Liberal MLA Mark Parton suggests Tradies Club could buy Canberra Casino | ACT | Office Space Canberra \
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Liberal MLA Mark Parton suggests Tradies Club could buy Canberra Casino

The Barr government has written its casino legislation to potentially allow the Tradies Club Group to take over the Canberra Casino if Aquis Entertainment sells up, according to an opposition MLA.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay introduced long-awaited laws into the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, which would allow the casino to buy up poker machine authorisations and bring in new automated table games.

However players would be limited to $2 spins, a figure negotiated between Labor, who were pushing for $5, and the Greens, who wanted a maximum $1 bet.

The gaming machines would also be bound by Australia’s first mandatory pre-commitment scheme, and the casino would have to forfeit one in three authorisations they buy, taking 130 machines out of circulation.

But the laws have not specifically mentioned the current casino owners, Aquis, leading to speculation a second operator could buy the casino at a later date.

The Canberra Liberals’ gaming spokesman Mark Parton suggested a licensed club could step forward to buy the casino.

“Is there anyone that thinks the Tradies Club might step forward to purchase the casino, grab the opportunity to get the fully automated table games and perhaps get around these harm minimisation measures and redevelopment clause measures by redeveloping the casino precinct in inverted commas,” Mr Parton said.

“They could redevelop the section next door to the casino into a licensed club, perhaps you could walk straight through from the casino gaming floor to the club, where of course you can play the pokies without any of the harm minimisation rules in this building.

“It’s not the casino, this is Tradies in the city, but the Tradies could still get their fully automated table games to run in the casino, what a bonus, and you’d think that any deal that set this up is not one that any govt would agree to, but you would’ve though that about the Dickson carpark and the building there.”

Mr Parton said it would be a lot of hoops to jump through “but this government and the CFMEU, they are very good at jumping through the regulatory hoops”.

But Tradies Group chairman and CFMEU secretary Dean Hall categorically denied the group had any plans to buy the casino.

“Mark Parton has got to realise he’s been elected to parliament and that’s a privilege that comes with responsibility,” Mr Hall said.

“He’s no longer a shock jock on radio that can shoot from the mouth before he has the facts, that can sensationalise and trivialise important matters of parliament. He owes that to the people who’ve elected him.”

The new laws were prompted by Aquis’ $300 million proposal to create a resort-style entertainment, dining and retail precinct in the city, which hinged on the government breaking the clubs’ long-held monopoly on poker machines and granting the casino the right to operate them.

But the bet and poker machine limits needed to get the bill over the line with the Greens may make such a redevelopment unfeasible.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the government was making a “significant” decision to allow the licensee of the casino, “whoever that might be”, to apply to operate a limited number of gaming machines.

He said the laws were some of the “toughest” for electronic gaming at a casino in Australia, but would allow the redevelopment to take place in a “socially responsible” way.

“While this bill is proponent neutral it does allow the government to consider proposals from the casino licensee where there is a broader benefit to the community,” Mr Barr said.

“The current licensee may not choose to take up the option outlined in this legislation of up to 200 gaming machines and 60 fully automated game terminals.

“However it will remain open to the currently licensee in future or future licensees to consider the option subject to an approved development proceeding.”

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said while the bet limits were not as low as they wanted, the bill was a “significant breakthrough” in harm minimisation in the territory.

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