By Perry Williams SMH

James Packer’s Crown Resorts will invest in a new six-star hotel brand across a $10 billion pipeline of casino developments in a bid to lure a greater share of big-spending gamblers and tourists to its resorts by 2020.

Crown will use a $1.5 billion, 90-storey hotel and apartment complex in Melbourne’s Southbank as a possible blueprint for a new luxury hotel brand to be rolled out among its other properties, as it pushes ahead with new resorts in Las Vegas, Sydney and possibly Japan in coming years.

The executive in charge of developing Crown’s bulging project list, Todd Nisbet, said the casino operator was conscious it needed to keep investing in new brands to retain and lure rich tourists from Asia.

“We need to stay relevant and responsive to what is happening in the rest of the markets that our customers are coming from and in particular from Asia,” Mr Nisbet said.

Crown’s executive team was weighing whether to deploy the new hotel brand across its other resorts, he said.

“We’re currently working through final budgets, branding and how we’re going to position in terms of our overall international portfolio. And the idea of being able to come up with a new resort proposition and potentially a new resort brand, we think is a good thing for Crown holistically and where we want to position ourselves over the next 10 years.”

The Melbourne tower, near Crown’s existing Melbourne casino complex, will comprise a 388-room hotel and 680 apartments. It is expected to be completed by late 2019, in a joint venture with property developer Schiavello Group, which controls the land.

Premium end of market 

Mr Nisbet said the hotel would  be aimed at the premium end of the market and would offer guests a more modern version of its 481-room Crown Towers hotel. Crown hopes to include a glass skybridge over Queens Bridge Street, allowing guests to walk from the lobby of the new hotel to the main Melbourne casino floor and restaurants.

“You’ve got to remember Crown Towers was built 20 years ago. Although we’re incredibly proud of it, the reality is that building was built in a different time, with different philosophies on hotel room design, as well as where technology is evolving to as well.”

In a nod to rival casino operator Echo Entertainment, which is investing several billion dollars improving its Sydney casino and creating the $2 billion Queen’s Wharf development in Brisbane, Mr Nisbet said there was intense competition for tourists looking for a luxury experience.

“If you look at what is happening in Sydney and Queensland, everyone is fighting for high-value tourism, whether that’s convention visitors or leisure visitors,” he said. “Just being able to offer a cohesive offering, just being able to be competitive as a state is what this is about.”

The casino operator’s pipeline of projects is likely to swell beyond $10 billion with the inclusion of the new Melbourne tower, with Crown also undertaking new projects in Perth, Las Vegas, Sydney and possibly Japan over the next decade.

Crown will also open the Studio City casino in Macau next week, as part of its 34 per cent stake in the Melco Crown venture.

The proposed Queensbridge tower, six storeys larger than the original plan, remains subject to planning approval, project financing and the conclusion of joint-venture talks with Schiavello.

Mr Nisbet said Crown would submit planning documents to the Victorian government by early November and is hopeful of receiving approval in the first half of 2016.

The lead architect on Crown’s hotel and casino in Sydney’s Barangaroo, British firm Wilkinson Eyre, will design the Queensbridge tower and precinct.