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[SYDNEY] Australian mogul James Packer won approval Tuesday for a towering six-star hotel and casino complex on Sydney harbour aimed at Asian high-rollers, with work expected to begin shortly.
The New South Wales state government legislated to site the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort on foreshore land previously earmarked as public open space in 2013.
The casino, which will sit at Barangaroo on the northwestern edge of Sydney's central business district, was then awarded a 99-year gambling licence.
In signing off on the A$1.5 billion (S$1.5 billion) project, the Planning Assessment Commission Tuesday ordered a number of changes to increase public areas around the 71-storey building.
These conditions, which include widening a public promenade on the foreshore, ensured the "public good has been given a more equal status with the private good", it said.
The amended development would deliver a variety of open spaces "while also achieving the government's stated goal to support a high-end tourist and gaming facility on the site in a building of design excellence", it added.
Crown Resorts has previously said the casino would help attract Asian high net worth travellers to Sydney, in particular from China, and create more than 1,000 jobs.
The company, which this month said it would separate its "high-performing" local assets from its international businesses, namely casinos in under-performing Macau, welcomed the decision and said it would move quickly to start work.
"For too long Sydney has suffered from a lack of luxury tourism accommodation and Crown Sydney will help turn that around," chairman Robert Rankin said in a statement.
"We will now move quickly to begin excavation work. We are expecting to complete construction and open in early 2021."
The company plans to build a structure housing a six-star, 350-room hotel, a restricted gaming facility, 66 residential apartments as well as shops and a carpark.
Billionaire Mr Packer, who is engaged to pop diva Mariah Carey, owns 53 per cent of Crown Resorts but resigned as chairman in 2015.