Australia has seen several casino proposals in the last year with the latest being a $4.2 billion Macau-inspired resort and casino for Northern Queensland.
Chinese billionaire Tony Fung is behind the project which, if approved, will be known as the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort.
The resort is slated to be built over rural land in the northern beach suburb in Cairns. In a letter accompanying his proposal, Fung said it would drive “Asian tourism awareness of North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.”
Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney confirmed that Aquis has earned preliminary approval with the project still to undergo environmental, social and economic assessments with the city. The proposal will also be subject to community consultation.
The Deputy Premier noted the project could bring significant economic benefits to Cairns and to Queensland as a whole.
The complex will be considered a destination venue if it goes ahead and will feature a hotel as well as entertainment and retail functions.
Spanning 340 hectares and incorporating nine luxury hotels, the project calls for one of the world’s largest casinos along with an extensive list of entertainment amenities including an 18-hole golf course, aquarium, theatre and a 13-hectare reef lagoon.
It will include 3,750 hotel rooms, 1,200 apartments and 135 villas to house guests. Fung expects to create 9,000 jobs during construction with a further 10,000 jobs created by the resort itself.
Fung believes North Queensland is missing a “man-made wonder of the world” and wants to bring the architectural and tourism success of Macau to Australia’s north shores.
“The Aquis project would reveal the great man-made structures in Macau, Dubai and Singapore and be “without peer in Australia,” he said.
Despite the optimism, the size of this structure has the Australian Conservation Society anxious.
“The concerns that we would have is about the size, the scale and location as it is on the coast,” spokeswoman Felicity Wishart told AAP. “It’s alarming that they’re trying to create a man-made wonder of the world…while potentially damaging what is one of the great natural wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef.”
The Aquis project is set to inject some much-needed economic growth into Cairns' declining tourism business with a focus on drawing Asian tourists, particularly from China where two Chinese airlines have recently begun direct flights into the town.
“I have recognised the unique suitability of the Cairns region to develop an integrated resort, based upon the Macau model of including a variety of facilities in one location,” Fung said.
In Sydney, James Packer, who already has resorts in Macau, shares Fung’s same vision upon the recent approval of his $1.5 billion hotel and gambling resort at Barangaroo.
Crown Sydney's gambling facility will be targeted toward Asian VIP gamblers while contributing to the transformation of the Barangaroo precinct. The project has received an abundance of criticism particularly for its architectural design and its “unsuitability” for the Sydney landscape including Phillip Cox, founding partner of Cox Architecture describing the design as “all a bit Macau.”
A recent trend analysis report from the Las Vegas Sands Corporation seems to suggest the Macau "destination casino" model works, with the American casino and resort company reporting an 81 per cent jump in revenue from Asia, Macau and Singapore and a recent decline in Nevada gaming venues.
Other hot spots the corporation are considering for casino resort investment include Spain and Canada. Australia remains close behind as casinos become much more than just gaming venues across the globe.