Wed, May 28, 7:15pm by Dominic Ciconte
QUEENSLAND has taken another step towards becoming the gaming capital of Australia, confirming the winning bids for two new casino licences.
A Hong Kong billionaire and a Chinese-Australian investment group won bids on Tuesday to build multi-billion-dollar casinos and holiday resorts in the Sunshine State.
Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung has succeeded in his $8.15 billion bid for his Aquis project near Cairns, while the ASF Consortium will also be allowed to go forward after its $7.5 billion Broadwater Marine Project on the Gold Coast got the go ahead.
Both projects will officially receive gaming licences once they obtain environmental, planning and gambling approvals from a number of independent bodies.
Queensland’s Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney said that the bid-winners were awarded the licences because they delivered on all of the parameters that were expected from new developments.
“The Queensland government has identified that these projects have the greatest capacity to deliver the requirements for an integrated resort development in the regions, particularly the potential to attract inter-state and international tourists as both these centers have international airports,” Seeney said.
Seeney said all short-listed bids would be “absolutely” knocked back if they failed on probity and casino licensing grounds.
Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung’s bid had been making waves since last year when he labelled his plans for a six-star resort as a future “man-made wonder of the world”.
Fung’s project will include nine luxury hotels, a casino, a golf course, more than 3,750 rooms and one of the world’s largest aquariums. It will be built 13 kilometres away from the gateway to to Great Barrier Reef, in the no-longer-small town of Yorkeys Knob.
The ASF Group is a Chinese-Australian investment firm listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Its Gold Coast proposal will include a waterfront eco-park and a cruise ship terminal – destined to attract significant tourism.
The two casinos will create thousands of jobs for the state.
The proposed development in Yorkeys Knob has been criticised by some residents, who are afraid it could threaten the environment, including the World Heritage-listed reef. As reported in AustralianGambling in April, developers for the project are confident there will be no harm to the environment.
A third and final casino license is still up for grabs. Echo Entertainment, James Packer’s Crown consortium and another Hong Kong investment group are fighting it out for a integrated resort in the heart of Brisbane.
Tim Costello, chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, said the new casinos, being built in regional towns with unemployment issues, would create significant problems in the community if they failed to attract international high rollers.
“This is very foolish and shortsighted. It’s madness,” he said.
“Their business model, because they’re never up front about it, is always heavily reliant on local custom – not just international gamblers like they say.”
Costello also said another casino on the Gold Coast would add to problems the Government and Queensland police are experiencing with bikie crime syndicates laundering money.
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