Aquis Entertainment hopes to increase revenue at its Casino Canberra in Australia by targeting VIPs. The company’s owner, Hong Kong developer Tong Fung, has said that the move will be the catalyst to shore up hemorrhaging seen by the casino since 2017.
In announcing the shift to VIP gaming, Fung said, “A changeover in business development staff recently will assist in bringing new VIP players to Casino Canberra to provide the critical mass needed to manage the volatility and generate additional revenue. Mining of the existing database will also be a focus for the next year to solidify the efforts of the past several years spent buildings its size and quality.”
Fung also indicated that the company will move forward with a redevelopment plan estimated to cost around US$248.5 million and which includes two new luxury hotels and shopping and dining outlets. That plan was initially discussed in 2015, but the casino hasn’t moved on it since. The redevelopment, at the time, hinged on the company receiving approval to offer 500 slot machines. However, in 2016, regulators capped the amount to 200 and Casino Canberra is not authorized to operate any slot machines.
Due to the reduction in more gaming, which meant no increase in revenue, Aquis began to drag its feet on the redevelopment plans. Last month, regulators gave the company an ultimatum to have a decision by May 14.
Aquis, which only operates the Canberra, purchased the property in 2014 for US$4.5 million. Last year, it reported losses of a little more than US$10 million. To help ramp up its operations in the short term, the company will direct its “vision of attracting and servicing quality players from Australia and overseas” to cater to VIPs with larger bankrolls.
Aquis has long hoped to be a top contender for gambling activity in the country. Shortly after purchasing it, Justin Fung, the casino’s director and son of Tony Fung, said that it would become the “third force” casino operator in Australia after Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment. “We see a significant opportunity to create international quality destination properties in currently underserviced areas of Australia,” according to the younger Fung.
The casino got off to a good start, with its first two years of operations seeing revenue gains. In October 2015, Aquis posted gaming revenue of $2.4 million, up 62% from the previous month and 80.4% year-on-year. However, soon after, with the changes in legislation, Aquis found itself in a precarious situation, unable to advance and unable to turn back. The redevelopment project, despite the substantial price tag, should ultimately prove to be a game changer for the company.