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Casino Canberra workers unsure of future

Wed, Aug 7, 7:52am by Staff Writer

Workers at Casino Canberra say they are in limbo as the venue prepares to change hands.

The Canberra Times is reporting that employee Bryan Kidman, who has worked on the casino’s gaming floor for more than 16 years, said employees were in the dark about how staffing levels would be impacted by a change in the ownership structure of the city casino.

Blue Whale Entertainment is awaiting the Australian Capital Territory government’s approval on a complex deal that will see it become the majority shareholder in the companies which own and operate the casino, Aquis Entertainment Limited and Casino Canberra Limited.

The government is completing a probity review of the deal, which marks the final step of the approval process.

The company’s board and shareholders have already approved the proposal, which was announced in December.

A government spokesman could not put a time frame on the completion of the review.

Mr Kidman, who is a delegate for the hospitality workers’ union, United Voice, said neither Aquis nor Blue Whale had provided workers with written assurances about their employment conditions once the deal was complete.

Mr Kidman said the union approached Aquis earlier this year seeking to negotiate a new pay deal, as the existing agreement was due to expire on June 30.

The union was told that talks would not start until the sale was complete, prompting it to ask for a “letter of intent” stating that existing working conditions would be retained under the new owners.

It also sought guarantees that, following the sale, there would be no forced redundancies, changes to hours or rosters or any outsourcing of work.

The old agreement has since expired, although the conditions will remain in force until a new deal is struck.

“If they won’t give us an undertaking about the conditions, then there must be a reason for that,” Mr Kidman said.

“There is just the uncertainty of not knowing what our conditions are going to be. People are a bit worried in the hospitality industry because of what has happened in the past.

“We are not being told anything, we’ve had no information.”

The acting chief executive of Casino Canberra and Aquis, Allison Gallaugher, said it was premature to start negotiations with the union before the government’s probity review was finalised, and the sale approved.

However, Ms Gallaugher said Blue Whale had intention to grow the business, which she said could “only be a good thing for all our employees.”

A government spokesman said while it could not force Blue Whale to retain staffing levels or conditions, it hoped it would “consider the wellbeing of their existing employees during the transition.”

New Canberra Casino owners could outsource management

The new owners of the Canberra Casino will be looking to outsource the management of the venue if the proposed sale is approved.

The Brisbane Times reported in March that shareholders voted on the sale to Blue Whale Entertainment on March 21, an acquisition foreshadowed in December.

New directors Michael Gu and Kevin Fan will “bring to the company refreshed perspective at the board level and the opportunity for refinements to the strategy of the company,” according to documents related to the sale.

The documents also reveal that Blue Whale will consider outsourcing management of the casino to an external manage, affiliated with Blue Whale and the IProsperity group, of which Mr Gu is chief executive.

“If this was to occur it is expected that the employment of the senior management of the company would transfer to the management company,” shareholders were told.

The arrangement would still need to be approved by the independent directors of the company, one of whom will be Tony Fund, the casino’s current owner.

“Mr Tony Fung has advised Blue Whale that in his capacity as a significant independent shareholder, he would be supportive of such an arrangement provided it is on arms length terms which are commercially reasonable to Aquis,” the documents said.

A spokesman for Canberra Casino said the decision to outsource management was a matter for Blue Whale, if the sale was approved, and Blue Whale failed to respond to requests for comment.

The spokesman for Canberra Casino did say that outsourcing was simply “a structuring change” and would have no impact on people or roles.

“It will essentially see key management personnel employed a new management entity so they can work across Casino Canberra and other businesses if necessary,” he said.

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