Aquis posts record revenue for December

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Iris Capital purchases Casino Canberra from Aquis

Australian casino operator Aquis Entertainment has posted record revenue for the December quarter.

Asia Gaming Brief reports the company, which runs Casino Canberra, which includes the Natural Nine restaurant, didn’t provide specific figures in its filing with the Australian Stock Exchange.

The casino was forced to close in the third quarter of the year due to lockdowns in the Australian Capital Territory.

The company said total expenditure was $4.2 million, of which $3.2 million was on payroll.

It had spent $0.98 million in other operating expenses.

The revenue burst for Aquis comes after owner Tony Fung stepped down from the organisation’s board in August.

Fung said that with increasing scrutiny on Australian casinos, he thought the time was right for an independent, fresh face to deal with the regulatory challenges facing the gaming industry.

Fung will remain majority shareholder and lender to Aquis but said, “It’s not hard to see how my family’s interest as a financial lender and majority shareholder to the casino business may be a conflict of interest in relation to the priority of non-profit factors.

“As such, I feel that it is appropriate to step back and ensure the company receives stewardship by an independent board.”

Independent non-executive director Russell Shields will step in as interim chairman pending a formal offer to assume the role permanently in the coming weeks.

Aquis acquired Casino Canberra in 2014 and has been in ongoing discussions with the ACT Government regarding a proposal to spend $330 million to transform the property and surrounding areas into a comprehensive entertainment district.

Redevelopment of Casino Canberra on the cards

Aquis has continued to lobby for a redevelopment of its casino and gaming precinct in Canberra.

“We will be holding discussions with the government this year to discuss the conditions in place in relation to the redevelopment and electronic gaming machines and we look forward to the opportunity to deliver to Canberra the kind of world class entertainment precinct that our capital city deserves and to creating many new employment opportunities and further securing all existing roles within our business.”

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 the 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 strict conditions.

Aquis has largely baulked at the reduced offering since.

Nevertheless, Fung said that redevelopment of the casino “still forms part of our longer-term strategy for growth in Canberra.”

Aquis’ share price tells an interesting story

In 2021, Aquis’ share price skyrocketed, off the back of a low share price of less than half a cent in 2020.

After starting the year at four cents a share, it rocketed almost 2000 per cent between February 16 and 25, when it reached a new all-time high of 82 cents a share.

The difference between this company’s 52-week low and 52-week high is an astonishing 27,233 per cent.

The share price has subsequently slid from those highs, but remains well above where it was two months ago.

Aquis is the only licensed casino in the Australian Capital Territory.

Beyond this, the company also states that it is “actively looking to grow its Australian operations”.

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