Canberra Casino owner open to new offers

A deal to sell Casino Canberra has fallen through.
A deal to sell Casino Canberra has fallen through.

Tony Fung’s listed casino company Aquis Entertainment remains open to offers to buy the Casino Canberra in the wake of a deal to sell it to Sydney-based funds manager iProsperity Group collapsing in January.

The deal was unveiled in late 2018 with iProsperity’s Blue Whale entity, which was to become a major shareholder, but Aquis said that “sufficient information was not forthcoming” from the buyer and its associates during the ACT government’s probity process.

“While we are not actively seeking a sale of shares now, we remain open to consider all commercial approaches which are put to us, to ensure the best outcome for our employees, our business and our shareholders alike,” Aquis said.

Tony Fung

Tony Fung. Picture: Richard Gosling

The company said its plan for a major redevelopment remained part of its longer-term strategy for growth in Canberra. Aquis has proposed an integrated entertainment precinct in Canberra’s CBD.

Aquis previously submitted its plan but said the ACT government had ceased dealing with it through the unsolicited bids framework. It will now work with the government through the development approval process.

Aquis had conditional approval to operate 200 electronic gaming machines as part of the redevelopment, but said that due to the effects of COVID-19 and collapsed deal with Blue Whale, it had not advanced discussions with government.

“We remain committed to the redevelopment of the property post COVID-19 and we can’t wait to get started and deliver to Canberra the kind of world class entertainment precinct an emerging international city deserves,” Aquis said.

Mr Fung’s deal to sell the Casino Canberra was terminated as it refused to give funds manager iProsperity more time to win regulatory approval to buy the property.

Aquis said the proposed transaction had been terminated just weeks after iProsperity asked for an extension as it was yet to receive approvals.

Mr Fung controls Aquis and was offloading the Canberra property in a $32m sale. He had picked up Casino Canberra from Casinos Austria for just $6.5m in 2014 and then pumped capital into it.

The ACT government in 2018 rejected a proposal by Aquis to transform the casino and the surrounding precinct.

The company had in 2015 unveiled plans to outlay $330m on overhauling the Glebe Park precinct, including hotels, prestige brand shopping, and a new convention centre.

Fung is best known for dumping plans in 2016 to incorporate a casino in his controversial planned $8bn Aquis resort in Cairns, paving the way for rival gambling firms to submit proposals.

He is still active and his private Aquis Australia is developing a new $440m hotel on the beachfront in Surfers Paradise.

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