Cairns and the Gold Coast could become the first regional Australian cities with more than one casino, angering anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello.
While the government is hailing a tourist boon, anti-gambling campaigners say Queensland’s move to pave the way for two Chinese-backed casinos is short sighted madness.
The state government has indicated two mega resorts bankrolled by Chinese developers are likely to be given casino licences, which would make Cairns and the Gold Coast the nation’s only regional cities with more than one casino.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney hailed the conditional approval of the six-star resorts in Cairns and the Gold Coast as a boon for overseas tourism.
“These projects have the potential to create thousands of new jobs in these two key tourism centres,” he said.
Tim Costello, chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, said these regional casinos, in areas of high unemployment, would aggressively compete for local problem gamblers if there was a downturn in international high rollers.
“This is very foolish and short-sighted. It’s madness,” he told AAP.
“Their business model, because they’re never up front about it, is always heavily reliant on local custom.”
Sydney will be the first Australian city to have two casinos when Crown’s Barangaroo development for high rollers opens in November 2019.
But Queensland has more casinos than anywhere else in Australia, with four of the nation’s 13 gambling establishments in the Sunshine State.
The Queensland government says the $8.15 billion Aquis project planned for Cairns and the proposed $7.5 billion Broadwater Marine Project on the Gold Coast would be granted casino licences if construction proceeded.
The Australian-listed ASF Consortium, backed by Chinese property interests, is behind the Gold Coast proposal, while Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung is financing the Cairns project.
The developments are in the pre-planning phase and must obtain a number of planning and environmental approvals before building can begin.
But Mr Costello said another casino on the Gold Coast would add to the bikie crime city’s money laundering problems.
Meanwhile, Jupiters Casino’s Gold Coast managing director Aaron Gomes resigned on Tuesday.
An Echo Entertainment spokesman, which also owns casinos in Sydney and Brisbane, said Mr Gomes’ resignation had nothing to do with the rival Broadwater announcement, and was about a management restructure that will see Geoff Hogg oversee southeast Queensland.