Aquis Entertainment, a Hong Kong based company owned by billionaire Tony Fung bough the Canberra casino in 2015 and had committed to invest more than $300 million to give the casino a complete makeover.
The move was welcomed by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr as the project was expected to create 200 part time construction jobs and later 400 full time jobs once the casino was open.
Aquis is investing billions into Australia’s casino industry as the company is also building a mega casino resort on the gold coast.
The company faced opposition from Canberra’s clubs and bars over the number of pokie machines the casino was expected to have as the clubs felt threatened that it would eat into their business. Aquis requested the government to allow them to operate 500 pokie machines and in return suggested bringing in close to 750,000 visitors from China who would include VIP gamblers.
Andrew Barr recently announced that his government would not permit the 500 pokie machines to operate in the casino and would most likely sanction a lower number. He gave no indication as to how many pokie machines would be allotted and asked both the casino and the clubs to be patient, till his government discussed the issue in detailed and made a final decision.
The ACT cabinet rejected the 500 pokie machine proposal on May 2 as it regarded the number as being way too high. Canberra will collect a higher tax rate from the pokie machines operated in the casino than what the clubs usually pay. If the government decides to allow Acquis to run pokie machines at the casino, the company will then move forward and submit a detailed proposal.
The ACT Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury balance of power will be a crucial factor in determining whether the clubs manage to succeed in stopping the casino from operating pokie machines or whether the casino wins the battle. The Greens were initially against the operation of pokie machines during 2015 but towards the end of the year Mr. Rattenbury asked his party to reconsider their decision on pokie machines considering the benefits it would bring to Canberra.
Mr. Rattenbury stated that his party were concerned about the 500 machines requested by the casino and at the same time also worried about the 5000 machines that exist in clubs throughout Canberra.
In a statement, Mr. Rattenbury said
We want to minimise gambling harm in the community, so any support for the casino proposal would need to be with a range of requirements towards harm minimisation