Canberra Casino Expansion Hits Roadblock

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The ACT Government has asked Acquis Entertainment to go back to the drawing board over its expansion plans for Casino Canberra, which is estimated to be worth several million dollars. Chief Minister Andrew Barr issued a statement this week that the unsolicited bid would not move any further in its present form.


The decision has been made in view of the conditions that have placed on the proposal and also, due to the lack of financial information on the bid. As a result, Aquis has been asked to move forward with a reduced expansion.


A rejection in waiting


The rejection from the ACT government comes three years after the proposal was first made. Acquis had been told by the Gaming Ministry in April that it had around a month to finalize the proposal. However, the deadline eventually got extended.


Since the announcement was first made in 2015, the casino has had trouble with the government over the redevelopment plans. Chief Executive Jessica Mellor, in an interaction with the Australian Stock Exchange, stated that the ACT government’s decisions on electronic gaming machines and regulation of land availability were preventing progress.


Even so, Mellor says that the casino will continue to discuss development opportunities further.


The Chief Executive reiterated that the expanded casino would be of great benefit to Canberra, with regard to tourism infrastructure.


A change in specifications


The ACT Legislative Assembly ruled that the casino could only operate 200 poker machines and 60 fully-automated tables, contrary to the original plan, which included 500 machines. The legislation also placed a $2 limit on the maximum value per spin for punters. Other than that, punters will also have to nominate, in advance, how much they are prepared to lose.


When questioned about the legislation’s impact on the viability of the expansion plan, Ms. Mellor refused to offer any comments.


According to Shane Rattenbury, Greens spokesman on gambling reform, the laws bring a much-needed balance, offering enough room for business endeavors to take root and also, protecting customers from the risks associated with gambling.


He also pointed out that the current expansion plan included an excessive number of poker machines, which was clearly an issue.


On the other side, Mark Parton, gaming spokesman for the Canberra Liberals, stated that the ACT government’s decision doesn’t come as a surprise. In early 2018, he even made statements that the plan wouldn’t see the light of day,


Parton also placed the blame for the stalemate on the Labor-Greens Government, stating that they were the ones who failed to communicate with Acquis and not the other way around.

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