Gambling lobbyist to head Libs

Chris Downy … the favourite to become president of the NSW Liberal Party.A GAMBLING industry lobbyist, Chris Downy, is the favourite to become president of the NSW Liberal Party as the O’Farrell government considers granting a second Sydney casino licence to James Packer at Barangaroo.

Mr Downy, pictured, a former NSW minister for sport and racing, is the outgoing chief executive of the Australasian Casino Association.

The casino association’s president is Rowen Craigie, the chief executive of Mr Packer’s company, Crown Ltd, which is urging the government to grant it the Sydney casino licence.

Last month Mr Downy left to join another gambling industry lobby group, the Australian Wagering Council, which represents online gambling companies.

Its inaugural members include the online betting agency Betfair, a company in which Crown has an interest.

Last Friday Mr Downy, who is backed by the moderate faction, nominated to replace Senator Arthur Sinodinos as president of the NSW Liberals in a vote in December. He is expected to easily defeat his challenger, mortgage broker John Ruddick, who is backed by the hard right faction.

As NSW Liberal president, Mr Downy would take a seat on the party’s powerful state executive alongside the Premier, Barry O’Farrell. Mr O’Farrell announced on October 25 that Mr Packer’s six-star hotel and casino project for Barangaroo had received cabinet approval to proceed to stage two of a three-stage ”unsolicited proposals” assessment process.

Mr Packer wants to include VIP-only gambling rooms in the proposed hotel to make the project profitable. He needs the government to issue a second Sydney casino licence when the monopoly licence held by the Star casino expires in 2019.

The government has said the casino licence would not go to tender, arguing that Crown was uniquely placed to carry out the project.

A former senator, Helen Coonan, ruled herself out of the running to become NSW Liberal president just days after the government announced initial approval for Mr Packer’s plan.

Ms Coonan, who is a director of Mr Packer’s company, Crown Ltd, had been approached by senior party figures in the right faction and had been considering her options.

She said the decision to give the green light to progress Crown’s proposal to stage two had ”no direct bearing on my decision”.

Former Future Fund chairman David Murray has been appointed to oversee the panel undertaking stage two of the process, which will examine the benefit to NSW of a second licence. It is expected to report early next year. Mr Downy did not respond to a request for comment.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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