Pokie buyback bumped in Brisbane casino battle
Seven months after unveiling plans to develop the $2 billion Queen's Wharf casino complex in Brisbane, the battle between Echo Entertainment and rival Crown Resorts is down to the wire.
With the Queensland cabinet poised to sign off on a winner on Monday, the winning consortium could be revealed as early as Tuesday.
Given its huge importance to the state economy, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will lead the high-profile announcement along with Treasurer Curtis Pitt, Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath and Development Minister Anthony Lynham.
Echo enjoys the home-town advantage given it already has the city's only casino licence at Treasury.
The two sides sweetened their bids in recent weeks, including an unusual offer from the James Packer-chaired Crown. Instead of asking for new poker machine licenses for its casino, Crown proposed a buy back from pubs and clubs to work inside the state's cap.
Echo's bid did not include new pokies, because if it is successful it could transfer its 1600 machines from its existing casino to the new site.
Crown's proposal is thought to have received a lukewarm reception from the government. Crown's mooted buyback scheme also caused a delay in the competitive tender process run by the Public Trustee of Queensland for pubs and clubs to buy new pokies.
Sources said the bid system, normally held every four months and due in the first few weeks of July, had been paused and is now tipped to take place on Wednesday once a winning consortium has been named.
With the winner of Queen's Wharf out in the open, pubs will be able to bid for new machines knowing whether or not Crown is a buyer for up to 2000 pokies for its casino.