Aquis lines up sale of Casino Canberra to hospitality giant

By Noah Taylor Updated
Iris Capital purchases Casino Canberra from Aquis

Aquis Entertainment has reached a deal to settle Casino Canberra for $52 million.

Inside Asian Gaming reports that Aquis has signed a share purchase agreement with Capital Leisure & Entertainment, a subsidiary of hospitality giant the Oscars Group.

Although subject to regulatory approvals, the sale would see Oscars acquire 100 per cent of shares in Casino Canberra, which holds the casino licence to operate Casino Canberra, as well as all associated assets.

The transaction is to be funded on a debt and cash free basis other than a $3 million cash payment to help Aquis meet certain casino regulatory requirements.

Aquis said the sale was designed to help the company seek new business opportunities, with an update expected by the end of the financial year on 30 June 2022.

“The transaction provides considerable value to the company and its shareholders,” Aquis and Casino Canberra chief executive officer Allison Gallaugher said.

“It recognises the attractive operating performance of the business which has continued to trade well since reopening post the COVID-19 lockdowns,” Ms Gallaugher said.

“As an employee of Casino Canberra, I am also very excited about the future and working with Oscars on the continual improvement of our business.”

Oscars excited by prospect of Aquis takeover

Director of Oscars Mario Gravanis said: “We are excited by the opportunity to acquire the Casino Canberra business.

“We will be working closely with Aquis over the coming months to satisfy the necessary conditions precedent with minimal disruption to the business and look forward to working with the casino Canberra team in the future.”

The sale of Casino Canberra comes after Aquis failed to reach an agreement with the ACT Government over a proposed $330 million redevelopment of the property.

Aquis, which purchased Casino Canberra in 2014, submitted its original redevelopment plans in 2015 including a request for permission to install up to 500 poker machines.

Casino Canberra is not permitted to operate poker machines under current legislation.

The company’s initial bid was rejected in December 2018, with the government describing the proposal as untenable due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding regulation and financing details.

Instead, the ACT Government issued a counter offer under which Aquis would be permitted to run 200 poker machines and 60 electronic gaming machines, subject to certain conditions.

Aquis has baulked at the reduced offering.

Border closure leads to director resignation

An extension of Hong Kong’s international border closure has led to the removal of an Aquis Entertainment director.

In April,  non-executive director Alex Chow stepped aside from Aquis, which operates Casino Canberra.

According to details filed with the Australia Stock Exchange, Chow’s retirement “comes regrettably as a result of continued COVID-19 lockdowns in his home country of Hong Kong, which are proving increasingly difficult for Mr Chow to manage his desired level of involvement with the group via technological means.”

Chow’s resignation is effective immediately.

Aquis Chairman Russell Shields said: “While I am sorry to see Alex go, I can certainly sympathise with the technological challenges he has been experiencing.

“Alex’s input over the years has been very valuable, we have been through some interesting times together as a result of COVID-19 and I wish him all the very best for the future.”

Aquis said it will consider a replacement director in due course.

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