HK billionaire, ASF Group win Queensland casino licenses

    Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung and ASF, an Australian/Chinese consortium, have beaten out local rivals to win two regional casino licenses in Queensland, according to The Australian newspaper. The two groups were chosen out of seven bidders for the licenses, it said.

    Fung has ambitious plans in Queensland to capitalize on the growing number of Chinese visitors. Earlier this year he bought Reefs Casino, which owns the Cairns Reef Casino, for about $217 million. He plans a AUD$8.15 billion integrated resort at Yorkeys Knob, near Cairns, which he has said will be a “game changer” for tourism in the state. It will include 3,750 hotel rooms, with nine luxury brand hotels, 1200 centrally managed apartments, one of the world’s largest aquariums and two, 2,500 seat theatres. It will have a 13 hectare reef lagoon as a central feature, according to the company’s initial investment proposal.

    Fung has said the resort will be a “man-made wonder.” The project is scheduled for completion in 2018. “Queensland receives more than its fair share of inbound tourism from China,” he said in an open letter to Cairns and Queensland in 2012 setting out his initial proposal. “Aquis gives Queensland an opportunity to fend off its southern and regional competitors for the increasingly important Chinese tourism market,” it said. The resort is scheduled for completion in 2018.

    The ASF proposal is for a AUD$7.5bn project on the northern end of the Gold Coast, which could be under construction by early next year, the report said. The two projects still need to win necessary environmental assessment approval permits.

    The government still has to draw up a short-list for the third permit to build a casino on Brisbane’s Queens Wharf. The license was hotly contested with bidders, including James Packer’s Crown Resorts, Echo Entertainment and Greenland Holdings Group.