Casino Canberra

Casino Canberra posted a huge revenue rise amid plans to transform the complex into a $330 million resort. (Image: Aquis)

Casino Canberra has marked an incredible turnaround by posting record profits this month.

The once-ailing gambling establishment reported GGR (Gross Gaming Revenue) for October of AUD2.4 million, marking a jump of 62 percent on the previous month. Compared to last year, the revenue rise was over 80 percent up.

For new owners, Aquis, it’s a remarkable success story as the Fung family gains a foothold in the Australian casino market.

Aquis Entertainment are busy ploughing ahead with a multi-billion dollar complex at Yorkey’s Knob in Queensland.

From Failure To Canberra Crowing Glory

Hong Kong developer, Tony Fung, purchased the Canberra casino at the back end of 2014 as he was seeking approval for his Yorkey’s Knob plans.

The AUD6 million he paid for the failing casino was a drop in the ocean compared to the AUD8 billion he’s forking out for his new Queensland project.

However, it seems that his ambition hasn’t waned. Fung is keen on splashing the cash at Casino Canberra to turn it into a major resort.

As part of the plans, Casino Canberra would feature new high-end restaurants and shops to go along with its revamped casino.

However, a major sticking point is the ban on pokie machines at ACT casinos. Currently, only clubs in Canberra are allowed to operate pokies.

Only two years ago, Casino Canberra was slashing its staff numbers amidst a drop in revenue. Marketing director, Peter Cursley blamed the economy and the lack of pokies as a reason for the cutbacks.

“It is a little bit silly that a gambling operation is not allowed to have the most popular form of gambling [pokies] in Australia,” he said in 2013.

Doubts Over VIP Claims

Traditional clubs in ACT, who have enjoyed a monopoly on pokies since they were introduced in the state, will inevitably baulk at the idea that Casino Canberra gets the green light to offer them.

But a fight over pokies is the least of Aquis’s worries. Last month, researchers cast doubts over whether adding pokie machines to the casino would attract much-needed VIP gamblers from overseas.

Aquis is lobbying the government to allow it to have 500 pokie machines as part of its AUD330 million refurbishment.

But two studies of Aussie casinos by researchers from the Australian National University and Southern Cross University poured water on the claim they would do the trick.

“The idea that you’d have international VIPs coming to Canberra to gamble on poker machines is ludicrous really, so if that’s what’s underwriting the viability of the venue it would be fair to say that it’s going to be local Canberrans that are going to be paying for the refurbishments of Binara Street,” said Francis Markham, a PhD student at ANU.

Yorkey’s Knob Full Steam Ahead

It’s not just in ACT where Aquis is pushing the pokies agenda.

The firm is pushing hard for 1,500 pokie machines to be allowed in its Yorkey’s Knob resort. The casino complex is being built outside Cairns.

Opponents of pokie machines point to the history of casinos in the country.

Australia’s first casino opened 40 years ago on the proviso that no pokies be allowed. Since then, machines have crept in to casinos and now form the majority of casino profits.

History is on Aquis’s side, it seems, and the potential of millions in tax revenue to the ACT government could be enough to swing its argument to be allowed pokie machines. If that happens, expect an even bigger surge in Casino Canberra’s fortunes.

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