Tue, May 2, 12:52pm by Staff Writer
Days before Queensland voters head to the polls for statewide elections, political leaders representing several major parties are publicly debating proposed casino expansion.
The issue was raised on April 19 by MP Deb Frecklington, who serves as Liberal National Party (LNP) Deputy Leader and Shadow State Development Minister within Queensland’s state government.
During a visit to Yeppoon, Frecklington announced the LNP’s plan to reserve one of two new casino licenses for central and north Queensland, should her party secure gains in the May 5 elections.
As Frecklington framed the issue, blame for the collapse of an $8.5 billion Aquis casino resort should be placed on the government of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the alleged inaction of her Australian Labor Party (ALP):
“Queensland is stagnating, the community is crying out for leadership and we have a government stuck in neutral. Developers are extremely interested in building a world-class Integrated Resort Development (IRD) in Regional Queensland but Labor won’t give them a chance.
Queensland is missing out on billions of dollars of investment and thousands of job opportunities because Labor can’t make a decision.”
Frecklington also outlined specific components of the casino expansion plan, which is being spearheaded by LNP leader Tim Nicholls:
“Labor’s criteria has stifled the development of an IRD in Regional Queensland because of the requirement the regional casino be located within 70km of a major population centre with a catchment of at least 150,000 people.
A Tim Nicholls-led LNP government would drop Labor’s unfair criteria surrounding minimum population and proximity to an international airport.”
Predictably, the Labor party quickly issued a sternly worded rebuke of the LNP plan.
Dr. Anthony Lynham, State Development Minister for Labor, repeatedly called the legitimacy of the LNP’s site suitability arguments into question in an interview with The Mercury:
“Regional centres like Cairns, Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and other cities in Queensland all satisfy our criteria — contrary to what Mr. Nicholls says in his flim-flam casino scheme.”
Mr. Nicholls’ scheme talks about delivering an integrated resort development in Cairns, central Queensland and the Gold Coast, but they are only offering two licences at the most.”
The Greens also got their punches in at the LNP’s expense, with the party’s state spokesman and Michael Berkman – who is also running as a candidate for the new parliamentary seat in Maiwar – telling The Mercury that Queensland is hardly a state in need of additional casino enterprises:
“Queensland already has the highest number of casinos in Australia, and the LNP are bizarrely promising to put more in areas of the state without high populations or an international airport nearby.
These casinos would rely on pokies, which rip money from the poorest in our state and put it straight into the pockets of billionaire gambling companies.”
In 2014, the state granted two new casino licenses, with one awarded to Tony Fung and his Aquis corporation, and the other to China-based investment firm ASF Group.
As noted by Frecklington when she announced the LNP’s plan, Aquis abandoned the proposed Cairns casino megaresort – slated to be worth $8.5 billion – in 2016, with Fung citing widespread shifts within the casino industry.
ASF Group’s planned Gold Coast casino is still in the works, amidst ongoing negotiations between the Chinese company and Queensland’s government.
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