31 May 2022

Casino Canberra to be sold off for $52 million in latest plan

| Lottie Twyford
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The front of Casino Canberra

The owners of Casino Canberra have announced a plan to sell to a Sydney-based company for more than $50 million. Photo: File.

The owners of Canberra’s casino plan to sell the venue to a Sydney-based hospitality company for $52 million.

Hong Kong-based Aquis Entertainment Limited – which has operated Casino Canberra since 2015 – announced earlier this month to the Australian Securities Exchange that it would sell to a company owned by Oscars Group pending shareholder approval.

This approval will likely be sought by August this year and the sale is expected to occur by the end of that month.

No casino employees will lose their jobs due to the sale.

Founded in 1986, Oscars is one of New South Wales’ largest hospitality groups. It operates pubs in Sydney and hotels across the country, including Newcastle, Wollongong, Brisbane and Sydney.

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Director of Oscars Mario Gravanis said the group would be working closely with Aquis to ensure minimal disruption to the business over the coming months.

CEO of Aquis and Casino Canberra Allison Gallaugher said she was also very excited about the future and working with Oscars on the continual improvement of the business.

Aquis Entertainment chairman Russell Shields described the price as a “compelling offer” that would benefit shareholders in the long run.

“This transaction is in its very earliest stage and as such, the directors need to take the time over the next couple of months to consider the future of the company, given the sale is of its main undertaking,” he said.

The sale is likely to take some time to complete due to the number of regulatory approval processes that must be worked through.

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Those regulatory processes played a major role in the last sale attempt falling flat on its face.

In 2018 Blue Whale Entertainment acquired the casino via a $32 million deal, making it the major shareholder. However, that deal was broken off because Blue Whale could not provide the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission necessary information.

That initial deal followed the Territory government’s rejection of Aquis’ $330 million unsolicited bid to redevelop the casino precinct. Negotiations between the government and the casino had broken down over the conditions imposed on the project, including the number of poker machines it would be allowed to operate.

The casino had wanted 500, but legislation limited it to 200 machines.

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In 2021, the casino operated at a loss of $470,628.

Compared to 2020, profits decreased by 71.1 per cent but total revenue increased 33 per cent. Its operating expenses increased by 39.8 per cent, mainly because it had to pay the full annual casino licence fee, which was waived in 2020.

It was also unable to claim JobKeeper support from the Federal Government.

In a statement the casino’s directors said it had continued a cost control program throughout 2021 to minimise expenditure, particularly during the shutdown period due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

The casino was shut for four-and-a-half months in 2020 and two and a half months in 2021.

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Capital Retro4:51 pm 30 May 22

Which ACT based sporting team has the new owner agreed to sponsor?

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