ACT government still undecided on Aquis' casino plans
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ACT government still undecided on Aquis' casino plans

The ACT government has still not decided what to do about a multi-million dollar plan to redevelop Canberra Casino, months after putting a now-abandoned deadline on the casino owners to hand over financial details.

While Cabinet officially discussed the issue for the second time this year in August, a spokeswoman for Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the government had still not resolved what it would do about Aquis Entertainment's unsolicited bid to redevelop the casino.

Aquis' then-managing director, Justin Fung at the Canberra Casino in September 2015.

Aquis' then-managing director, Justin Fung at the Canberra Casino in September 2015.Credit:Melissa Adams

The company, owned by Hong Kong investor Tony Fung and his family, originally proposed the casino redevelopment in late 2015, but earlier this year, company filings with the stock exchange showed it still needed to secure more money to complete the estimated $330 million project.

Since it was first mooted with government, the proposal has essentially stalled, and Aquis stock price has fallen to just two cents a share, while the government drew up legislation to allow it or another owner of the casino to have hundreds of poker machines on the gaming floor if it was redeveloped.

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The company is also searching for a new corporate chief after its long-running managing director Jessica Mellor announced her resignation, ahead of plans to leave the firm in February next year.

While the government earlier this year demanded Aquis provide key financial information in an effort to bring the issue to a head, it abandoned the month-long deadline in April. The company was also seeking extra information from the government.

In issuing the deadline to Aquis, ACT Gaming Minister Gordon Ramsay said the government needed to know how many machines the casino planned on operating, a key consideration if the government is to make good on its pledge to cut machine numbers to 4000.

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Under new laws introduced last year, the casino will have to forfeit one in three gaming machine licences it buys.

That could mean 130 licences taken out of circulation if the casino chooses to operate its maximum 200 machines, a number Mr Ramsay said at the time could make a "significant difference ... given we're reducing the number of authorisations by 980".

Mr Barr's spokeswoman said the specifics of the proposal and information the government was seeking were confidential until the government finally reaches a position on Aquis' bid.

"Cabinet has not yet reached a final position on the unsolicited bid from Aquis," she said.

"Currently, the ACT government is awaiting financial information from Aquis which will inform its final position."

Correction: This article has been corrected as Ms Mellor leaves the company in February, not last month as previously reported.