Adding poker machines to Casino Canberra has been a point of contention for the past few months. Developer Aquis Entertainment, who recently purchased the property, requested permission from the government to add pokies to the gaming floor. The clubs industry campaigned against it, but the government has decided to side with Aquis. This will be the first time that any casino in Canberra will host poker machines.
No longer will clubs be the only places in the ACT that offer punters the chance to play pokies. Of the 5000 poker machines in the state, Casino Canberra will have access to 200 pokies that will be installed in the newly refurbished gaming floor. Aquis secured the deal with its plans to renovate Casino Canberra with a $330 million makeover.
The developer was almost ready to walk away from its plans unless the government agreed to provide pokies to the venue. Since the redevelopment of Casino Canberra has the potential to bring in millions of dollars in gaming and tourism revenue, it is no wonder ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr decided to give Aquis what it wanted.
While the plan is to benefit the local economy, the local clubs industry is not impressed with the addition of pokies at Casino Canberra. Club owners and members of ClubsACT have come forward to say that they feel victimised by the government, and that this decision was not made in their favour and it was decided upon without their input.
"The Government has deliberately chosen not to consult the industry, which is very disappointing and frustrating, and will leave the community clubs very angry,” says Clubs ACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees. "We remain opposed to any erosion of the community gaming model."
Aquis Entertainment has addressed these concerns and hopes that it will be able to work together with the clubs industry to improve gaming across the ACT overall. Unfortunately, ClubsACT is doubtful that the local community will benefit from this deal. The organisation doubts that profits from the casino’s pokies will not be sent back into the community via grants and funding programs.
This continues to be a heated debate across Canberra. So, it will be interesting to see how ClubsACT will react as Aquis starts its redevelopment of the casino.