Fresh from massive investments in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia’s Star Entertainment Group is planning to invest an extra AU$2 billion into a mega masterplan for The Star Gold Coast including the construction of four new hotel towers.
In August, Inside Asian Gaming revealed how Star Entertainment Group was gradually turning the tables on old rival Crown Resorts in the battle for dominance of Australia’s gaming market. Once a distant second in the lucrative world of international VIP play, Star has taken the lead in the past 12 months with VIP turnover of AU$61.2 billion in FY18 compared to Crown’s AU$51.5 billion – a reversal heavily aided by the October 2016 arrests of 19 Crown employees in mainland China for promoting gambling.
Now Star is raising the bar following the announcement in early November that it had been granted approval by the Queensland state government to proceed with a new “mega masterplan” that will see it invest a further AU$2 billion into its Queensland assets and effectively launch the Gold Coast holiday strip onto the global tourism map.
The ambitious masterplan includes the construction of five new hotel towers and associated resort facilities on Broadbeach Island – a vast expansion on the original plan of just one new tower plus upgrades to existing facilities at The Star Gold Coast. Development of that first hotel tower, the Dorsett hotel and apartments, is already underway and expected to be completed by 2022.
The Star Gold Coast is also well advanced on a previously announced AU$850 million redevelopment and opened a 17-story luxury suite hotel called The Darling – complete with private gaming room Sovereign – in March.
What stands out most about Star’s new mega masterplan is the sheer scale of the investment – putting it on par with flagship property The Star Sydney and the AU$3.5 billion Queen’s Wharf Development set to transform Brisbane, located just an hour north of the Gold Coast by car.
According to Star Entertainment Group Managing Director and CEO Matt Bekier, “The masterplan in its entirety would see The Star Gold Coast boast more tourism accommodation than any other resort in Australia.”
Moreover, “The 3,000 hotel rooms and apartments would also exceed what the world-renowned Marina Bay Sands in Singapore offers, and be on a scale to compare with the largest integrated resorts in Las Vegas.
“This would be a project of incredible scale … our expanded masterplan provides the opportunity for another four towers and world-class facilities. They would include a stunning recreational deck, water features and hero pools, a quality day spa, new dining precincts, more bars and cafes, exciting entertainment facilities, plus a nightclub where international acts can be showcased.”
The Gold Coast hasn’t traditionally been viewed as a particularly high-end tourist destination – aside from its sandy white beaches, it is perhaps best known in Australia for its Cavill Avenue bar and nightclub strip and as the home of “Schoolies Week”, an annual pilgrimage of recent high school graduates letting their hair down.
But Bekier has long seen more to it than that.
In an exclusive interview with IAG in mid-2017, he stated, “We think there is a lot more potential on the Gold Coast. With Queen’s Wharf we’ll have a precinct with five hotels that will bring four million incremental visitors to Brisbane. What we’re doing with the Gold Coast is providing a companion piece to that. We see it as an opportunity to extend the trip – enjoy an urban experience in Brisbane and then the quintessential Australian beaches experience on the Gold Coast.
“That’s why we’re so excited about the Gold Coast and it’s why we bought the Sheraton when it became available because it is another great when it comes to visitors extending their trip (Star purchased the Sheraton Mirage Resort located alongside the Gold Coast’s Main Beach in October 2016 for AU$140 million).”
More than simply taking an opportunity however, the mega masterplan promises to be transformational in the same way that Queen’s Wharf is changing the very face of Brisbane.
It also sends a clear message to Crown, which is in the process of moving into Star’s traditional home territory with Crown Sydney – the AU$2.2 billion VIP casino due to open just a stone’s throw from The Star Sydney in 2021.
Making it all possible is Star’s partnership with Hong Kong’s Chow Tai Fook and Far East Consortium. Originally coming together to successfully bid on Queen’s Wharf in 2015, the jewelry and real estate giants each purchased a 4.99% stake in Star Entertainment Group in March as part of a Strategic Alliance that Star says “underpins the strategic partnership and better aligns the interests of The Star’s strategic joint venture partners with the long-term growth and financial performance of The Star.”
Star said at the time that the Strategic Alliance includes a commitment by the trio to jointly pursue major growth developments in and around Star’s properties in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast to increase their scale and appeal, while also establishing a marketing alliance to drive high-end tourism. Certainly there is plenty of value in CTFE and FEC’s respective databases of high-end customers which will no doubt be fully utilized to drive traffic the way of their new Australian resort interests.
As for Star? “Our vision is to be Australia’s leading integrated resort company and our plans for the Gold Coast are completely aligned with that positioning,” Bekier explains.
“We are excited about the tourism forecasts we are seeing for the Gold Coast and much needed new infrastructure will deliver a resort of true international appeal.”
No timeline has yet been supplied for the Gold Coast masterplan, with the company stating commencement would depend on “market and competitor conditions.”