Kaye said this could change.
“As sure as night follows day, if the Chinese economy slows down there will be pressure on the O’Farrell Government to allow poker machines and non-VIP table gambling in this casino,” said Dr Kaye.
“This will bring social and economic problems to NSW as more people get entrapped into problematic gambling behaviours.”