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Canberra Casino Owners Claim ACT Government Kept Quiet about Pokies Legislation Changes

Aquis Entertainment Group, which currently owns Canberra Casino, made claims that the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government kept the company uninformed for almost a year and a half about the details of its legislation set to greenlight poker machines at the Canberra Casino.

Jessica Mellor, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Aquis, released a statement to the stock exchange, following the Government’s decision to provide the company with a month-long period to confirm its further plans for the Canberra Casino. As Casino News Daily reported, the casino owner was given until May 14th to submit a final proposal for the redevelopment of Canberra Casino.

The first bid made by Hong Kong mogul Tony Fung majority-owned Aquis in 2015 amounted to A$330 million, with the company seeking permission to operate 500 poker machines on local premises. The negotiations, however, failed to reach a compromise for several years, fueling the uncertainty about the redevelopment project’s fate. Then, in 2017 an agreement was reached between the Australian Greens and the Labor Party, under which legislation could allow up to 200 pokies in the redeveloped Canberra Casino. Moreover, 60 electronic table games could also be added to the casino offerings under certain regulatory rules.

A few months after the legislation was officially rolled out, Aquis Entertainment was given some time to make an update on its unsolicited bid in a month. Gordon Ramsay, Attorney General, commented on the matter at the time when the announcement was made, saying that the casino expansion was important part of the Government’s plans to reduce the poker machines in the Australian Capital Territory from about 5,000 to 4,000 over the next couple of years.

Aquis Would Have to Consider the Redevelopment Again

As mentioned above, the Chief Executive Officer of Aquis claimed that the company did not get a response from the Government detailing it about the legislation update for 17 months after the case was lodged in June 2016.

Still, Ms. Mellor pledged that the Canberra Casino owner is to respond to the Government’s request within the timeframe provided, but she explained that the company would have to undertake a thorough consideration on the matter in order to assess the potential impact of such a step under stricter regulatory rules. Aquis’ CEO further shared that the company remains willing to develop an integrated resort in Canberra and said it would work in collaboration with the Government in order to achieve its goals.

In case that Aquis Entertainment goes on with its bid to add 200 pokies as part of Canberra Casino redevelopment, it would be forced to operate under stricter regulatory rules. The company would have to purchase 300 poker machine operating licenses, despite the fact it would lose 100 of them. Also, a maximum bet limit of A$2 is to be allowed at the poker machines.

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