Ever since June of last year, Hong Kong-based Aquis Entertainment had been prepared to redevelop Casino Canberra in Australia. It submitted a proposal that offered to invest $256 million for the upgrade, which was accepted by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), but with a few modifications. Instead of the 500 slot machines Aquis wanted, ACT only authorized 200. From there, negotiations of the redevelopment stalled, with Aquis trying to decide how it could back out. It no longer has to, as the ACT government has dropped the bid completely.
According to Chief Minister Andrew Barr, the deal had to be axed due to concerns over gambling regulations and financing for the project. Aquis added, in a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange, that the move was due to “certain decisions taken by the ACT,” in reference to the reduction in the number of gaming machines that would be allowed.
Aquis added that the restrictions “meant it was difficult to progress Aquis’ original proposal. In addition, Aquis could not provide detailed information in relation to the financing of the proposal requested by the ACT Government without the ACT Government providing the certainty sought by Aquis in respect of various key aspects of its proposal including tax rates, license fees and the legislative framework.”
There still may be a glimmer of hope, albeit a pretty small one. Aquis added that it has been asked to work with the Economic Development Division (EDD) of the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development in order to draft a new proposal.
Aquis still would like to see its dream realized if possible. It stated in its filing, “Aquis continues to believe that the development of an integrated entertainment precinct in Canberra’s CBD offers Canberra and the ACT a once in a lifetime tourism infrastructure opportunity. Therefore, Aquis will continue to engage with the ACT Government on development opportunities.”
If it isn’t able to come up with a solution with the help of the EDD, Aquis still has a few more tricks up its sleeve. It has said that it has received preliminary proposals that could see it sell the casino or give up a controlling stake. Aquis has been sitting on the venue since acquiring it in 2014.