As reported in a March 13 article, Multi-billion dollar Gold Coast casino resort project under spotlight, proponents of a proposed $3 billion integrated casino resort on the Gold Coast of Australia have confirmed to local media that the ASF Consortium’s project could well be partially owned by the Chinese government.
“That is not out of the realm of possibility,” ASF Group director Louis Chien told broadcaster 7.30.
The Queensland Government has offered up a key block of Crown Land for the development of Gold Coast Integrated Resort and is currently in the community consultation phase to determine whether or not the five-tower complex, which would include entertainment venues, theaters, hotels, residential apartments, and a casino should advance to the next process phase.
Although ASF provided a concept plan late last year, the outline didn’t include who the casino operator would be or even the number of gaming machines. Financial backing details were also absent from the plan.
Local opponents, including Doug Flockhart of Clubs Queensland, have criticized the consultation’s review process saying it lacks any “real rigor” as the concept plan provides too little detail.
According to the report also covered by msn.com, a former minister in the Beattie Labor state government and current VP of Save Our Broadwater, Judy Spence said, “[The consortium] only has $6 million dollars in net assets.”
ASF Group director Chien explained to the news outlet that in essence, the group is an investment incubator that doesn’t carry a large balance sheet because they don’t need to. “[We] call on funding when we need it from outside the company.”
He indicated that there were no rules barring the Chinese government [through state-owned consortium member China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and its subsidiaries] from participating in the project and that the issue is something, “the [Queensland] State [Government] and us have to work through,” according to the report.
Gambling in China is a serious crime anywhere outside the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR), a former Portuguese enclave operating under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle giving the SAR broad but limited autonomy from the draconian laws of mainland China. Tourism and gaming account for about 90% of the SAR’s GDP output.
Chien said there is no precedent for Chinese government investment in an Australian casino but precedents in Macau and the Bahamas exist.
The US$3.5 billion Baha Mar casino resort in Nassau, The Bahamas, which is expected to begin a phased opening April 21, after several years of lying fallow, was brought to a standstill due to construction delays and cost overruns the original developers blame on China State Construction Engineering Corporation subsidiary China Construction America (CCA).
Although CCA blamed developers for the problems, the eventual result of the conflict was the entire project, financed in part by the Export–Import Bank of the Republic of China (Chexim) another state-owned enterprise of the Ministry of Finance of Taiwan, being put into receivership and eventually sold to Hong Kong conglomerate, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd.
Queensland State Development minister Anthony Lynham is on record defending the community consultation process even though critics wonder what is to be consulted if there are no details on casino operations and more. Dr. Lynham’s response to several important questions, including whether ASF has ever threatened legal action against the state, as alluded to in our March 13 report, can be found on abc.net.au