Queensland Rejects Proposed $2.4 Billion Casino on Australia’s Gold Coast

Posted on: August 1, 2017, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: August 1, 2017, 06:00h.

The state government of Queensland has jettisoned a proposal that would’ve brought an AU$3 billion ($2.4 billion) casino resort to Australia’s Gold Coast just days after Caesars Entertainment reportedly came on board with the project.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk cited conservation concerns and a reluctance to let locals shoulder any additional tax burden as reasons for rejecting a major casino resort proposal. (Image: ABC)

Developers ASF Consortium, an Australia-based company that coordinates Chinese investment with global partners doing business in Austrialia, had hoped that Caesars’ involvement would offer the government some reassurance about the proposal’s credibility. Apparently, it did not.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday that her government’s reason for rejecting the project was largely one of conservation. The proposal, which has been dogged by local protests, would have seen the construction of five high-rise hotel towers, a plaza lined with restaurants and conference facilities, and a 1,200-seat amphitheatre.

These developments would have encroached on the Southport Spit parkland site while adding to local transportation expenses.

Queensland’s “Central Park”

Palaszczuk said she had listened to local communities that wanted to preserve the parkland site for future generations. She said she was not prepared to allow locals to shoulder the tax burden brought about by the need to invest in transportation infrastructure.

“This is a unique site, the equivalent to what Central Park is to New York,” she told reporters. “It should be preserved for generations.”

But there have been additional concerns about the project, such as where the financing is coming from, and who exactly is providing it. In March, The Australian newspaper discovered ASF had been flagged as a “going concern” by its auditors. As of December 31 last year, it had just $6.25 million in cash on hand, having already spend $92 million of the $102 million it had raised from investors.

Chinese Government as Potential Financier

Meanwhile, Louis Chien, director of the ASF Group, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation recently that it was “not out of the realm of possibility” that the Chinese state-owned construction company China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) would be a major stakeholder in the property.

Despite these reservations, ASF will retain the “preferred proponent” status it won from the Queensland government four years ago, and thus is free to submit another proposal for a resort in a different location.

Caesars International Development Director Steven Tight visited Australia last month on a fact-finding mission to assess the feasibility of a Gold Coast project, and some are suggesting the American casino giant could be interested in investing in the area with or without ASF.

Ceasars, which currently neither owns nor operates casinos in Australia, is set to emerge from its much-publicized bankruptcy later this year, and is likely looking to explore growth opportunities in new markets.