Despite a new mystery bidder emerging last week, the owners of Casino Canberra have today announced they will sell the venue to the Sydney-based hospitality group that originally offered $52 million in May.
To beat the other bid, Capital Leisure and Entertainment Pty Ltd, which is owned by Oscars Group, has now offered Aquis Entertainment $58.2 million for the venue.
It became clear last week another company was interested in acquiring the casino when the Hong Kong-based Aquis requested a trading halt followed by a voluntary suspension at the beginning of this week.
Trading was paused so the company could examine the competing offer.
The details of the other bid, including the name of the bidder and the amount, will not be made public.
Aquis CEO Allison Gallaugher confirmed in a statement to the ASX that an unsolicited “materially higher” bid had been received at the end of June.
This bid was later increased again and Oscars was advised Aquis intended to terminate the previously announced sale agreement.
Oscars later increased its bid and the parties have now signed an amended agreement. Under the terms of this amended agreement, if Aquis receives and accepts a higher offer, Oscars will receive a break fee of $1 million.
The transaction remains subject to shareholder approval and ACT Government casino and liquor licensing regulatory approvals.
Shareholders will vote on the sale in mid-August.
A probity approval process is underway and Oscars has already made a submission to the regulator, Ms Gallaugher confirmed.
In a previous statement, Oscars’ director Mario Gravanis said the group would be working closely with Aquis to ensure minimal disruption to the business over the coming months.
Oscars confirmed no Casino Canberra employees would lose their jobs.
Ms Gallaugher also said she was excited about the future and working with Oscars on the continual improvement of the business.
She is expected to resign from the board but will continue as a director of Aquis Canberra and Casino Canberra, as well as CEO of the latter.
Aquis, which bought Casino Canberra in 2014, had tried and failed to get the venue’s ambitious $330 million redevelopment off the ground.
That redevelopment would have added luxury hotels, shopping, bars, cafes and a convention centre to the precinct.
Negotiations between the casino and the government had broken down in 2018 over conditions imposed on the project, particularly regarding the number of poker machines the casino would be allowed to operate.
The casino had wanted 500, but legislation passed in 2019 limited it to 200 machines.
A prior attempt by Aquis to sell the casino had fallen through in early 2020 as the buyer – Blue Whale Entertainment – had been unable to satisfy the government’s regulatory processes.