Casino Canberra's new Hong Kong owners call in Las Vegas designers for redevelopment
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Casino Canberra's new Hong Kong owners call in Las Vegas designers for redevelopment

Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung has revealed grand Las Vegas-style plans for a new integrated casino, dining and nightlife complex on the site of Casino Canberra – which he snapped up for $6 million in December.

An Aquis Developments spokesman said the company might raze the existing casino building in the redevelopment, which promised a "reinvigoration" of the City South area with new world-standard restaurants and bars to accompany the gaming tables.

An artist impression of a bar area in the redeveloped Canberra Casino.

An artist impression of a bar area in the redeveloped Canberra Casino.

Las Vegas-based architecture firms have been invited to submit design plans for the precinct's final appearance.

Mr Fung's son, Aquis managing director Justin Fung, and his executive team were relocating to Canberra this month to oversee the project, the company saidin a statement.

An artist impression of a gaming area in the redeveloped Canberra Casino.

An artist impression of a gaming area in the redeveloped Canberra Casino.

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"We see significant potential to turn the current casino into a broader leisure, entertainment and nightlife destination," Justin Fung said.

The deal to acquire the ailing Casino Canberra from Casinos Austria was approved by the ACT government last month, after the company's bid to buy casino licences for a 7500-room casino and resort at Yorkley's Knob near Cairns was put on ice.

The purchase of Canberra's pokies-free casino was part of a much-larger transaction that included the Queensland licences also held by Casinos Austria.

Aquis split up the deal so it could be approved separately after failing to meet Queensland government deadlines, which will now allow the company to list in 2016 on the Hong Kong stock exchange and raise funds for the Queensland project.

An Aquis says the Canberra development would probably "include a mix of internationally acclaimed restaurants, bars, nightlife and entertainment options along with a redeveloped casino".

Aquis said that as part of the Canberra transaction it had also acquired land behind the current casino site.

The company said it envisioned an integrated entertainment precinct that would help revitalise the City South area.

"This really is a great time to be part of the evolution of Canberra," Mr Fung said. "The Constitution Avenue upgrade and the longer-term plans for the future development of the city provide us with a solid foundation from which we can start to make a real impact on the city South area."

Las Vegas's Friedmutter Group and Westar Architects, along with Australia's DBI, have been invited to submit masterplans for the site after visits to Canberra last month.

The Friedmutter Group is best known for designing the $1.73 billion, 2960-room Cosmopolitan Casino and Resort on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada.

Westar Architects has played design roles in Vegas and Atlantic City casinos such as the MGM Grand and Caesar's Hotel & Casino. It is also in the process of designing a new 200-room hotel and casino in Belize.

Canberra-based Cox Architects will be the lead architects on the project.

An Aquis Developments spokesperson said the Canberra development could have some aesthetics similarities to Perth's Crown Metropol, which was rebuilt into an integrated 500-room resort by James Packer.

"I'd expect the quality of dining and entertainment options on offer to be on par with some of the best integrated casino developments in Australia and around the world," Justin Fung said.

Mr Fung said he was looking forward to working in the Australian capital.

"There is so much happening here and we're looking forward to

Aquis expects its casino revamp to lead to increased job opportunities in the city.

"We will work with local suppliers and employ local people, creating significant employment during construction and on an ongoing basis once fully operational," the company said.

Casino Canberra would continue to operate with its existing management team.

"We will review the current operation and some small changes may be made in the lead up to the redevelopment," it said.

Aquis expects to finish the complex by the end of 2016, with an economic impact study to be released early i 2015.

Primrose covers breaking political news from The Australian Financial Review's Canberra newsroom.

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