A $330 million refurbishment of the Canberra Casino will begin in early 2016, but the upgrades will take years for new owners Aquis Entertainment Group to complete.
Guests to the Canberra Casino, which Aquis purchased in September, can expect to see remodelling begin to roll out in January 2016, with $8.6 million in renovations approved along with the addition of over $5 million in new casino equipment. The existing casino will remain open while the new one is being built, with no interruption to visitors to the Canberra Casino during this time. The first part of the revamp is expected to be completed by June 2016.
So what about the remaining $315 million? Aquis Entertainment has some huge plans to put Canberra on the map not just as Australia’s sleepy capital but as a hot spot for world class tourism. The proposed plan estimates that when completed, the new Canberra Casino could attract as many as 750,000 extra visitors to the ACT each year, bringing in more than $60 million in taxes for the state government. The company believes the new casino complex will generate up to 420 ongoing jobs, with an additional 200 construction contractors required to complete the project.
When finished, the proposed Aquis Casino Canberra will be a resort complete with gaming, entertainment, accommodation, dining and retail. There will be two new boutique hotels (a six star luxury hotel for the high rollers along with a more affordable five star hotel with 100 suites), promenade style shopping mall, day spa, hip bars, trendy cafes and high class dining. There has also been talk of the introduction of haute couture brands like Gucci, Luis Vuitton and Chanel, filling the void for luxury shopping in Canberra.
The lucrative job of transforming the casino has gone to prestigious firm Cox Architecture. Cox’s job is to transform the casino into a contemporary and luxurious environment worthy of attracting high rollers from across the globe. Justin Fong, the executive director for Aquis Entertainment said that, “Our Canberra-based architects, Cox, have designed an innovative solution that takes into account the size and characteristics of the site, while delivering on our vision for an integrated entertainment precinct and a revitalisation of the City South area.”
While the project itself is going to be massive, the real battle comes down to whether or not the ACT Government will change current regulations to allow the inclusion of poker machines at the Canberra Casino. Currently, the casino is the only one in Australia that doesn’t offer electronic gaming machines, with pokies in Canberra restricted to not-for-profit clubs only.
Mr Feng said if the government doesn’t change their policy to allow the inclusion of pokies in the casino, Aquis will need to revisit the proposed plan, likening a casino without pokies to a supermarket without eggs. Mr Feng said: “We put the entire financial model together making certain assumptions and those assumptions include several aspects including the poker machines, so if one component gets taken out, we do have to revisit the entire model.”
The debate continues regarding the poker machine situation, so only time will tell as to whether the initial project gets full approval, but for early 2016 at least punters can expect some fabulous changes around the Casino Canberra.