Casino boss betting on Asia

FOLLOWING a career spanning airlines, financial services and property, John Schaap has taken the job of turning Burswood Resort Casino from a yield stock to a growth stock.

Prior to joining Burswood in July, the Sydney-raised executive’s only exposure to WA had been as Qantas WA sales manager in the late 1970s.

Mr Schaap said the last time he had been to Belmont before returning to Burswood was for the Miss Universe Quest in 1979.

His “gaming” experience came from his three-year stint at the head of Thakral Holdings – a Sydney-based hotel and property group.

Thakral’s major holdings include 12 hotels and four shopping centres.

“During my time with them, they opened gaming rooms in seven of their hotels,” Mr Schaap said.

“I learnt a lot about the video part of the gaming world from that.”

The majority of Mr Schaap’s working life has been in the airline industry.

He “grew up” in Qantas before becoming the CEO of Fijian airline Air Pacific and then Australian Airlines.

He completed the airline industry circuit by becoming Qantas’ Australian general manager before leaving the industry after the merger of Australian Airlines and Qantas and joining American Express.

Mr Schaap said he enjoyed his time with the financial services company but the extensive travelling proved taxing.

“After spending such a long time in the business of travelling, the travelling got too much,” he said.

Mr Schaap said North Asia held the key to improving the resort’s results.

“Burswood was the main international gaming facility in this part of the world for some time,” he said.

The creation of Star and Crown casinos has removed some of that advantage.

“Our major markets are South East and North Asia,” Mr Schaap said.

“Our only shortcoming is we haven’t drawn enough international custom from North Asia but we will.

“We can manage the whole gambit of gaming businesses here from the international high rollers to the WA public.

“In terms of a casino, Burswood is unique because it really is a resort casino. All of Australia’s other casinos are in the heart of cities and don’t have the facilities we do.”

Mr Schaap wants to make all of Burswood’s assets work harder and is overseeing the resort’s expansion started by his predecessor Ed Posey.

He said the $75 million expansion would bring new life to sections of Burswood’s business that had become “topped-out”.

The expansion includes a 450-seat foodhall-style eating area, removing the casino’s Cabaret Lounge and Spinner’s Café from the gaming floor and setting them up in their own purpose-built facility and expanding the resort’s convention centre.

The removal of the Spinner’s Bar and Cabaret Lounge will open the way for more tables and machines on the gaming floor, although WA Government approval is still pending.

Mr Schaap said the expansion should have been done in stages but the 1998 corporatisation of Burswood’s business operations held it up.

Burswood’s other revenue generation will come through its redevelopment of the nearby Swan Portland site. Remediation work is under way and the joint venture partners for the redevelopment should be signed in three to four months.

First dwellings on the site should be available by the end of next year.

Mr Schaap said the development would be a mixture of medium density housing, commercial and retail.

“It should be a five to 10-year project,” he said.

Mr Schaap said the Burswood Dome’s future was questionable.

“It is only used 21 days of the year and is struggling to pay its way,” he said.


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