Following 17 months of uncertainty, the government of the Australian Capital Territory confirmed it has decided not to sign off on Aquis Entertainment Group’s proposal for a AU$330m ($236.8m) redevelopment of Canberra Casino.
ACT chief minister Andrew Barr stated that the government has instead invited the Hong Kong-based company to “consider a number of alternatives to progress a smaller scale casino redevelopment”.
“The government has notified the owners of the Canberra Casino, Aquis Entertainment, that their unsolicited proposal to redevelop the casino precinct cannot proceed in its current form,” Barr explained.
“The ACT Government has been engaging with Aquis on their proposal to redevelop the casino precinct over the past few years.
“As part of this process, a legislative framework was put in place to allow Canberra Casino to purchase Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) authorisations from existing licensees. This process would have contributed to the overall reduction in EGMs in the territory through mandatory forfeiture of authorisations.”
Aquis CEO, Jessica Mellor, explained that the while the government had progressed Aquis to the second phase of its unsolicited bid process, “overall progress has been slow”.
“Certain decisions taken by the ACT including the form of changes to legislation relating to electronic gaming machines and a decision to not make avail- able certain land to Casino Canberra meant it was difficult to progress Aquis’ original proposal,” she clarified.
“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, licence fees and the legislative framework.”
While she confirmed that the company has no plans to close the property, she acknowledged that the firm has received preliminary proposals that could see it sell the casino or give up a controlling stake.
“Aquis has received a number of non-binding indicative and confidential proposals to acquire Canberra Casino or to acquire some or all of the control- ling shareholding in Aquis,” Mellor added.