“Disappointing” was the sentiment from Ms. Lauga, a central Queensland parliament member, after her second attempt to have a casino license approved for the redeveloped Great Keppel resort was denied.

Without a casino gaming license, funding the project will be impossible, which made Lauga’s meeting yesterday with Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland’s recently elected Premier, all the more urgent.

The current owner, Tower Holdings, received approval for the $2 billion island casino and resort from Australia’s state government, but the Queensland government is hesitant to approve it. The issue involves the number of gaming tables the new casino would have. A new casino with 35 tables would be in conflict with competing regional casinos, the Jupiters Hotel & Casino in Townsville which operates 27 tables and the Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns that has 38.

A new license would only be granted if either the Jupiters or Reef casino were to forfeit its gaming license and close its casino, according to Great Barrier Reef Minister, Steven Miles who has encouraged Tower Holdings to start construction on the resort.

According to Lauga, the Premier’s position hasn’t changed, “The Government is still maintaining its position, the Premier is still maintaining the position that the developer has the approvals in place in order to start work and therefore they should start work as soon as they possibly can.”

Both the community and Lauga believe the casino and resort would benefit the region’s struggling property market by attracting tourists as well as providing employment to island locals, and it was important to Lauga that the Premier was aware of that.

Lauga added, “She has empathy for us because of what we’ve been through from the cyclone but the Government maintains its position that there’s no other licenses to grant and she wants to encourage Tower Holdings to proceed with their development.”

According to Lauga, while the Premier is “very interested” in the project and supports the resort she stands by the government’s decision of limiting casino licenses.

If Tower Holdings is granted a gaming license the resort would feature an airstrip, a 250 room hotel, 700 villas, 300 apartments, a marina, and a golf course.

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