Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung recently confirmed that his firm has decided to drop the plan of developing the Aquis Great Barrier Reef casino resort in Cairns. Fung and his team had worked on the project for the last six years and were expected to invest $8 billion to build one of the biggest integrated casino resorts in Australia. The project was to be developed in different phases and the first phase included building 4,000 luxury hotel rooms that overlooked a number of lagoons.
Fung stated that he decided to pull out of the project as that global casino market has continued to decline over the last 26 months. The Aquis Great Barrier Reef casino resort was looking to target the Asian market with a special focus on gamblers from China but the anti-corruption crackdown in Macau and a slowdown in the Chinese economy have resulted in a 26 month decline in Macau’s gross gaming revenues.
The first phase of the casino resort was expected to open in 2017 and provide significant benefits for Cairns in the form of gambling taxes, employment opportunities and a boost to its tourism sector. Fung stated that while he no longer wanted to open a casino resort in Cairns, he still believed that it is one of the most beautiful tourist spots on the planet and wanted to invest $2 billion in Yorkeys Knob to develop a luxury hotel, villa complex and apartment.
Bob Manning, the Mayor of Cairns said that his city was dependant on tourism and it would be open to host the $2 billion luxury hotel that Fung has in mind. Manning pledged his support to the project and promised that the council would do their best to speed up the process in order to get things moving in the right direction.
Acquis Entertainment has now cancelled its casino license and this means that other developers will now have the opportunity to apply for the casino license should they be interested in the project.
In a statement, Curtis Pitt, Queensland Treasurer said “There’s nothing preventing the future consideration of a casino operation at the Yorkeys Knob development. That would, however, be subject to the availability of the regional IRD license. But I have to stress that there will be no preferential consideration for a casino license in the future if a later application is made.”
Crown Resorts and the Star Entertainment Group, which are two of the biggest casino operators in Australia, will most likely let the opportunity pass as their current pipelines are full with a number of different projects. One operator who could be interested in the Cairns project could be the ASF Group which is looking to obtain a casino license for its proposed $2 billion casino resort on the Gold Coast Broadwater.