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Hong Kong Billionaires Tony and Justin Fung to Build the World’s Greatest Casino in Queensland

Australian gambling laws - GamingZion

The government of Queensland is looking to make a splash while billionaires Tony and Justin Fung are looking to make a buck. It’s a match made in heaven.

The Australian state of Queensland, located on the sun-drenched Gold Coast, has fallen on hard times. A sparse and unforgiving landscape never had much to offer in terms of agriculture, and Brisbane is the only urban center large enough to support a service economy.

The people of Queensland have provided for themselves primarily through tourism and minerals extraction, two industries which have taken big hits since the global recession began in 2008. Desperate to boost employment and tax revenue, the provincial government is issuing licenses for major integrated resort casino projects, most of which will aim at attracting gamblers from Asia.

Picking the fruit of Asian gaming

• The Aquis Resort Casino near Cairns will cost $8.15 billion to finish

• The Fung family of Hong Kong will own and operate the casino

• Queensland is looking for new casinos as a means to jumpstart the economy

Luckily for Australia, it’s located in the Western Pacific in close proximity to the Asian continent, the world’s most tantalizing source of big-spending gamblers. Gambling hubs like Macau, Singapore and the Philippines are booming but appear nowhere close to saturation, as there are literally hundreds of millions of gamblers across Asia and few places for them to gamble legally.

The “land down under” already has a relatively developed casino market. Since Australian gambling laws were liberalized during the 1970s the industry thrived as the country blossomed into a popular tourist destination for gamblers, families and adventurers alike.

Queensland is already the center of gambling in Australia, boasting a nation-leading four land-based casinos. However, this year the state government issued additional licenses for projects in the capital city of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and a remote area referred to as “regional Queensland.”

In all three locations public officials and investors are looking to strike gold with big, attention-grabbing developments. State Premier Campbell Newman said that each of the casinos should be “iconic.”

Meet the Fungs

Queensland is looking to make a splash, and Tony and Justin Fung are just the men for the job. The father-son team from Hong Kong are already sitting on billions, and plan to build the $8.15 billion Aquis integrated resort casino near Cairns on the Gold Coast.

The 62-year old elder Fung has spent decades developing properties in Hong Kong, mainland China and even Queensland, but doesn’t have prior experience in the gambling industry. However, he still has the youthful vigor to find success in a new endeavor.

Tony was inspired to create the Aquis casino when he heard that officials in Queensland were considering expanding the state’s gambling industry; the project is loosely modeled after a now-defunct proposal called the Rainbow Harbour.

And while Tony provides the sage wisdom needed to make such an ambitious project work, 30-year old Justin will be managing things on the ground in Cairns while his father remains based in Hong Kong.

Tony enjoys playing gin rummy with his friends in Hong Kong but Justin is strictly business, telling reporters that he never gambles himself: “I don’t go to casinos… I used to play quite a bit of poker but now I don’t have the time.”

He’ll have his hands full handing day-to-day operations at the Aquis, which looks to be the grandest casino Australia has ever seen.

The Aquis will blow away the competition

If things go as planned, the Aquis will be the world’s most expensive casino and one of the largest and most luxurious, able to compete with anything Macau, Singapore or Las Vegas have to offer.

The project will be built on 340 hectares (worth $40 million) and will contain a staggering 7,500 hotel rooms, an aquarium, theaters, convention space, a sports complex and a world-class golf course to go along with thousands of gaming tables and Australian poker rooms.

The Fungs say that the construction project will create 7,000 jobs and that the finished resort will employ 20,000 people on a permanent basis. Tony Fung expects roughly three quarters of visitors to come from outside of Australia (mostly from Asia) and will rely on junket tours to bring in VIP gamblers.

Despite its massive size, the Fung’s don’t appear to be interested in catering to mass market gamblers. The Aquis won’t be anything like the open-to-all-comers establishments found in Vegas and Atlantic City; they expect visitors to wager between $300 and $500 (minimum) per hand playing blackjack and baccarat and spend up to $8,000 a night on a luxury suite.

The Fungs expect the casino to be so big that they are buying up some of the competition in Queensland to increase their own market size. They spent $250 million to take over the Cairns’ Reef Hotel Casino as well as a venue in Canberra that was owned by the same company.

What the Aquis means for Queensland

Bringing what is expected to be the finest luxury casino on earth on Cairns will change the tourism industry in Cairns forever. Expect it do billions of dollars in revenue annually, and provide enough tax dollars to bankroll a large portion of the state budget.

And a fact easily forgotten in all of this is that the Aquis is only one of three major integrated resort casinos slated to open in the state during the next five years. While the future of the minerals industry in Queensland is uncertain, its looks like the sky is the limit for the gambling and tourism sector.

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