Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is standing up for his government in light of recent comments made by Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung regarding Fung’s proposed A$8.15 billion dollar resort and casino in Cairns.
Speaking at a community cabinet event in Cairns, Newman was quoted saying his government would not be bullied into acquiescing to the demands of a company he believes is trying to bypass the state’s mandatory probity checks for casino ownership. Newman also said his government wouldn’t let any outside noise interfere with its obligations, which in this case would involve taking the appropriate amount of time to ensure that the operator it gives a casino license to has “respectable and reputable business interests.”
“This Government will not be pushed into any situation where we don’t have total confidence in those who are seeking to run a casino in this state,” Newman said, as quoted by the Courier Mail. “This Government will always do the right thing in terms of the awarding of a casino license or the awarding of a transfer of a license.
Newman also reiterated that he remains committed in bringing a casino to Cairns but won’t sign off on any projects if it means circumventing the required due process.
“We are absolutely committed to making sure that if casinos are run in this state, that they are run cleanly, by respected, reputable, business interests,” he said. “It is important that all people wishing to invest in casinos submit to the process.”
While Newman took a more diplomatic stance on the issue, Queensland Commissioner for Liquor and Gaming David Ford was a little less amicable, criticizing Fung’s claims that blame for the failed purchase of the Reef Casino Trust rested solely on the shoulders of the regulator for its supposed snail’s pace in finishing its probity checks.
Ford slammed those claims, saying Aquis’ failure to obtain probity approval came as a result of a number of conditions tied into the bid, including certain documents that Fung’s company supposedly failed to submit to the regulator in the required time.
Ford also claimed that Aquis didn’t cooperate fully in agreeing to interviews with the OLGR in a timely manner. Ford was also irked that Aquis granted an extension for the probity approval with the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission without affording the OLGR the same concession.
“The Australian experience has always been that casino licenses – which are very valuable commodities – are issued only to those who have successfully completed the highest level of probity investigation,” Ford said.
“It could only harm existing licensees, the public reputation of the casino industry and the community generally for any lesser standard to be applied.”