Tony Fung’s Aquis Entertainment is giving its newly-purchased Canberra Casino a $330m revamp to lure additional 700,000 visitors annually.
The two-stage revamp proposal includes VIP and mass gaming facilities, six-star villa accommodation, a five-star hotel, retail food and beverage and a shopping mall. A 3,300 sqm extension to the National Convention Center is also part of the plan.
Aquis Entertainment Executive Director Justin Fung said the current Canberra Casino, which Aquis bought in 2014 for $6m, is a small, local gaming facility lacking a “wow factor”.
Research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics noted economic gains from the casino redevelopment such as creation about 200 full-time construction jobs; 420 new jobs ongoing; and Gross Territory Product of up to $61m per annum.
“We will work with local suppliers and employ local people, creating significant employment both during construction, and on an ongoing basis once fully operational, assisting with a diversification away from strong reliance on federal government employment,” said Fung.
As part of the proposal, Aquis was also in discussion with the ACT government to overturn a ban on poker machines at the casino.
Aquis would seek to acquire poker machines through the trading scheme for poker machines that currently exists among the clubs that operate them.
“We don’t have an intention of increasing the total number of machines in the Territory, we want to work with Government to help achieve their goals,” said Fung. “A lot of the clubs believe that they have too many machines and are looking to sell.”
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who has previously said poker machines would not be allowed in the casino, said he could not comment on the proposal until he received a detailed briefing from his officials but welcomed the show of confidence in the ACT economy.
“There’s no change in government policy at this stage, but nor am I considering a blanket ‘no we won’t even consider what has been put forward,’” said Barr. “This proposal demonstrates investor confidence in Canberra’s economy, Canberra’s attractiveness as an investment destination, and our city’s enormous potential for growth and development,” said Barr.
Aquis wants to begin the project next year, set for completion in 2018. The project is still subject to further discussions with the ACT Government, financing and regulatory approvals.