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MoneyUS buyer bets on Australian casino market in $188m deal

01:06  09 november  2018
01:06  09 november  2018 Source:   smh.com.au

Darwin's SkyCity Casino sold to America's Delaware North

Darwin's SkyCity Casino sold to America's Delaware North Darwin's SkyCity Casino and resort has been sold to American company Delaware North. 

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US buyer bets on Australian casino market in $188m deal© Photo: Bloomberg SkyCity, listed on the ASX, runs casinos in Adelaide, Darwin and Auckland. Australian and New Zealand casino operator SkyCity has struck a $188 million deal to sell its Darwin casino to US hospitality giant Delaware North.

SkyCity told investors on Thursday it had agreed to sell the Darwin casino to New York-based Delaware North, a major operator of airports, sports stadiums, gaming venues, pubs and food outlets all around the world.

In Australia, Delaware North is best-known for operating the food and hospitality services at capital city airports, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Marvel Stadium, and at the annual Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.

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“Australia has been a second home for Delaware North for 30 years,” said Lou Jacobs, the company’s co-chief executive. “We are thrilled to have grown our business into a diversity of operations across the country.”

The sale of SkyCity Darwin was “not an easy decision”, SkyCity said, but it was part of a wider corporate strategy to focus on its more-profitable casino assets in New Zealand and Adelaide.

SkyCity bought the Darwin casino from US casino operator MGM in 2004. The Darwin complex today has 600 poker machines, more than 30 table games, four restaurants, five bars, VIP ‘super villas’ with gaming suites, a day spa, conference spaces and Darwin's only five-star hotel and resort.

The 650 staff at SkyCity Darwin will be retained once the change of ownership takes effect, the company confirmed on Thursday.

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“We’re proud of our contribution to Darwin and the Northern Territory over the past 14 years,” said SkyCity chief executive Graeme Stephens. “Now feels like the right time to hand the baton across to a new owner to continue the next stage in Darwin casino’s journey.”

Mr Jacobs said the acquisition of SkyCity Darwin marked an expansion of the company's presence in the gaming and entertainment sectors. Earlier this year, the company bought two Brisbane pubs and gaming venues, The Shafston Hotel and The Aspley Hotel.

SkyCity said it would continue to be able to use of the casino’s VIP facilities – catering for mainly Asian high-roller visitors – for at least the next two years. It also said it had entered into a joint venture with Delaware North to establish an online casino business in the event that there was a “future change in legislation” in Australia permitting online casino game activities within the next decade.

“International business and online are both areas where we see growth potential,” Mr Stephens said, “so I’m pleased we are able to retain these links with the Darwin property.”

Following news of the deal on Thursday, shares in SkyCity were trading 2.8 per cent higher, at $3.57, by about 2pm. The sale is subject to approval from Northern Territory Attorney General and Justice Minister Natasha Fyles.

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