Man in custody after Cairns casino incident 

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Man in custody after Cairns casino incident 

A man is in custody after being involved in a chemical leak at a Cairns casino, which resulted in an evacuation and hospitalisation of eight people.

Cairns Post reports a 34-year-old Woree man is in custody and is alleged to have sprayed a canister in the air at the Reef Hotel Casino shortly before 10pm on Sunday, causing discomfort and breathing difficulties to several people.

Casino management reported the incident to emergency services and crews attended to investigate.

“We had reports from management there saying there was some sort of a chemical leak, there was a really bad chemical smell at the ground floor gaming room and everyone was evacuating,” a QFES spokeswoman said.

“We investigated, we sent two men in breathing apparatus to check all the gas readings, all levels were normal.”

Eight people were assessed by paramedics and taken to Cairns Hospital in a stable condition as a precaution after “reportedly being exposed to a substance.”

A police spokeswoman said the Woree man allegedly then went on to a Lake Street pub and attempted to pay for some drinks with counterfeit money.

“Police allege he assaulted a security guard with capsicum spray when evicted from the pub,” she said.

The Woree man has been charged with dangerous conduct with a weapon, possessing counterfeit money, assaults occasioning bodily harm and two counts of unlawful possession of weapons.

He is scheduled to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court on November 17.

Cairns casino deals with challenges of pandemic 

The impacts of COVID-19 have caused the Reef Casino Trust to withhold its six-month distribution for the first time in 20 years.

Market Herald reported in August that due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, casino and food and beverage outlets at the Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns shut down on March 23, with its hotel operations following soon after.

The company’s operations remain in limbo for the rest of the financial year, despite the casino reopening in July after Queensland’s restrictions were eased.

As a result, Reef Casino was only able to operate for 45 per cent of the half-year period.

This has significantly impacted its cash flow and resulted in a net loss of $23.69 million, compared to a net profit of $755,000 in 2019’s corresponding period.

The loss was mainly attributed to lower earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortisation, which fell to negative $1.7 million from $4.2 million at the same time in 2019.

A non-cash impairment of $19.37 million also contributed to the poor figures.

To help manage its funds during the downturn, the company has chosen not to release a six-month distribution to shareholders.

This is the first time in 20 years that no six-month distribution was made available.

The company considered the move prudent as its per unit loss for the half-year reached 95.14 cents, a dramatic plunge when compared to a per unit net profit of just over 3 cents in the same period in 2019.

However, with operations now back up and running, the Reef Casino is receiving positive rentals and once again returning to profitability.

At the end of last week, the Reef Casino Trust closed at $1.75 per share on Monday. 

Shares peaked at $2.66 in January and fell to a low of $1.58 in April. 

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