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Christmas Island


With Christmas Island’s resort casino licence currently under consideration, the Indian Ocean finds itself under the spotlight. Christmas Island is suffering financially. Last year, the government closed its immigration


detention centre that has held thousands of asylum seekers since it opened in 2008 whilst the island’s


other main industry, phosphate mining, is also under threat.


Te island hopes tourism could help the dwindling economy. Te renewal of a discontinued casino licence could be the Band- Aid that is most required.


Te casino opened in 1993 before its licence was later cancelled by the government in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis saw a drop in visitors, together with rumours of money laundering.


At the time of closure, the casino had three gaming rooms offering 43 slots and 23 gambling tables. Tere was a bar, two restaurants and two nightclubs plus 56 guest rooms and suites. At its peak, the casino turned over A$5bn annually with the wealthy elite flying in direct from Jakarta.


After it closed, the Christmas Island Resort was purchased from liquidators in May 2000 by South Korean born businessman David Kwon of Soft Star Pty, who reopened it as a hotel with the promise of a reinstated casino licence.


Te sale caused some controversy on the island at the time. Soft Star purchased the casino and the 156-room property for A$5.7m. It was reopened seven years later following a $15m


P62 NEWSWIRE / INTERACTIVE / MARKET DATA


refurbishment of the resort. Te sale occurred outside of a tender process that later led to an inquiry. Te resort apartments then provided accommodation for the detention centre employees.


In 2004, the Federal Government blocked an application to reopen the casino on the grounds of it having a negative social impact. After years of correspondence, discussions and repeated applications for a casino licence, 2013 saw Soft Star formally submit to the Australian government a full business plan for the proposed casino operations detailing financial forecasts and benefits.


Michael Asims, representative for Soft Star, said at the time of the application: “A reopened casino would be a key driver in providing all the building blocks required to develop a successful tourism industry. It would provide a platform and underpin many of the essential elements required including increased air services both in number and frequency, lower priced air services and more extensive air hubs for inbound tourism.


“A casino operation on Christmas Island would


rely on these additional and more frequent flights in order to attract and retain its clients. Tis would require the casino to lease its own aircraft to ensure stability and reliability with air connections.”


Five years later, the company is still waiting. Te Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development has said a casino licence should be issued with a competitive tender.


A report from the Department said: “Te majority of feedback received identified a preference for an integrated resort that would include a hotel with a casino together with entertainment facilities, retail and dining. Respondents indicated that an integrated resort would address concerns surrounding a lack of higher end accommodation for tourists and limited entertainment and recreational activities for tourists and residents. Te options of a boutique casino and ‘online casino’ were also identified with the condition that either option be attached to a resort.”


“It was widely acknowledged that a casino on Christmas Island would need to target Asia’s


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