Crown chairman James Packer says his plan for a second casino in Sydney is a chance to "do something special" for a city that was "kind" to his family.
Mr Packer opened up in a wide-ranging public interview last night, even offering his views on the portrayal of his media tycoon father in Howzat! and cracking a joke at the expense of former Prime Minister Paul Keating.
Yesterday the NSW government signed off on the first stage of Mr Packer's proposal to build a $1 billion hotel and gaming complex at the Barangaroo development on Sydney's harbourside to rival Echo Entertainment's The Star casino.
Mr Packer said Australia can profit from the growing number of Chinese spending tourist dollars overseas.
"Sydney can really capitalise on this macro trend," he said in the interview, held at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Financial Review-Deutsche Bank Conversation Series.
When asked if his proposed casino was "about you making your mark on your home town", Mr Packer replied: "This is more about money. Sydney has been very kind to our family. This is my chance to do something special."
He said he was attracted to the hotel and gaming industry after spending a lot of time in casinos with his late father, Kerry Packer.
"I thought: 'F---, this must be a good business,'" he said, as the audience erupted with laughter.
He said the growth of Crown was his greatest achievement but admitted making costly mistakes along the way.
He cited investments in US casinos as his "worst call" in business so far.
Crown lost US$250 million it invested in casino development company Fontainebleau Resorts after it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Casino has also admitted a US$242 million investment in Station Casinos is now considered almost worthless.
Mr Packer also admitted he likes the occasional gamble.
"I do a bit, but as you grow older you understand people's motivations.
"We don't want a customer that can't afford to be there. We want people who can and want the adrenaline."
When asked about the biggest influences on his life, Mr Packer listed his father, Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch and Frank Lowy.
On the subject of the recent Nine Network series Howzat!, which dramatises Kerry Packer's fight with world cricketing bodies to start World Series Cricket, Mr Packer said the show failed to capture his father's intelligence or humour.
"I thought there were elements that were really good," he said.
"He had a good temper and they got that, but they didn’t get his sophistication or humour. He was a really smart guy."
Mr Packer also made a light-hearted dig at former PM Paul Keating's fondness for discussing architecture.
"This has to be an absolutely spectacular building," he said about the design of the new complex at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
"I love hearing Keating talk about architecture. It's like listening to someone reading 50 Shades of Grey [an erotic novel by British author E. L. James]."
Mr Packer must now submit a detailed proposal for Casino's hoped-for Sydney casino before the final approval stage.
Author: Erin Tennant, Approving editor: Emily O'Keefe
Sources: Financial Review-Deutsche Bank Conversation Series, Australian Financial Review