Canberra casino faces increasing losses

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
view of Casino Canberra from the street

The owner and operator of Casino Canberra is facing increased losses as it grapples with falling gaming revenue, but the company says discussions are back on with the ACT government about a major redevelopment project.

The Canberra Times reports that Aquis Entertainment Limited recorded an almost $4 million loss to December 2019, according to its financial statements.

It was more than half a million dollars higher than the loss recorded in 2018.

The casino’s revenue has fallen 6.1 per cent or $1.6 million since 2018 as its share price hit a low of 0.011 at the end of February.

The drop in revenue was driven by a 6.6 per cent decrease in gaming revenue and a 1.7 per cent decrease in food and beverage and other sales, the statements said.

The release of the financial results came after the company announced in February a long-awaited deal to transfer ownership of the casino to Blue Whale Entertainment had been terminated.

The financial statements said it meant its focus would return to redevelopment plans and discussions with the government to begin operating poker machines.

“The company still has intentions to update plans in relation to a proposed redevelopment, incorporating the 200 [electronic gaming machines] for which approval has been legislated,” the documents said.

“There are several terms in the legislation which require clarification prior to the company being able to settle any plans.

“Discussions have been held with the government in relation to a plan as to clarification of these items, which will progress through 2020.”

ACT laws have long barred Casino Canberra from operating pokie machines.

But under legislation enacted in 2017, it could operate 200 if it met a number of requirements including completing an approved redevelopment of the precinct.

Protracted negotiations with the territory government around a redevelopment fell through in 2018.

The casino, which employs 221 people, had wanted to operate 500 machines.

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

The company’s balance sheet at December 31 showed a net asset deficit of $20.6 million, up from $16,651,690 in 2018 as a result of the loss incurred during the financial year.

Earnings before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) for the year was a profit of $72,244, down on the 2018 profit of $625,885.

“There are several other prospects available to the company, which will be investigated and evaluated prior to reporting in due course,” the statements said.

“The existing short to medium term strategy to improve service and gaming offerings, increase revenues and minimise expenditure via improvements in processes and increased efficiencies continues from prior years.

“The company remains committed to the operation of the casino and to advancing the strategy of creating a world class entertainment precinct in the Canberra CBD with the casino as its centrepiece.”

Casino Canberra losses pile up

The losses for Casino Canberra have been piling up.

Casino Aus reported in September that with the reporting of the first half of 2019, the casino lost another $2.5 million.

Losses have been increasing from one year to the next for the past several years.

Could a government development save the day though?

The casino first opened in 1994, located in the central business district of Australia’s capital city.

The casino did well for many years. It now has 39 gaming tables for table games like blackjack, roulette, as well as a poker room and sports lounge affiliated with TAB.

There are regulators and a stream of customers that prefer that type of gambling.

But Casino Canberra hasn’t been able to keep up with the times for several reasons.

First and most importantly, it is not licensed to operate pokies.

The lack of that gambling option for casino customers has proven to be a detriment.

Second, it is not operated in conjunction with a hotel or concert venue, things that help more modern casinos attract customers.

Casinos Australia International was the original operator of the casino.

It was acquired by the Aquis Group, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung in 2014.

Last year, Blue Whale Entertainment acquired the casino for $32 million.

And that made Blue Whale a majority shareholder in Aquis Entertainment.

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