Casino Canberra Acquired By Iris Capital

Robert Longthorpe - Senior Writer
Robert Longthorpe
20 January 2023 in News
Casino Canberra To BE Sold

While it's common to find new online casinos on a regular basis, the same cannot be said for their land based counterparts. However, changing ownership is common place. Just recently it was rumoured that Sky City Adelaide would be changing hands as well. While that turned out to be nothing more than a rumour, Iris Capital has actually acquired Casino Canberra in Australia from Aquis Entertainment. The acquisition deal enables the former company to start the New Year with a new casino property.

On Jan 11, Aquis Entertainment announced that it completed the sale of Aquis Canberra Pty Ltd, which owns and operates Casino Canberra. According to news reports, Iris Capital paid A$63 million to Aquis, the amount the two companies had agreed upon when they began discussing the acquisition deal in July.

Iris Capital’s acquisition of Casino Canberra has injected millions of dollars into the coffers of Aquis International. The company has already received A$60.5 million upfront and will receive the balance of A$2.5 million in September 2023.

Executive Changes and Repayment of Loans

Now that Casino Canberra has changed ownership, Aquis International has to repay the loan of A$20.3 it had received from Aquis Canberra Holdings (Aus) Pty Limited, its majority shareholder. So, it is going to be a transfer of funds between accounts within the same company. The company had loaned the funds to boost operations at Casino Canberra.

Aquis International now plans to use the sale proceeds in the best ways possible. The company is also contemplating a position on the Australian Securities Exchange.

The change of ownership will also result in changes on the executive front. Allison Gallaugher will resign as the CEO and director of Aquis. She will continue to be the CEO of Casino Canberra but will be working for Iris Capital. Lawyers Tony Pickett and Simon Chan will take over as the nonexecutive directors of Aquis Entertainment.

ACT Declines Aquis' Redevelopment Proposal

Aquis decided to sell Casino Canberra after the Government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) declined its proposal for a redevelopment project worth A$330 million.

Aquis purchased Casino Canberra in 2014 and submitted its redevelopment proposal to the government in 2015. The proposal included the introduction of 500 slot machine games to the venue although current gambling laws in the ACT are not in favour of slot machine games. Aquis was aware of these laws when it purchased the property.

The government responded late in 2018 by declining the proposal, citing a lack of finances and regulatory controls as reasons. However, it made a compensation offer to permit Aquis to operate 60 electronic gaming machines and 200 slot machine games, provided the company agreed to adhere to a strict set of criteria. Aquis decided the best option would be to sell Casino Canberra.

The new owner of Casino Canberra, Iris Capital, had also made attempts to introduce new slot machine games to its existing properties. The Government of the Northern Territory refused to grant the company permission to introduce 60 slot machine games to its Alice Springs properties.

Australian Government Takes a Closer Look at Casinos

Responding to rising demands from the Australian public to curb accessibility to gambling and the rising number of scandals involving major operators, the Government of Australia has decided to take a closer look at its gambling industry.

Both Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment have been fined over $100 million when they were found guilty of permitting customers with criminal backgrounds on their premises and allowing them to spend huge amounts of money on gambling activities. In addition to facilitating money laundering, these operators were found guilty of ignoring responsible gambling policies.

The government has also initiated several inquiries into the activities of other operators. One of them is SkyCity Entertainment Group, an operator based in New Zealand and owner of SkyCity Adelaide in South Australia. Investigation revealed that SkyCity permits money laundering within its premises.

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