Plans for a new casino resort near the coastal city of Cairns in Queensland, Australia, are back on track, as the team behind Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort (pictured in a rendering) has “signed a process deed to re-enter the integrated resort development (IRD) process,” said Queensland’s state treasurer Curtis Pitt.
Mr Pitt confirmed in a statement on Saturday that Hong Kong businessman Tony Fung Wing Cheung had in February withdrawn from the process, following stalled negotiations with the previous Liberal National Party state government.
But he added that the latest development was a vote of confidence in Queensland. “Following the election [in February 2015], the Palaszczuk government sought to engage in positive discussions with Mr Fung and we welcome his company’s commitment to re-entering the IRD process,” Mr Pitt said, referring to the current Labor Party administration in Queensland of premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
“The IRD process is a rigorous way to protect the community’s interests and also evaluate Aquis’ credentials and financial capacity to deliver this project,” he added.
Mr Fung has previously said he plans to spend as much as AUD8 billion (US$5.7 billion) on the Cairns casino resort. In his latest statement he noted that Aquis remained “committed to the Aquis Yorkeys Knob project as part of our overall strategic investment plans for Australia”.
The casino resort project – designed to attract VIP and mass-market players from China and elsewhere in Asia – calls for 7,500 hotel rooms, gaming facilities, a golf course and a water park, on a site north of Cairns on the Queensland coast.
Mr Fung – a former chairman of Hong Kong-based financial services company Sun Hung Kai and Co Ltd – last month completed the reverse takeover of Discovery Resources Ltd. The exercise was in order to float his existing Australian casino asset, Casino Canberra, on the Australian Securities Exchange. Mr Fung’s company had said in previous statements the flotation aimed to raise money to fund other casino investments.
According to Saturday’s statement, the proposed Aquis development will have an initial AUD3.5-billion investment. It added that “once the resort is fully operational it could create up to 16,000 jobs”.
The Queensland government said it would “issue Aquis with a request for detailed proposal document in the near future”. The Aquis team will then have 20 business days to accept the request for detailed proposal document and execute an acceptance deed.
“The signing of the acceptance deed will commence probity processes, requiring Aquis to provide the information needed to allow the regulator to commence investigations as required under the Casino Control Act,” said Mr Pitt’s statement.
The state government added it hopes to receive the detailed development proposal from the Aquis team during 2016.
Queensland’s Department of State Development and the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation “will run concurrent, but separate assessment processes for development and for probity,” said the statement.
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