Australia considers Tony Fung's casino-hotel project

Son of Sun Hung Kai Securities founder wants to redevelop a 343 hectare resort in Queensland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 August, 2013, 4:51am

Australia's Queensland state is considering a A$4.2 billion (HK$29 billion) casino and hotel project proposed by Hong Kong-based businessman Tony Fung.

The state government would look at the plan to redevelop 343 hectares of rural land north of Cairns, enabling Fung to avoid seeking separate approvals for different parts of the proposal, a spokesman for deputy state premier Jeff Seeney said by telephone.

The Aquis Great Barrier Reef resort proposal includes nine luxury hotels, 1,200 apartments and 135 villas, an 18-hole golf course, a sports stadium and a conference centre, according to the state government's website.

The Cairns development is the latest in a series of proposals for new casinos in Australia. It also comes after a 16 per cent drop in the Australian dollar since mid April, making the nation more attractive to overseas visitors.

Echo Entertainment Group, which has exclusive licences to run casinos in Sydney and Brisbane, is battling proposals by billionaire James Packer's Crown to build second casino resorts in both cities. The companies are seeking to cash in on tourist dollars from high-rolling Asian gamblers who have doubled Macau's gaming revenues over the past three years. Aquis will "drive Asian tourism awareness of North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef", Fung said in a letter accompanying his proposal. "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.

Tony Fung, son of Sun Hung Kai Securities founder Fung King-hey, started closely held Yu Ming Investments in 1996, according to the project proposal. He served as chairman of SHKI Group, which was managed by Yu Ming, until May 2008, according to company documents.

The next step is an environmental impact assessment and further government approvals for the project to proceed, according to the website. The resort, which would include one of the world's largest aquariums, a lake and a reef lagoon, was expected to be completed in 2018 and create 19,300 jobs.

The Queensland state government said in March it had approved a A$600 million Great Keppel Island resort development that included a hotel, eco-resort villas and apartments, a marina and a golf course.