The government of the Australian state of Queensland has quashed plans to build a A$3b resort casino project on the Gold Coast, leaving the would-be operator mulling legal action.
On Tuesday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk officially pulled the plug on ASF Consortium’s proposal to build a massive integrated resort on the Gold Coast’s Southport Spit area, bringing an end to years of false starts and missteps by the Chinese-led consortium.
Palaszczuk justified the rejection of ASF’s proposal as necessary to preserve the parkland’s reputation as “a unique site … the equivalent to what Central Park is to New York.” Palaszczuk said ASF’s proposal for five high-rise hotel towers would result in “something of an eyesore” for the region, and all future development of the Spit will be capped at three-story structures.
While the resort plans are officially toast, Palaszczuk said that the opportunity remains for ASF to build a casino in the Gold Coast region. It was only this weekend that Australian media reported that ASF had inked a deal with US casino operator Caesars Entertainment to manage gaming operations at the proposed resort.
It’s unclear whether ASF – which requested a halt in trading in its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange following Palaszczuk’s announcement – will be interested in pursuing a standalone casino project. The company is said to be considering its legal options in the wake of the setback.
Palaszczuk said her government was unsure whether ASF was owed compensation for the millions it had invested over the past few years pursuing the resort project. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls criticized the government’s decision, saying future investors would take lessons from ASF being knocked back “at the 11th hour.”
ASF was awarded the exclusive right to negotiate a Gold Coast resort casino project after scaling back its even larger original concept, which included a cruise ship terminal that angered local environmentalists. Since then, questions were raised as to ASF’s ability to fund its proposal, allegations that the Chinese government-backed ASF vehemently rejected.