(Repeats story first published late on Tuesday; no change to
SYDNEY, June 18 Malaysian gambling giant Genting
Bhd has increased its stake in Australia's Echo
Entertainment Group, just weeks after rival casino
company Crown Ltd sold its 10 percent stake in Echo.
Genting raised its stake in Echo to 6.6 percent from 5.22
percent via its Genting Hong Kong Ltd unit, according
to a regulatory filing. Financial details were not disclosed.
The increase comes as Crown and Echo wage an increasingly
acrimonious war to gain a lock in Sydney on gambling tourists
from mainland China.
Echo, which holds the sole licence to operate a casino in
the harbourside city until 2019, is lobbying for an extension of
that exclusivity and an expansion of its Star Casino in an
attempt to block Crown's plans for a high-roller gambling suite.
Crown's proposed VIP facility is part of a A$1 billion
($957.35 million) six-star hotel and residential development on
Sydney's waterfront that majority owner, billionaire James
Packer, has said will bring "thousands more Chinese tourists to
Sydney that otherwise wouldn't visit".
Officials with Echo and Genting could not be reached for
Crown and Echo must submit proposals by June 21 and the
government will approve only one, meaning either Crown builds a
second casino or Echo remains the sole gambling operator.
Crown's stake in Echo was widely viewed as an insurance
policy, but sources have said Packer's proposal is likely to win
favour with the government.
Genting, through Genting Singapore PLC,
unexpectedly cut its stake in Echo last September, giving no
reason, but has since applied to increase its stake above 10
percent. The New South Wales state's gaming authority has yet to
rule on that application and has given no timeframe for a
($1 = 1.0446 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Jane Wardell, Editing by Matt Driskill)