Tweed casino off the cards

By ED SOUTHORN

TWEED'S on-again off-again casino is now definitely off. And NSW will remain a one-casino state.

Tweed Clubs boss Rob Smith yesterday suggested the NSW government had been unwilling to kill off speculation about a casino in the Tweed in order to put pressure on Star City casino operator Tabcorp.

Premier Morris Iemma yesterday confirmed a new 12-year contract for Tabcorp, ending the speculation that a second casino licence could be awarded to allow James Packer's PBL to build a Tweed Heads casino.

As part of the agreement Tabcorp agreed to pay $100 million up front to ensure its Star City remains the only casino in New South Wales.

Under the new agreement, Star City must also maintain its current number of poker machines which is at 1500. However, the number of gaming tables can be increased under agreement with the Casino Control Authority.

Tabcorp's casino divisions chief executive Walter Bugno said Star City was looking to increase the number of gaming tables from 210 to 350.

This announcement comes seven months after Mr Iemma told the Daily News during a state election campaign visit that there were no plans to allow a second NSW casino in the Tweed.

Recent speculation that a Tweed casino was set to be announced reached fever pitch with a front page report in yesterday's Daily Telegraph declaring Mr Iemma was due to announce the second casino licence.

A Tweed casino would not only take gambling revenue from Jupiters casino on the Gold Coast, it would undermine the Tweed's biggest industrty, the services clubs.

Mr Smith said if a Tweed casino was to have been licensed, the Twin Towns club would have been unable to proceed with plans to build the Tweed's much-needed first convention centre, next to Twin Towns' main premises fronting Jack Evans Boat Harbour.

"If a casino came here our plans would have to be well and truly shelved, if we were confronted with a commerical operator," Mr Smith said.

He said the Tweed casino rumours had caused "a great deal of instability" in the Tweed business community, where clubs had been successfully providing significant community benefits for many years.

"The NSW government has been prepared to put that at risk as a negotiating tool," Mr Smith said.



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