Hong Kong’s Aquis Group continues to paint a positive picture of Canberra Casino’s long-term prospects, despite the modest property – purchased for AU$6 million in 2014 – reporting losses of AU$13.8 million in 2017.
Aquis, headed by billionaire developer Tony Fung, is planning an AU$330 million redevelopment that would transform Australia’s smallest casino into a world class integrated resort including two hotels, high-end dining, bars, cafes and luxury retail. In return, the casino – currently only allowed to operate a limited number of traditional gaming tables – would be granted permission to add 200 slot machines and 60 electronic table games for the first time.
In the meantime, however, Canberra Casino is bleeding money with Aquis reporting a loss of AU$13.8 million in 2017, having previously lost AU$7.7 million in 2016.
According to figures obtained by The Canberra Times, the 2017 figure includes a write down of deferred tax assets of AU$5.49 million, meaning the adjusted loss is closer to AU$8.3 million.
Nevertheless, Aquis pointed to a 7% increase in gaming revenue following a recent refurbishment of the gaming floor as evidence that an opportunity exists in Australia’s capital, stating that it expects the revenue increase to “”continue and stabilize over the coming year as record visitation rates are maintained via new and continuing marketing initiatives.”
Aquis said that the addition of direct flights to Canberra from Singapore in recent months had positively impacted the property, while “the commencement of Qatar Airways flights to Canberra this week,” would lead to further international visitation in the coming year.
Most significant though would be the ability to offer slot machines and ETGs, with Aquis confirming it still intended to go ahead with the redevelopment it needs to be granted government approval.
“Legislation has been enacted to allow 200 electronic gaming machines to operate within the casino,” it said. “Planning continues for the redevelopment of Casino Canberra into a world class, multi-faceted establishment and discussions with the government will continue throughout 2018 surrounding details of the legislated requirements for the machines.”