The billionaire gaming mogul has plans to build a casino-resort in Las Vegas, several years after his last push to make it big in the United States failed.
Packer-led casinos operator Crown Resorts, former Wynn Las Vegas president Andrew Pascal, and Oaktree Capital Management have formed a new resort company that plans to develop a 34.6-acre vacant site on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
They have paid about $US280 million ($A303 million) for the lot – which was home to the New Frontier casino – acquired via a foreclosure auction.
The new company hopes to start development work in late 2015, wrapping up in 2018.
Mr Packer, who chairs Crown Resorts and will co-chair the new company, said Crown had always kept its eye on Las Vegas as it built successful casino ventures in Australia, Macau and London.
“You can’t be in the gaming industry and not have a special reverence for Las Vegas. That’s where it all began,” Mr Packer said on Monday.
“And while we fell short in past attempts to enter that market, we now have the ideal opportunity.”
Analysts said a presence in Las Vegas would help Crown market itself to VIP gamblers as an “end-to-end” operator, with casino resorts spread around the world.
Crown could spend at least $US2 billion to $US3 billion (up to $A3.25 billion) on building a premium casino-resort in Las Vegas.
Morningstar analyst Brian Han said it was only a matter of time before Mr Packer made another attempt at breaking into Las Vegas.
“Putting aside the previous failure, more strategically, you can’t be an integrated casino mogul without a presence in Las Vegas,” he said.
Mr Han said the site for the new the new casino, opposite Wynn Las Vegas, was good and acquired at a good price.
Economic circumstances in the US, and the Las Vegas gambling market, had also improved since Crown’s previous disastrous foray into the US.
Crown wrote down the value of its minority investments in US casino firms Fontainbleau, Stations, and Harrah’s by $462 million in 2007/08.
It also abandoned plans for a $5 billion casino on the Las Vegas Strip, costing it $45 million, as the credit crunch hit financial markets.
The following year, Crown made $1.28 billion in write-offs and writedowns on its US, Canadian and UK casinos which were hit hard by the global economic downturn.
Crown all but declared its stakes in Fontainbleau, Stations, Harrah’s worthless.
Fontainebleau was developing a new casino resort in Las Vegas.
Crown also substantially wrote down its investment in casino operator Cannery Casino Resorts, a US “locals” casino operator with one casino in Pittsburgh and three in Las Vegas.
Crown chief executive Rowen Craigie said at the time that the investments in North America had been ill-timed.