ACT Gov Rejects $330M Canberra Casino Expansion Plan
The ACT government has asked Hong Kong based Aquis Entertainment to return to square one on its Canberra Casino expansion project worth millions of dollars.
Andrew Barr, the chief minister stated on Wednesday that the company’s unsolicited bid cannot be allowed to progress because of the absence of financial details related to the bid.
The government has rejected Aquis Entertainment’s plan after three years and asked the company to consider a smaller project.
In 2015, Aquis Entertainment announced a $330 million expansion plan which was to include a new convention center, a shopping mall and hotels to Glebe Park.
The company is not happy at all with regards to how the government has treated its expansion plans. Jessica Mellor, the chief executive of Aquis, told the Australian Stock Exchange (ASE) that it is now impossible to continue with the original plan because of the ACT’s latest changes to policies on electronic gambling machines and its decision not to provide the required land. She also said that the company will continue its talks with the government.
According to amended gaming laws passed in 2017, Canberra Casino can operate only 60 automated table games and 200 pokie machines. This is not even 50 percent of what Acquis had in mind when it came up with its proposal which looked at 500 pokie machines. The new laws also prevent bettors from betting more than $2 per spin and require then to establish loss limits in advance.
Mark Parton, the gaming spokesman for Canberra Liberals, had stated earlier this year that he had odds of 10 to 1 against Aquis Entertainment’s expansion plans getting the green signal. According to him, the expansion project got rejected because of the government’s failure to properly communicate with the company.
Aquis Entertainment In A Tight Spot
There has also been a lot of speculation over a parcel of land that the government had purchased from a group of businessmen. An audit report regarding the land criticized the negotiations and found that its price of $3.8 million was not justified.
The government had sold part of this land to Aquis Entertainment for its expansion project in spite of the confusion surrounding it. According to a government spokeswoman, the ACT government planned to retain the land for future projects such as water management and traffic flow.
Ms. Mellor has also clarified that Aquis was not able to provide financial details regarding the expansion project because the government had not specified license fees, legislation, and taxes. She also revealed that the company had received proposals for the acquisition of Canberra Casino. At the same time, she said that Aquis cannot just sell Canberra Casino since it is listed.