Chinese high rollers are deserting James Packer’s Perth casino in droves, putting at risk one of the key strategies behind Crown’s $650 million redevelopment.
Gaming and Wagering Commission of WA figures tabled in State Parliament yesterday showed revenue from baccarat — a game favoured by wealthy Chinese gamblers — plummeted by more than one-third last financial year.
In the 12 months to June 30, baccarat takings at Crown slumped to $212 million, compared with almost $330 million in 2015-16.
The plunge dragged down overall gaming revenue at Crown, from $742 million in 2015-16 to $622 million last financial year.
It comes as a blow to Crown. Majority shareholder Mr Packer had ploughed $650 million into redeveloping the casino and hotel complex largely to attract Chinese high rollers known as “whales”.
Money from electronic gaming machines overtook baccarat to become the biggest source of revenue for Crown, generating $266 million in turnover despite a slight decrease.
Elsewhere on Crown’s gaming floor, the popularity of roulette and blackjack also took a hit. The figures coincide with a fall in visitor numbers to the casino, where attendance has fallen 7.6 per cent over four years to 7.8 million.
Crown’s troubles, which were outlined in the commission’s annual report, came as a separate report showed Lotterywest’s sales had also gone backwards last year, ending years of steady growth.
Sales to the State-owned lottery operator were down 7.7 per cent, or $62 million, to $827 million in 2016-17 as a sluggish economy weighed on punters’ demand.
But in a warning about structural changes facing Lotterywest, chairwoman Heather Zampatti said the rise of online sports betting and lotto providers was having an effect on earnings.
“The rise of online sports betting and synthetic lottery providers also made for a challenging year,” Ms Zampatti said.
“As a result, Lotterywest sales were down 7 per cent on the previous financial year, consistent with national lottery industry trends.”
At the racetrack, the commission said punters shelled out $314.6 million on thoroughbred, harness and greyhound races.
Crown did not comment.
By Daniel Mercer