Will Australia’s Crown Casino Finally Succeed in Securing a Foothold in Las Vegas?

Aussie business mogul James Packer is probably keeping his fingers crossed that the Las Vegas property he recently purchased will finally make real, his long nurtured vision of having a Crown Resort Casino in the LV Strip. After all, it is not the first time that Mr. Packer paid hundreds of millions, $792 million in 2008 and  $320 million in 2009, in connection with two separate Las Vegas investments that would have seen the building of a Nevada-based Crown Casino. Despite the sums of money paid, both deals did not bring to fruition the Crown Casino expansion in The Strip.            

Mr. Packer explained why he and his casino company have been relentlessly pursuing their Las Vegas goal, by commenting, “You can’t be in the gaming industry and not have a special reverence for Las Vegas – that’s where it all began.”“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.”

Crown Resorts Ltd’s current acquisition deal involves the 34.6-acre property formerly occupied by the now defunct New Frontier Casino, for which the Australian casino company paid a purchase price of $280 million. The purchase agreement was negotiated earlier this month with the Oaktree Capital Group LLC, which owns half of the funds extended as loan to El Ad Properties in 2007, the most recent registered owners of the New Frontier property. The amount loaned out was supposed to have been used for a redevelopment project that included the construction of a new hotel casino intended as a replacement for the New Frontier establishment.

However, the redevelopment of the property did not progress any further than the demolition by implosion of the New Frontier Casino building. In 2011, the redevelopment and construction project officially came to halt, which left the unused property at the disposal of Oaktree and the other investors who provided the financial backing for the project.  
In line with Mr. Packer’s move to acquire the New Frontier site, he has forged partnership with Andrew Pascal, the former president of Wynn Las Vegas, and currently, a major financial investor in Oaktree Capital Group LLC.  The plan is to have the building construction underway by the second half of 2015 and to see the full completion of a Las Vegas-based Crown Casino by 2018.

James Packer is confident that the recently closed deal will finally pave the way for Crown’s entry into Nevada’s gambling market, and voiced his optimism by saying, “And while we fell short in past attempts to enter the market, we now have the ideal opportunity – with a great local partner in Andrew Pascal.”   

The past attempts to which Mr. Packer referred, include the 20 percent investment in Fontainebleau Resorts in 2008 plus some minority holdings in Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., LVTI LLC, and Stations Casino Group, as well as the 2009 24.5 percent venture in Cannery Resorts LLC. Crown Resort’s most recent unsuccessful attempt was this year, when it submitted a bid to buy the high-end Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

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