Hong Kong businessman Tony Fung and his Australian-listed Aquis Entertainment Group have been given one month by the ACT government to submit a final proposal for an AU$330 million redevelopment of Canberra Casino.
According to local media reports, Aquis has until 14 May 2018 to deliver its revised proposal after the company’s original 2015 bid – which centered around permission to operate 500 slot machines on premises – was rejected. Canberra Casino is not allowed to install slot machines under current law.
The ACT government instead announced an in-principal agreement in May 2016 allowing Aquis to run 200 slot machines and 60 electronic table games subject to certain strict conditions.
Aquis’ radio silence in the two years since has prompted speculation that redevelopment is now off the table, but a spokesperson for the company told The Canberra Times over the weekend that this wasn’t the case.
“Given the size of the proposed investment, the government must be realistic in its expectations in relation to the detail and speed at which information can be provided in the face of significant commercial uncertainty,” the spokesperson said.
“The legislative changes, passed in late 2017, require a thorough process to be undertaken to determine the impact of such significant regulatory and land use restrictions as those imposed. We have advised the government that this process is ongoing and as part of that their input will be required to clarify a number of outstanding issues.”
The ACT government is currently in the process of cutting the number of authorized slot machines in the nation’s capital city from 5,000 to 4,000 and would require Aquis to buy 300 slot machine licenses, forfeiting 100 of them, in order to install 200 machines as per its in-principal agreement. Maximum bets would also be limited to AU$2.
Canberra Casino, which Aquis purchased for AU$6 million in 2014, announced losses of AU$13.8 million in 2017.