Australia's Cairns In Northern Queensland To Become Aussie Las Vegas?, by Greg Tingle - 5th July 2010

Australia's Cairns In Northern Queensland To Become Aussie Las Vegas?

Cairns would become Australia's equivalent to Las Vegas under a somewhat controversial scheme to transform it into the national centre for poker machines. Aussie Casino King, James Packer, his prize casino being in Melbourne, Australia, isn't speaking on the matter as yet. Packer also has his Burswood Entertainment Complex in Perth, Western Australia, so don't expect Packer to support the proposal. It's not a Crown Limited venture either, but maybe they would buy them out one day. The current proposal is to be heard within 24 hours in Brisbane, north of Sydney, and south of Cairns, at one of the tourism industry's key annual conventions, Tourism Futures, to be attended by international tourism heavyweights and politicians, including Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. It is being championed - sphere headed by breakaway Liberal National Party MP Aidan McLindon, who has previously had campaigned against the spread of pokies. But Mr McLindon, who quit the party in May to form the Queensland Party, is now pushing for debate on a scheme that would create a Las Vegas style gambling strip in gorgeous Cairns by relocating poker machines from existing pubs and clubs across Queensland to a new "Aus Vegas" to be built in the region. Punters may recall Aus Vegas was an online casino name owned and operated by Lasseters, but they closed shop roughly 3 years ago, unable to compete with competitors which snatched online casino tuna, dolphins and whales. Aussie punters turned off Aus Vegas (online), finding the likes of PartyCasino.com, Captain Cooks Casino and Virgin Casino.

The Beaudesert MP first tabled his vision for a Vegas-style pokies hub to reduce gambling in April last year in his virgin speech to State Parliament. It somewhat replicates the US model, where Nevada is the only state to have no significant restrictions against gaming machines. Under the "Aus Vegas" proposal, clubs would have to sell their poker machine licences back to the Government or relocate their pokies to Cairns and become "shareholders" in the new venture. The state's existing 4 major casinos would be exempt.

The plan would be supported by a shake-up of the current distribution of gambling funds collected by the State Government, with pokies revenue instead being poured into recreational sports through a scheme that would hand sports clubs a cash grant for each child they put on the sports field! (a suitable connection between pokies and kids). "The location is ideal given the Cairns region is suffering some of the highest unemployment levels and the tourism industry is plummeting," Mr McLindon said. "It already has the international airport there, which is under-utilised. Ideally, you want them (gaming machines) all in one place so people can go away, have a holiday, blow their money and come home." But welfare groups fear the plan could turn Cairns into another "Sin City", following Vegas, Sydney and Melbourne to a certain extent...making residents the sacrificial lambs of the nation's gambling problems.

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Northern Queensland

Aus Vegas

Aussie Casino Shares...

Crown $7.730

Tabcorp $6.38

Centrbet $1.130

Tatts $2.230

Reef Casino Trust $1.900

Aristocrat Leisure Limited $3.610

Lasseters Corporation $0.010

SkyCity $2.88

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a bakers dozen of sectors they cover

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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