Hong Kong based Acquis Entertainment, the parent company of the Canberra Casino had given Clubs ACT, Canberra Raiders and Richard Farmer, the clubs lobbyist until July 20 to withdraw statements the group are calling defamatory, inflammatory and deceptive in regards to the ACT government and the Canberra Casino licensing process. That deadline has since expired and none of the parties involved have caved to the proposed legal pressure from Acquis Entertainment.
Apart from being the lobbyist for the clubs, Richard Farmer is also the secretary for the Canberra Community Voters, a new political party that is contesting the ACT elections. Farmer has accused ACT chief minister Andrew Barr for making secret backroom deals in regards to the Canberra Casino and the Manuka Oval bidding process. Farmer has called on the government to make both the deals public but was informed by Josh Rynehar, the licensing director that the proposal involved a significant amount of documentation and Farmer would have to pay nearly $65,000 for the government to grant his request.
Clubs ACT had been disappointed by Barr’s decision to grant the Canberra Casino up to 200 pokie licenses and displayed placards in the club stating that the decision would cause nearly 2,300 employees to lose their jobs and a number of clubs would be shutdown due to a lack of business. Gilbert and Tobin, the legal representatives for Acquis Entertainment sent a letter to all parties involved stating that the facts were purposely misconstrued and warned all them of legal action should they choose not remove all such material and advertisements. Acquis also took their complaints to the ACT Office of Fair Trading and ACCC.
Gilbert and Tobin informed Clubs ACT that it wasn’t taking into consideration the tough market conditions that the clubs faced and the fact that a number of clubs were already on the verge of closing and terminating its employees. The Canberra Casino would not only create new employment opportunities but provide struggling clubs the opportunity to sell their pokie machines to the casino.
Farmer responded to the legal threats by stating that their campaign wasn’t directed at Acquis Entertainment but rather the ACT government and he was disappointed that the Hong Kong based company was trying to scare them with legal threats in order to try and silence the public debate on this important matter. The Raiders also stated that they would not take down any material nor would they take legal advice as they had only published what was true.
In a statement, Gwynn Rees, chairman of Clubs ACT said “We won’t be taking down material. Shutting down public debate may work where the foreign owners and their management teams come from, but we will not be silenced from speaking to our members in response to a government that has turned their backs on community clubs”
Acquis Entertainment is yet to confirm if it has decided to go ahead with legal proceedings since none of the parties have agreed to take their down material.