The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has provided the Canberra Casino with a month to respond to its proposal to add more poker machines to its offering. The owner of Aquis Entertainment Group – the Hong Kong businessman Tony Fung – has until May 14th 2018 to submit a final proposal for a Canberra Casino redevelopment, which has been estimated to approximately A$330 million.
Reportedly, Aquis Entertainment Group has been given some more time to consider and potentially deliver a revised proposal after its previous bid was turned down. The original bid of the company, which was made in 2015, sought a permission to operate 500 pokies on local premises. For the time being, the existing legislation suspends Canberra Casino from offering poker machines.
Almost two years ago, in May 2016, the Australian Capital Territory Government rolled-out an in-principal agreement, under which Aquis was permitted to run 200 pokies as well as 60 electronic table games which were subjected to strict regulatory rules. After getting greenlighted by the authorities, Aquis preferred to keep a low profile for some time, which only fuelled speculations that redevelopment is now on the agenda. A spokesperson of the company denied these rumours over the weekend in an interview for a local media.
Aquis Entertainment Group’s spokesperson explained that the ACT Government must have realistic expectations in terms of both speed and details at which information information could be processed and provided, especially taking into account the amount of the proposed investment and the significant restrictions in terms of gambling advertising which have currently been seen in the local market.
Aquis Entertainment Could Consider Further Expansion
Currently, the ACT Government has been focused on making reductions in the number of legal poker machines in the capital from 5,000 to a total of 4,000. In case that Aquis wants to install 200 as per the in-principal agreement, the company would be required to purchase 300 poker machine operating licenses, only to lose 100 of them. A limit of AU$2 is to be imposed as the maximum bet allowed at the machines.
According the Gaming Minister, the company had second thoughts as it believed that the amended ACT’s gambling laws in terms of pokies provision in casinos were too strict. Acquis revealed that the legislative changes which were passed towards the end of 2017 required further consideration of the impact of the regulatory restrictions imposed on gambling operators in the country.
As mentioned above, the Australian casino operator worked in collaboration with the Australian Capital Territory on a plan for the Canberra Casino’s redevelopment and expansion in 2016. The investment was estimated to A$307 million, with the gambling venue being turned into an integrated casino resort aimed to expand the gambling and entertainment options provision in the region. The project consisted of the gambling facility, as well as bars, luxury dining areas and a shopping mall.