Chinese government’s travel directive may render Australia’s Barangaroo project ‘White Elephant’

Chinese government’s travel directive may render Australia’s Barangaroo project ‘White Elephant’

The Chinese government’s newly announced directive that urges its citizens not to travel to Australia threatens to render the under construction $2.2 billion casino complex project on Sydney harbor a “White Elephant”, industry experts warned.

After the announcement of the new travel directive, industry observers started questioning the feasibility of the Barangaroo Casino Complex project as it can no longer rely on proceeds from high-roller Chinese gamblers who were previously fundamental to its business model.

The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued the directive, suggesting the citizens of the world’s most populous country to enhance their safety awareness and not to travel to Australia. The ministry cited a spike in racism during the corona virus pandemic. The warning prompted many gambling industry experts and city planners to express their concerns over the future of Crown’s still under construction Sydney casino complex at Barangaroo.

Professor Charles Livingstone, from public health department and head of the gambling and social determinants division at Monash University, questioned where the under construction casino complex would get gamblers from now as its proceeds rely mainly on a high number of high-spending gamblers from China.

Academician Mike Harris, of urban architecture at the University of New South Wales, said, “If they are forced to remain a high-end roller casino, and we’re not getting these whales (high rollers), it will become a white elephant.”

Industry experts noted that Chinese government had beforehand been successful in directing where Chinese citizens will go for gambling. They predicted that the travel directive would likely impact Australia’s planned Sydney casino complex directly.

Crown Sydney, also a subject of NSW parliamentary probe along with some other inquiries over allegations of money laundering, has long been attracting controversy over plans to target VIP gamblers at the 75-floor tower that will feature 82 luxury apartments and a 6-star hotel as well. In 2016, some Crown employees were arrested in China for promoting gambling.

The luxury apartments and hotel of the complex is scheduled to be opened in December, ahead of the luxury casino’s planned opening early next year. As Crown hasn’t applied for poker machines and rival Star City recently secured a 21-year exclusivity deal to be the lone Sydney casino with poker machines, it will have to remain largely dependent on foreign high roller gamblers. However, the Chinese government’s new travel directive has put a question mark on the viability of the still under-construction massive casino complex project.