Cairns gambles on casino tourism

A $4.2billion mega resort and casino – with about 4000 rooms, a 25,000-seat stadium and a 20ha reef lagoon – is earmarked for the Cairns suburb of Yorkeys Knob.

The Queensland Government has approved the first stage of plans for the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort project, which will sit on about 300ha and is based on the “mega resorts” found in Macau.

Yorkeys Knob Casino, Cairns

Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung is leading the project and believes it will ensure Queensland gets “more than its fair share of inbound tourism from China”.

Mr Fung said Aquis would create 16,600 direct and indirect jobs at peak construction and more than 26,000 when operational, with the project scheduled for completion in 2018.

“Based upon my business exposure to Asian markets via my family’s involvement in the Hong Kong/China finance and property markets I have seen and observed, with great interest, the rapid and exponential growth of Macau,” Mr Fung said, in an open letter to the people of Queensland.

“Queensland has an opportunity with this proposal to join other countries in our region that are developing large-scale integrated resorts which drive local tourism, employment and associated economic growth.”

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman this month revealed plans to offer up to three new casino licenses across the state, saying mega-resorts are the best way for the state to compete with tourist destinations in Asia.

Opponents have raised concerns about the impact on local business as well as the environment, saying the Aquis project could damage the Great Barrier Reef.

The project is going through the approvals process and Cairns Regional Council will have the final say on whether it goes ahead.

Nicola Webber is the editor of She has worked in journalism for more than two decades, covering everything from politics, education and health to – most recently – the Victorian property market.