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A star in the making

Nick Nichols | March 2017

This is how a $2 billion investment will transform Jupiters Casino into an international player…

The Star Entertainment Group has stepped up its development plans for Jupiters Casino after revealing it will start construction later this year of a $400 million hotel-apartment project.

The golden tower, which will rise 200 metres above the casino’s Broadbeach Island site, is the first of up to five new buildings that could lead to a $2 billion transformation of The Star’s Gold Coast property into a mini metropolis.

The plan represents a rapid development program for the Jupiters property where The Star’s is currently building a new six-star hotel that promises to raise the bar for the Gold Coast accommodation sector.

According to The Star’s Queensland managing director Geoff Hogg, the masterplan for the property will fill a growing need for hotel accommodation in Australia’s tourism capital for the next two decades.

“What we are doing at Jupiters is about a significant investment in change, and we see an opportunity for us to strategically invest capital to make that change,” he said.

While Hogg sees increasing domestic market share as part of that change, it is the inbound Asian tourism potential for Queensland that makes the proposed investment stack up.

“The opportunities coming out of Asia and China are particularly exciting,” he says.

“But we don’t have enough hotels, particularly at that higher end, to meet the growing demand from those areas.”

The Star’s capacity to bring its $2 billion masterplan for Jupiters Casino to fruition has been boosted by its joint-venture agreement with Chinese property conglomerates Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and Far East Consortium.

It is this partnership that is delivering the $2 billion Queens Wharf casino-resort development to Brisbane’s CBD, and which led to The Star acquiring the Sheraton Grand Mirage on the Gold Coast for $140 million earlier this year.

The Sheraton acquisition is part of a strategic repositioning of The Star in the south-east Queensland market ahead of potential competition from a proposed new casino licence for the Gold Coast.

Considering the current developments under way, The Star and its partners will have poured nearly $1 billion in capital improvements into the Gold Coast market over three years.

The new six-star hotel is on track for completion ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April.

Its completion will bring to fruition what The Star has been unable to achieve through a number of refurbishments undertaken on the existing hotel property in recent years.

“One thing for us is about the height and space of the rooms,” says Hogg.

The smallest room in the six-star hotel will be 68sqm, which is larger than some two-bedroom apartments.

“We couldn’t convert a 30-year-old building to have rooms of that size and scale,” says Hogg.

“These are luxury suites that are spacious and with quality fixtures and fittings. But it will be the service differentiation and the personalised component of the offering that will differentiate the six-star experience.

“We will meet guests at the airport, without the need for check-ins. Upon arrival, they will go straight to their rooms where a butler service will deliver everything they need throughout the day.”

The six-star new hotel is primarily aimed at high rollers and big-spending tourists, particularly international players. A premium gaming room and VIP salons, as well as high-end restaurants, complete the new offering.

While the Chinese market remains a key source of VIP business for the highly competitive Australian casino market, The Star revealed in February that it was broadening its horizon to attract a bigger share of business from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Despite the significant potential Asian markets offer, Hogg says the transformation of Jupiters is also designed to embrace Gold Coast patrons. The proposed new hotel-apartment tower will bring permanent residents to Broadbeach Island for the first time since it was a caravan park in the early 1980s.

“We’re looking at something that will be accessible to all,” says Hogg.

“The proposed new apartment tower will deliver 300 new four-and-a-half-star hotel rooms, along with 400 serviced apartments.”

Hogg says some of these apartments will house permanent residents, while others are likely to be included in the letting pool.

“Having those extra keys on the island to meet demand from local and international visitors would be good,” he says.

The Star has indicated its plans for the new apartment tower will depend on pre-sales, which are expected to be confirmed by the end of August.

The Star has already started contracting works for the development and it is aiming to tender for the project before the end of the year.

Preliminary site work is likely to start ahead of the Commonwealth Games, although Hogg says construction will stop for the duration of the Games before resuming in earnest immediately afterwards.

As part of the property transformation, Jupiters is also headed for a name change. From July, the property will be known as The Star Gold Coast.

The name change will herald a new era for Jupiters, topping off a refurbishment program that began more than two years ago. This has included upgrades to hotel rooms, the lobby and casino entrance, and the introduction of a suite of new dining offerings.

Once completed, the new six-star hotel and the new hotel-apartment tower will create a complex with 1400 premium hotel rooms and residences, and more than 20 food and beverage outlets supported by retail and resort facilities.

Hogg says the acquisition of the Grand Sheraton Mirage is integral to The Star’s broader vision for south-east Queensland including Queen’s Wharf currently under way.

“A lot of what we are doing is to complement the offering we have on the Gold Coast, and the Sheraton is a great example of this.”

Hogg says plans for the Sheraton Grand Mirage, which will build on its market position as a high-end beachfront hotel, are likely to take up to nine months to formulate.

“Any major work won’t happen until after the Commonwealth Games, but we see it as an opportunity to do something pretty special within the framework we’re allowed.”