It seems like an obvious thing to say, but Australia isnt really near anywhere else. Theres a limited number of ways to get into the country if you are a tourist from overseas, and we dont know that theres that many people arriving by cruise liner for a weekend in a casino resort.
That means that the experience for a visitor to Australia is first and last an experience of our airports. According to the Australasian Casinos Association, business would be improved if it were possible to pay a premium for speedier transit into and out of the country.
The ACA is a group that represents casino owners like Echo Entertainment and Crown Casinos, and no doubt all of its members will be quick to explain the importance of overseas gambling tourism especially from China to their businesses, and so to the cities and states that host casino resorts.
One of the suggestions by the group is simpler visa processing for Chinese tourists, some 30 million of whom could be expected to make the trip to a casino resort in Australia, and who are described by the ACA as premium gamblers. The suggestions are based on the experiment of Singapores two new casinos, whose success has had a galvanising effect on casinos throughout Asia.
Its nice to see Echo and Crown on the same side of the debate, as it seems like all weve heard about for the past few weeks is their deteriorating relationship. Both groups are keen to stress that theyre not looking for favours from the Government, but rather that they want to work together with local authorities to bring gambling tourism to Australia.
James Packer (not surprisingly) spoke to the press last week: if Australia wants to compete ... for high-wealth visitors who will spend a fortune in our local economy creating jobs in tourism, retail and hospitality, then we need to match the great service they receive in other international airports on arrival.
Echo Entertainment chief executive Larry Mullin joined Mr. Packer in support of the proposals, explaining that the ACA were trying to make sure that governments understand our business better ... Sometimes it gets misunderstood through the media or misconceptions about what we are and what we do. But we generate tremendous amounts of tax dollars and jobs, and the ripple effect of the spend from our restaurants and other services has a huge multiplier effect.
It seems to us that both Crown and Echo have a point to make Crown especially posted some impressive 2011 accounts, and a lot of their success has been down to drawing in Chinese VIP high-rollers. Its for the Government to weigh the economic benefits of premium channels at our airports against a host of other issues that affect tourists coming to Australia, but its safe to say the casinos have started the debate...