Aquis Entertainment has been given one month to outline its plans to redevelop Casino Canberra or face the prospect of losing the right to implement any desired changes.
According to reports by local media outlets, including the Canberra Times, the ACT government has given Aquis Entertainment a May 14 deadline to finalise its investment proposal.
500 Pokies Cut to 200
It’s been three years since the Hong Kong-based entertainment company made $330 million bid to rebuild Casino Canberra. As part of the initial plans, Aquis Entertainment wanted to install 500 poker machines as well as an array of luxury shops, bars and cafes.
However, after a change to the gaming laws meant the number of pokies would be restricted, executives appeared to go cold on the project.
At the heart of the matter is a limit on the number of gaming machines the operator would be allowed to install inside the new complex. With laws to cut the number of pokies in the state from 5,000 to 4,000 passed in 2017, Aquis has been granted permission for just 200 machines.
In addition to the limit, the company would be required to apply and pay for 300 poker machine licenses and then forfeit 100.
Project Has to Make Financial Sense
With the latest financial reports showing Casino Canberra reported a $13.8 million loss for 2017, interest in spending more money for a smaller number of poker machines is low. Although the casino doesn’t currently have a licence to offer poker machines, executives at Aquis are concerned that having 200 wouldn’t be enough to redress its financial losses.
“Given the size of the proposed investment, the government must be realistic in its expectations in relation to the detail and speed at which information can be provided in the face of significant commercial uncertainty,” a company spokesperson told the Canberra Times on April 13.
Aquis Entertainment purchased Casino Canberra in 2014 with the intention of turning it into a five-star resort. Local officials were initially positive about the proposal, confident that it would bring more tourism to the Australian capital.
Now, however, with a month to outline a detailed proposal and Aquis executives seemingly looking for concessions, the planned renovation may be shelved indefinitely.