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More losses reported by Casino Canberra

Tue, Sep 10, 8:14am by Staff Writer

Casino Canberra’s losses have widened and its revenue has fallen in the first half of the year.

The Canberra Times is reporting that Aquis Entertainment Limited – the owner of the casino – recorded a $2,553,772 loss in its half yearly report.

That’s an increase from the loss reported in June 2018 of $2,156,212.

Revenue for the first half of the year was $11,985,194 – 2.7 per cent lower than the corresponding period in 2018 at $12,317,421.

Operating expenses also increased slightly.

The directors’ report said the group continued to apply its medium term strategy of combining leadership and targeted investment in the business to improve the underperforming operation.

It said Aquis was still focusing its marketing on capitalizing on the refurbishment of Casino Canberra in 2016.

The directors said the group had continued to create “efficiencies” through cost control and improving business processes.

The group continued to liaise with the ACT government in relation to redevelopment options and “associated legislative conditions”, the report said.

It has been locked in negotiations with the government over its expansion plans for a number of years.

It rejected the government’s offer to operate 200 poker machines, wanting to include 500.

The report said the group held cash of $4,291,570, down from $4,615,170 the same time last year.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation dropped 176 per cent to a loss of $557,242.

The directors said they expected that figure to be positive for the full year, despite the half yearly figures missing targets.

It said it had loans worth $32,756,446 – up from $31,698,978 in June 2018.

The group has been locked in talks with the government over plans to expand for a number of years, with an unsolicited bid rejected late last year.

It wanted permission to operate 500 poker machines but the government would only allow it to operate 200.

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, cafes and a new convention centre.

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

At estimates hearings in June, the government said it had recently been recontacted by the group wishing to discuss the development again.

Casino Canberra chief executive Allison Gallaugher said at the time 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.”

Casino Canberra workers unsure of future

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.

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