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Canberra Casino hoping second time’s the charm

Tue, Jun 25, 2:12pm by Staff Writer

Casino Canberra is back in talks with the government for the first time since its $330 million expansion proposal was knocked back late last year.

But the casino says it is still waiting on the government to clarify a range of issues that would allow it to progress planning.

It has been almost four years since the initial redevelopment was proposed which would have transformed the Glebe Park precinct.

The development included plans for luxury hotels, prestige brand shopping, new bars, cafés and a new convention centre.

After protracted negotiations, the government announced late last year it would reject the casino’s unsolicited bid.

Restrictions around the number of pokies allowed and the government’s decision not to make certain land available were key sticking points.

But the casino has very recently recontacted the government wishing to talk, the deputy director general of the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development directorate, Kareena Arthy, said.

“That’s as far as it’s got,” she told ACT Estimates hearings, according to The Canberra Times.

“It’s very recent.”

The government says the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission is working with the casino to ensure the proposal is eligible under the Casino Control ACT 2006.

Casino Canberra chief executive Allison Gallaugher said the group remained committed to pursuing the redevelopment.

“We are eager to be able to deliver Canberra the kind of world-class entertainment precinct an emerging international city deserves,” she said.

“We continue to await advice from Government on the clarification of a range of issues that will allow us to progress our planning. We look forward to working productively with the ACT Government and local industry to progress our vision.”

Less pokies and tables after regulatory change

Shareholders approved a sale of the casino to Blue Whale Entertainment in March but the transaction is awaiting regulatory approval.

Hong Kong-based Aquis – which currently owns the casino – wanted permission to operate 500 poker machines in exchange for the $330 million redevelopment.

However laws the ACT Legislative Assembly passed in 2017 year only allow the casino to operate 200 poker machines, as well as 60 fully-automated table games.

The laws also limit punters to $2 spins and force them to nominate how much they are prepared to lose in advance.

The laws do not allow for the casino to immediately begin operating poker machines.

Instead, it would need to buy poker machine authorisations from clubs and hostels after a number of requirements have been met.

Those requirements include completing an approved casino redevelopment and the casino undertaking a social impact assessment of the number of poker machines it applies for.

Opposition gaming spokesman Mark Parton said the government’s handling of the negotiations could put other investors off.

“This has been a long and drawn-out process punctuated with lengthy periods where the stakeholder has no idea what is going on,” he said.

“This government couldn’t even organise a chook raffle.

“It wouldn’t be surprising if potential investors observing this debacle ran a mile.”

An ACT government spokeswoman said the government met with Casino Canberra on December 13 when the unsolicited bid was rejected, and other possible avenues for a redevelopment were discussed.

She said the commission was having ongoing discussions with the casino.

“The government is satisfied that the current policy settings on the number of poker machine authorisations for the ACT and the legislative framework in place for electronic gaming machines in the casino are appropriate,” the spokeswoman said.

“The harm-minimisation measures for electronic gaming machines in the casino are the most robust of any Australian state or territory.”

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