The NSW Government is poised to announce its plans for a second casino within days, with James Packer’s PBL frontrunner to snare another gambling cash cow.
It is believed the Iemma Government has warned Star City operators Tabcorp that it needs to pay more tax on its poker machines or face competition from a new rival.
Industry insiders have said Tabcorp baulked at the higher tax regime — which would bring it to the level of regular clubs and pubs — and the Government has now got its trigger for a second NSW casino.
Premier Morris Iemma is said to have told Crown Casino executives that he was happy to work with Mr Packer in Sydney.
The new negotiations with Mr Packer are believed to be the reason behind the stalled talks between the Iemma Government and Star City Casino over the renewal of its 10-year operating licence.
There is fierce speculation that Mr Iemma’s friend and unofficial adviser Peter Barron has been lobbying on behalf of Mr Packer for a second casino, tied in with his online betting interest Betfair.
Mr Barron declined to comment.
It has been suggested that PBL is eyeing a property in the heart of Sydney for the new site, but Government sources have denied a licence would be granted in the city.
More likely is a new casino in Tweed Heads to stop punters rolling over the border to Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast.
Another possible location is the Hunter Valley.
One insider said an announcement over casino licensing was set to be made as early as tomorrow but could now be deferred because of the furore over the Government’s suspected move into online betting.
The Government had also been using the threat of a second licence in an effort to extract more money from Tabcorp for the renewal of the Star City licence and pokie levies.
This could see the casino’s pokie tax rate jump from 24.5 per cent to closer to 39 per cent — an untenable situation for Tabcorp that would then give the Government the trigger for offering a second licence.
A spokesman for NSW Treasurer Michael Costa refused to deny a second licence was to be handed out soon and that it would likely go to PBL.
However, the Government has denied receiving any specific offers.
Senior Government sources also denied any negotiations with the Packers were under way over a second licence.
They said Tabcorp was trying to spruik the rumour around Sydney to embarrass the Government and get a better tax deal out of its own casino negotiations.