BEACHED WHALES – ECHO LOSES $30 MILLION IN HIGH-ROLLER HOSTINGS

Written on the 5 June 2012

BEACHED WHALES – ECHO LOSES $30 MILLION IN HIGH-ROLLER HOSTINGS

ECHO Entertainment, the operator of three Queensland casinos, has confirmed a $30 million write-down from losses incurred through hosting some of the world’s richest gambling high-rollers.

The book value reduction came as the Brisbane-based ASX-listed company, which operates Brisbane Treasury and Jupiters Gold Coast and Townsville casinos, agreed to hold an extraordinary general meeting on July 20 at the request of 10 per cent shareholder James Packer.

Packer, who owns rival Crown Casino in Melbourne and is reportedly seeking a greater share in Echo, this week launched an intensive media campaign seeking to have Echo chairman John Story replaced by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett.

Echo yesterday blamed the $29.9 million write-down on the collapse of overseas based exclusive junket operator, SilkStar, which helped deliver the international high-rollers to the company’s gaming properties.

Echo also warned that trading across its casinos had been adversely impacted in the third quarter, a period during which the company was forced to defend its actions over the sacking of Sydney Star Casino general manager Sid Vaikunta.

In an exclusive interview in this month’s edition of Gold Coast Business News, Echo CEO Larry Mullin (pictured) confirms that high-rollers, known as whales in the gaming industry, have been flown to Australian casinos in style.

Echo uses two luxury Bombardier Global Express private jets, worth $45 million each, to provide day-trips from Southeast Asia for big money gamblers, he says.

“We have had some of the biggest customers that play anywhere playing in this property,’’ Mullins says during an interview at Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast.

Mullin makes no apologies for courting high-rollers, saying Australian casinos have to be upgraded and go more upmarket.

“There are some amazing properties in Southeast Asia that people there have become accustomed to, If we don’t have similar amenities to what they can get at home, we are going to be in a lot of trouble.’’

Packer’s late father Kerry was one of the world’s highest profile “whales’’. While James Packer is not an avid gambler, he has openly expressed his desire to expand his gaming holdings. He has used the sacking of Vaikunta as further ammunition in his bid to unseat Story from the Echo chair, Mullin tells Gold Coast Business News that the controversy has galvanised staff at Echo.

“There is pride among our employees and sometimes there is an ignition point that galvanises your staff,’’ he says.

“When you come out the other side of experiences like this, you learn from them.’’

The full exclusive interview with Mullin is in this month’s edition of Gold Business News – on sale now at a newsagent near you.


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