The $330 million proposed redevelopment of Casino Canberra is back on the table, with the venue’s operator, Aquis Entertainment, planning to resume talks with the ACT government about the plan.

Inside Asian Gaming reports that Aquis chairman Tony Fung told shareholders during the company’s annual general meeting that redeveloping the casino remained an important part of Aquis’ future, despite having seen talks stall on multiple occasions due to disagreements over the number of poker machines able to be installed.

We do remain committed to the redevelopment of the property and we believe that the post COVID-19 recovery in Canberra is the greatest opportunity to do so,” he said.

“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 balked 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.”

Unexplained share price spike for Aquis

Aquis recently reported a profit of A$798,201 in 2020, reversing an A$4 million loss in 2020. In March, Aquis shares exploded, rising 48.89 per cent in a single day. The move caps off what has been a wild ride for Aquis over 2021.

Aquis is a company that until 2021, had been drifting in relative obscurity for years. Between mid-2015 and the end of 2020, the company had slowly lost around 80 per cent of its value. In 2020, Aquis even touched the depressingly low share price of less than half a cent.

2021 has seen a dramatic reversal in the fortune of the company.

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 a gaming company whose flagship asset is Casino Canberra, the only licenced casino in the Australian Capital Territory.

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

Casino Canberra offers everything you would expect from a casino, including entertainment, bars and restaurants, accommodation and gambling facilities.

Experts have found it hard to pin down one of the strangest movements that has occurred on the ASX this year.

Aquis paused trading on February 18 after an ASX query into the massive price movements that occurred in the days prior.

In response, Aquis said: “The company is not aware of any information concerning it that has not been announced to the market and which could be an explanation for the recent trading in the company’s securities.”

 

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