The ACT Government has knocked back an unsolicited bid by Aquis Entertainment for the AU$330 million redevelopment of Casino Canberra.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr revealed on Wednesday that although the government recognizes the potential benefits of developing the Casino Canberra site, Aquis’ proposal was untenable due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding regulation as well as financing details.
In a filing to the Australian Securities Exchange, Aquis – which is controlled by Hong Kong businessman Tony Fung – blamed “certain decisions taken by the ACT” for rejection of its bid. They include changes to legislation regarding electronic gaming machines, including how many gaming machines Aquis would be allowed to install and how they would be obtained.
The ACT Government previously rejected a request by Aquis to operate 500 slot machines at Casino Canberra, offering 200 slot machines and 60 EGMs instead subject to certain strict conditions. Casino Canberra is not allowed to operate any slot machines under current law.
Aquis said in this week’s filing that such 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.”
However, it added that the company has been invited to work with the Economic Development Division of the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development on a revised proposal.
“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,” the company said. “Therefore, Aquis will continue to engage with the ACT Government on development opportunities.”
Aquis also revealed that it has received a number of preliminary proposals to acquire either Casino Canberra or a controlling stake in the company.