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Canberra Casino redevelopment in doubt after operator fails to secure funding

Fri, Oct 5, 1:39pm by Staff Writer

The redevelopment of Canberra Casino has hit a snag, with operator Aquis Entertainment needing to secure more money to complete the estimated A$330 million redevelopment.

The Hong Kong owned entertainment and leisure provider Aquis Entertainment is owned by investor Tony Fung and his family.

The first plans to redevelop the casino were proposed in 2015, but has reached a dead end until now.

The Australian Capital Territory Government has urged Aquis Entertainment to provide it with key financial information regarding the project, with the original deadline set for April 2018.

With that time frame now long gone, Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay stated that the ACT Government’s considerations would centre on the number of poker machines that would operate at the venue in case of a redevelopment.

Any plans for redevelopment hinge on Aquis Entertainment or another owner of Canberra Casino being able to place hundreds of pokies on the gaming floor.

This would be in direct contrast to government pledges to work with gaming operators in the territory to reduce the number of pokies to 4,000 by 2020.

Mr Ramsay implored the casino to update the government on its plans, but is said to have been left in the dark.

The government and the casino have been struggling to find the middle ground on this issue since 2015, when the redevelopment was first mooted.

Aquis Entertainment Chief states his company is committed

Aquis Entertainment chief executive Jessica Mellor disputed this, stating that the company had lodged a detailed business case in June 2016, without a response from the government.

Mellor would on to remark that the company is committed to its proposal and would work with the government to achieve that end.

In 2017, new legislation was unveiled that required the owner of Canberra Casino to forfeit one in every three gaming machine licenses it acquires.

The Greens and Labor reached a deal that would allow up to 200 poker machines in the redeveloped casino, in addition to 60 fully automated table games and other more standard gambling tables.

This was with the condition that one in every three licences bought from clubs was sacrificed.

As it stands, it is the only casino in the country not licensed to operate poker machines, but features 39 gaming tables and a TAB facility.

The ACT has a scheme where 8 per cent of poker machine profits are given to community groups. 70 per cent of all community contributions went to sport, with $1 million of it used for grounds and administration staff according to sources.

The density of poker machines in the ACT is second only to that of New South Wales, while its poker machine tax take is the lowest in Australia.

The nation average is 9.8 poker machines per 100,000 residents, but that figure is at 14.8 as of 2015-16 in the ACT.

The territory also is the only jurisdiction outside of NSW that still had  $10 per bet limit, compared to $5 elsewhere and $2.50 in New Zealand.

Canberra Casino is located in the Central Business District of Canberra, the capital city of Australia.

It was the first legal casino to open in the Australian Capital Territory and built on land excised from Glebe Park under a 99-year lease agreement between the casino and the territory government.

It does not incorporate any hotel accommodation, theatres, auditoriums or retail stores like other casinos in Australia.

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