Pundits expect Echo to beat out Crown and grab Brisbane's biggest development opportunity in a generation.
Echo Entertainment has emerged as the frontrunner for the development of a multi-billion dollar gaming and entertainment complex in the Brisbane CBD.
Investor confidence in Echo’s odds of securing the Queen’s Wharf development pushed the company’s shares higher following the submission of final bids for the project, the results of which are scheduled for announcement on 14 July.
The Queens Wharf casino is slated to be Brisbane’s biggest development in a generation, with the goal of transforming the area into a world-class tourism and gaming destination.
In addition to the casino itself the project could encompass an underground shopping centre that extends beneath Queens Street, as well as the conversion of the heritage-listed Treasury Building into a new Ritz Carlton Hotel.
The project has assumed even greater significance for Queensland as one of few large-scale developments left in the state after the sale of $37 billion in assets was placed on ice.
Echo’s chief rival for the rights to the Queen’s Wharf development, James Packer’s Crown Resorts, could still upset its bid for the project.
Crown has reportedly raised the amount of money that it’s willing to pony up for the project, with both sides still tinkering with their bids in the lead-up to the final submission date.
This strategy has served Crown well in the past, with the provision of a $100 licensing fee to the NSW government in 2013 enabling it to secure the winning bid for a second gambling complex at Barangaroo in Sydney.
Both Echo and Crown have teamed up with China-based partners for their prospective bids, as part of efforts to better target the immensely lucrative mainland Chinese market.
Echo is working with Hong Kong’s Far East Consortium and Chow Tai Took, while Crown has teamed up with state-owned Chinese developer Greenland Holdings.
Echo Entertainment enjoys an edge as a local player with strong political connections, enlisting Rob Borbidge, former Queensland premier, and Damian Power, former Queensland Labor Party treasurer, as lobbyists on its behalf.
The company is also the holder of the only current casino license in Brisbane, for the Treasury Casino on Elizabeth Street in the city.