ASF Consortium may have missed out on the chance to operate the Gold Coast’s second casino, but ASF’s loss could be Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung’s gain.
Earlier this week, Queensland Premiere Annastacia Palaszczuk announced ASF’s plan to build a $3 billion integrated resort on the Gold Coast’s Southern Spit parklands would not be approved. Rejection of the proposal means a second casino license on the Gold Coast is up for grabs, with the industry now speculating over who could be in line to get their hands on it.
Tony Fung, who owns investment and development conglomerate Aquis Australia, has been a major investor in the Gold Coast. Last year, Aquis spent $40 million securing 1,600 square metres of property near the Gold Coast Highway and Cypress Avenue in Surfers Paradise, which could potentially be the site for the next integrated resort.
No plans have yet been unveiled for an Aquis casino on the Gold Coast, but inside sources told the Gold Coast Bulletin that Fung purchased the Surfers Paradise site on the belief that ASF’s project on The Spit would be canned by the government. According to the source, the purchase was a calculated move, with Fung recognising his site would be more attractive after ASF’s plans failed.
The source said, “They [Aquis] acquired the site on the assumption ASF would fall over — either it would fall over because ASF would run out of patience or the State Government would pull the rug out from under them.”
Fung and his partners have not yet confirmed if they are interested in applying for the casino license. Fung could approach the potential project with caution after his plans for a major casino resort development in Cairns were shelved mid 2016, with Fung citing a change in the demand for integrated resorts as his reason for abandoning the project.
In a separate project, Aquis is currently developing plans for a $440 million hotel on a prime beachfront position in Surfers Paradise. The hotel aims to “become a benchmark for luxury accommodation in the Asia Pacific region and attract a new generation of well-heeled travellers to the Gold Coast” and will include 580 hotel rooms spread over 48 storeys.
Fung said the fact that the hotel was not linked to a casino gave it unique appeal. “Not all new visitors to Queensland will want to stay in a casino,” he said. “Our project’s unique beachfront location will make the Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches the star attraction, not pokies.”
Aquis was also recently granted approval for a $330 million upgrade to the Casino Canberra.
The future of The Spit site remains unclear now that ASF’s plans have been axed, but the government said the possibility of a cruise ship terminal remains open.
Ms Palaszczu said, “What the Spit really needs now is a master plan to revitalise it and increase its benefit to the Gold Coast as a community asset.”