Spending down on Tasmanian poker machines

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Future of Tasmanian gambling outlined in government policy

Gamblers in Tasmania poured $172.1 million into poker machines in 2018-19, including $104.4 million on machines in pubs and clubs.

The Advocate reports that there was $67.7 million put into gaming machines in the state’s two casinos and on the Spirit of Tasmania vessels.

The figure spent on poker machines in pubs and clubs was the lowest amount recorded in the past five years and $1.5 million less than what was spent in 2017-18.

There was $19.1 million spent on gaming machines in the Glenorchy council area, the highest of all municipalities.

Launceston came in second at $15.4 million with Devonport next at $10 million.

Gamblers spent $6.5 million on poker machines in Burnie.

In its annual report tabled to the state government last week, the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission revealed Australian National Hotels was fined $15,900 last financial year for incorrectly configuring an electronic gaming machine’s button panel.

The commission investigated nine complaints in relation to gaming machines in 2018-19.

Casino Canberra losses pile up

The losses for Casino Canberra have been piling up.

Casino Aus reports 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.

More than $2.5m lost

According to the financials for the first six months of 2019 – the period ending June 30 – Casino Canberra reported a loss of $2,553,772.

That loss was up from the same period in 2018, at which point the company reported a loss of $2,156,212.

The year-on-year losses increased by 18.4 per cent.

Revenue was down as well.

Casino Canberra reported $11,985,114 in revenue, down 2.7 per cent from $12,317,421 in the same period last year.

EBITDA was down 176.2 per cent, earnings before interest and tax were down 34.7 per cent and operating costs had increased, though not significantly.

One obvious improvement that would help increase business at Casino Canberra would be the addition of poker machines.

However, the government has refused numerous times to remove the restrictions originally implemented when the casino was built.

Other establishments in Canberra that do have pokie licences have lobbied for years against the casino obtaining them, and they have been successful.

In 2016, Aquis submitted a proposal to the government to redevelop Casino Canberra in exchange for a licence to operate 500 pokies.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr agreed in principal to 200 machines.

However, the redevelopment had to be completed first and the pokies had to be purchased from establishments that currently own them so as not to exceed the machine cap for the region.

Aquis then submitted its final proposal for the $330 million renovation, but negotiations took over and then disintegrated.

The government and property could not agree on much of anything, from the final number of pokies to the details of the redevelopment, such as the amount of land to be awarded to Aquis for the necessary expansion.

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