ACT News

Aquis to get $3 million discount on Canberra Casino, takeover to be approved by Christmas

Aquis' Hong Kong entrepreneurs Tony and Justin Fung are likely to see their takeover of the Canberra Casino come through by Christmas after negotiating a  $3 million discount on the sale price.

Despite setbacks to their aquisition of a Queensland casino previously tied to the deal, the company said it had revised its offer for the ailing capital casino and the casino licence down from $9 million to $6 million

The move will separate the company's offer for the Canberra Casino from the offer for the larger pie of the Reef Casino Trust (RCT) owned by Casinos Austria, which included plans for a controversial mega resort at Yorkleys Knob, now on ice after a hiccup in Queensland probity investigations.

"The previous deal would see Aquis takeover the Reef Casino and hotel complex, and as part of that they would effectively own Casino Canberra, as they are owned by the same organisation, Casinos Austria," ACT Gambling and Racing Commission chief executive Greg Jones said.

"Aquis and Casinos Austria have now agreed to separate the sale of the properties, so the sale of the Canberra property can go ahead," he said.

While the company has met Foreign Investment Review Board and Australian Consumer and Competition Commission approvals, it still has to meet other conditions such as state and territory casino and liquor licensing approvals.

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Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation Commissioner (OLGR) David Ford told Aquis that probity investigations will not be completed by the November 28 deadline, leaving the lucrative offer for the trust to lapse.

"OLGR has indicated probity is "logistically impossible" by the 28th so it is likely the offer will lapse and be unsuccessful," the Aquis spokesman said.

Now that the deal is separated, the company said it expected the Canberra takeover to come through this year.

"Aquis has tremendous confidence in the future of Casino Canberra and has agreed with Casinos Austria that the acquisition of the facility is no longer conditional on the RCT takeover offer," an Aquis Group spokesperson said in a statement released on Monday.

"The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission indicated to Aquis that it is possible to grant the ACT gaming regulatory approvals in 2014," the spokesperson said.

Mr Jones confirmed the timetable and said the previous price for the property and licence was $9 million.

"In discussions we have had with Aquis we have given an indication that if we are presented with all information to complete our probity investigations we could have that done by Christmas," he said.

The casino has been in decline in recent times, with operators laying off staff and reducing opening hours. Owner Casinos Austria has blamed a lack of poker machines for the slide in trade.

Justin Fung said last November he would be looking to turn Canberra's casino around.

Now, an Aquis spokesman said the company was "committed" to long-term ownership of the Canberra property and was "looking at various options for improvements and upgrades".

The news of the delay for the Queensland developments sent RCT shares plummeting.

Aquis said it was still committed to progressing the resort development at Yorkeys Knob.

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