Queensland Competition Heats Up

Proposals for multibillion-dollar resort casinos on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are causing supporters and opponents to get hot and bothered. With new casino licenses up for bid, Queensland will grapple with who gets the licenses and how they are weighed. Perhaps the Aquis (l.) is the most ambitious and controversial.

Australian golf legend Greg Norman is promoting a US billion gaming resort on the country’s Great Keppel Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Tower Holdings, the developer, says it has secured unspecified approvals for the project, which will be located on the north coast of the state of Queensland and is slated to include a 250-room five-star beachfront hotel, 1,000 luxury villas and apartments, a 250-berth marina, retail shopping and a casino.

It will also feature a Norman-designed 18-hole golf course.

The company is reported to be seeking development and investment partners from around Asia in consort with Norman’s Great White Shark Enterprises.

Meanwhile, a new rendering of the proposed A$4.2 billion Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort has been released in support of a an environmental impact statement the developer is preparing for review by the government of the Australian state of Queensland.

The rendering shows the transformation of a portion of an agricultural area known as Yorkey’s Knob near the city of Cairns on the state’s northern coast into a 73-hectare mixed-use complex encompassing nine luxury hotels and 1,335 apartments and villas, 13,500 square meters of retail shopping, an 18-hole golf course, a 25,000-seat stadium, 45,000 square meters of convention and meeting space, a 13-hectaire reef lagoon and a cultural heritage museum.

Queensland plans to issue three new licenses for resort casinos, one in the capital of Brisbane and the others in tourist areas.

The public response to Aquis, the brainchild of Hong Kong financier Tony Fung, has been mixed but mostly in favor because of the jobs and other economic benefits it promises.

“I’m excited the developers are moving forward with the design process and are not far away from the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement),” said Barron River MP Michael Trout. “We’re one step closer to more jobs and getting Cairns back on its feet.”

Not everyone shares Trout’s enthusiasm.

“When you throw the word ‘mega’ into any sentence, it almost never implies subtlety and Aquis is no exception,” states a report by a community group called Cairns Lifestyle. “Although labeled ‘innovative, modern’ and even ‘breathtaking’ by some, many now, after seeing the plans, refer to the resort as ‘intrusive, unnecessary’ and ‘excessive’.

“Some areas of the development spanning over 80 meters high, Aquis will undoubtedly disturb what were spectacular mountain views from the ground, looming over Cairns residents,” the report goes on to complain. “The sheer height implies the blatant ignorance of the developers as to why Cairns is such a popular tourist destination, suggesting they have no consideration at all in maintaining what is a universally harmonious and beautiful landscape.”