Queensland seeks bidder for third casino license

Queensland is seeking expressions of interest for a third casino in the state after plans for an A$8.1 billion ($6.2 billion) dollar investment from the Aquis Group, backed by Hong Kong investor Tony Fung, were dropped.

Speaking at the ASEAN Gaming Summit,  David Edwards project CEO of State Development, said there had been strong interest in the market’s potential both from operators in the Asian region, but also from the U.S, from those who did not already have a foothold in the region.

The Queensland government awarded three casino licenses in 2015 in an effort to increase competition, improve tourism facilities and boost visitor arrivals. A highly coveted permit for a project in downtown Brisbane was won by a consortium led by Australia’s Star Entertainment and Asian investors. A second on the Gold Coast went to ASF Group, which is also backed by Chinese investors.

The Aquis Group was to have developed a third near Cairns, though analysts expressed scepticism from the start about the ability of the local market to support such a project.

Edwards said the resort could never have been delivered as proposed, adding a $500 million property would be far more realistic.

Although visitor numbers to Australia and Queensland have been increasing, casinos in Queensland are expected to continue to rely on local participation.

“Any expectation of 30 to 40 percent of revenue from Chinese tourism is unrealistic,” Edwards said at the summit.

Visitor numbers from Mainland China have been gaining at about 25 percent a year, with expenditure per head also rising strongly, he said.

The consortium developing the $3.2 billion Brisbane casino includes Far East Consortium (Australia) and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and work has already begun.