Developers Aquis had touted their redevelopment of The Great Barrier Reef Resort as ‘Australia’s largest and most exciting integrated resort’, suggesting that it could be worth up to $55 billion to the local economy by 2030. But the company are now suggesting that the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation’s ‘plodding bureaucracy’ has put the project in jeopardy. Aquis are suggesting that the OLGR’s delay in granting them a licence for the existing Reef Casino Trust may prove fatal to the project’s chances.
Aquis had set a deadline of November 28th for the OLGR to approve the necessary clearance, but the regulators have insisted that their processes were not – and were never going to be – in step with that timescale.
There is no suggestion that Aquis was looking to side-step the full scrutiny required for the licence to be granted. Instead, Aquis is desperate to float the Reef Casino on the Hong Kong stock exchange, but that is something it cannot do until it has held the licence for a full year. Without the Hong Kong float it won’t have the money to push the project through, but without a fast clearance from the OLGR it won’t be able to raise that Hong Kong cash.
It is against that backdrop that the company is still pushing for a quick turnaround in its application. In a statement on its Facebook page Aquis explained,
“… should OLGR be able to complete its current probity reviews in the short term, Aquis may be prepared to reconsider an acquisition of RCT in 2015,”
“A new transaction would need to be negotiated (with key players), therefore, there is no certainty any such transaction would eventuate”.
In other words, Aquis are telling the OLGR to get a move on or risk the whole project ending before it has got past the first hurdle.
That would be a minor blow to Queensland punters who would still be able to get their kicks at Supercasino online and other similar facilites, but it would be a massive setback for the local economy in terms of construction and longer-term tourist and supply jobs and revenues. In sum, online casinos don’t create the same number of jobs and extra business activity that bricks and mortar facilities do.
Aquis’ publicity had promised to bring more than a million visitors a year to Cairns and North Queensland, making it an international go-to destination not only for gamblers but also for tourists generally. In the process they were predicting a direct contribution of $18.5 billion to government coffers between 2014 and 2030. That red tape could prove to be pretty expensive.
The Aquis website lists the following as key features of their proposal:
340.6 ha – total site area
7,500 – total rooms across eight luxury hotels
$8.15 billion – total budget across two stages from 2014-2024
2018 – scheduled opening date
$55.4 billion – economy wide value added by 2030
$18.5 billion – total tax contribution to governments from 2014-2030
3,750 – total jobs at peak construction in 2017
20,000 – total operational workforce
$1.4 billion – increase in Gross State Product (GSP) in 2017