Canberra casino submits new business plan for $307 million redevelopment
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Canberra casino submits new business plan for $307 million redevelopment

The Canberra casino has submitted a revised $307 million redevelopment bid envisaging up to 617,000 new visitors to the casino precinct a year by 2030.

The casino has also put a detailed business plan to the ACT government for the redevelopment, which includes a 10-storey five-star hotel, six-star luxury villas, seven new restaurants, nightclubs and bars, a shopping mall and a day spa and resort pool.

An artist's impression of the proposed redevelopment of the Aquis Canberra casino, looking from Glebe Park.

An artist's impression of the proposed redevelopment of the Aquis Canberra casino, looking from Glebe Park.

It reorients the casino to open on to Glebe Park, with two towers on the existing casino footprint, and an expansion into the park.

The casino would shift "from a predominantly local catchment casino today to one patronised more heavily by interstate and international tourists", casino owner Aquis Entertainment said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

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The figures come from a Deloitte Access Economics analysis, which an Aquis spokesman said predicted a 6.7 per cent increase each year in local visitors, a 10.7 per cent increase each year in interstate visitors, and a 19.9 per cent increase each year in international visitors, to 617,000 overall by 2030.

Of that total, 31 per cent were estimated to live in the ACT, 45 per cent from interstate and 23 per cent from overseas markets. At the moment, just 6 per cent were from overseas and 42 per cent from interstate, he said, stressing the figures included visitors to the restaurant, hotel and leisure facilities, not just gaming.

Aquis confirmed it wanted to operate fully automatic table games, a request that has already attracted concern from Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury.

The city's clubs are also fighting the government's decision to allow 200 poker machines in the casino, breaking the longstanding club monopoly on poker machines. Clubs lobbyist Richard Farmer is trying to gather the necessary 100 members to set up a new political party, Canberra Community Voters, before the June 30 deadline, to take the fight into the election campaign.

A casino spokesman said the project did not contemplate any more than 200 poker machines.

Asked how many fully automatic table games it envisaged, the spokesman said numbers would be "relative to the scale of the venue, and in line with all other modern casinos", and subject to "detailed scoping through this process and with relevant regulatory agencies".

An extract from a promotional Aquis video showing the site of the planned new casino, facing on to Glebe Park, with two towers on the existing footprint and an extension into the park.

The new bid revises the proposal put last year, which envisaged 500 poker machines and included Aquis taking over the convention centre, with the government saying the convention centre must remain in public hands and pokies would be capped at 200.

Aquis said the major revision was the removal of the link to the convention centre, but the function space, including a ballroom, was part of the proposed development.

The floor area of the new development totalled 45,000 square metres, with about 27,000 square metres above ground, including the two towers.

Up to 338 full-time equivalent jobs would be created in the new precinct once the new casino was operational.

Aquis director Justin Fung said the redevelopment would bring new energy and "unprecedented investment into the nation's capital", triggering a revitalisation of the southern part of the city. It also offered the "opportunity to further underpin the sustainability of direct international flights through an unprecedented boost to inbound tourism by Chinese visitors".

The casino has not released the Deloitte report, which it said quantified economic gains from construction and operation, visitor numbers, macro-economic effects such as gross state product and employment, and gaming revenue and tax.

Asked about the use of government land in Glebe Park, the spokesman said that was "entirely dependent on the outcomes of the current bid process".

"Use of that land was not factored into our earlier planning. It was only after we became aware that the government had acquired the land that we contemplated how it might better integrate with the project."

The government bought the land in September last year.

Aquis Entertainment bought the casino late in 2014 as its entry into the Australian market, with much bigger plans for a casino in Queensland. It has recently refurbished the Canberra venue, spending $14 million on the upgrade.

Timing of the new development would depend on the government's response to the detailed bid, but the casino hoped to start work next year, with a two-stage build over five years, a spokesman said.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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