Chinese billionaires throw the dice on north Queensland casino resorts

If ticked off by government the group is also keen to upgrade Proserpine Airport — the gateway to the Whitsundays — to take international flights and fly Chinese tourists direct to the tropical north in just over seven hours.

It wasn’t their first visit. The group from the China Australia Entrepreneurs Association Incorporated (CAEAI) have regularly visited north Queensland over the past year, trying to seek out opportunities for investment.

They have powerful partners with deep pockets, notably Zelong Group — which holds six casino licences in the gaming mecca of Macau — and the Hong Kong based Esteem Capital Success.

It’s the latest push in what has become a rush of proposed Chinese investment into North Queensland.

In a move similar to the great wave of Japanese investment into Queensland property in the 1980s the Chinese view Queensland as a tourism bonanza with huge potential.

Most of the Japanese investors returned to their home country suffering large loses due to the property bubble bursting, but it’s unlikely the Chinese will suffer a similar fate.

Mr Wang summed up their motivation when he said the Chinese wanted a unique experience when they go abroad.

“They need not go to Sydney or Melbourne because it is pretty similar to where they now live — another big city. But the natural beauty of the Whitsundays is unique and definitely something that would appeal to Chinese tourists,’’ he said.

The latest proposal follows the Chinese group Aquis moving a step closer to its proposal to build a $4.2 billion integrated resort and casino facility at Yorkey’s Knob, north of Cairns.

It comes after the Hong Kong-based Fullshare group recently bought Sheraton Mirage and Laguna Quays from David Mariner, and Melbourne investor and Computershare founder Chris Morris outlaid $70 million to buy Echo Entertainment’s Jupiters Townsville casino.

Mr Morris’s Colonial Leisure Group, which bought the casino, already has significant North Queensland assets including two luxury resorts, Orpheus Island and Daintree Eco Lodge, in the Daintree Rainforest, as well as the Daintree General Store and Hotel and the Nautilus Aviation helicopter business it operates in Townsville and Cairns.

“We are after all tourists, including the Chinese,’’ Mr Morris said yesterday.

“Our helicopter business does very well from Chinese tourists but we really invested in the state because of the proactive nature of the Newman Government.’’

CLG has spent more than $40 million in northern Queensland over the past three years and the company said the investment was influenced by the Newman Government’s focus on supporting tourism in Queensland and the potential for Chinese tourists.

Sources say Chinese investors are also circling Clive Palmer’s China First project in north west Queensland and there is an anticipated push of Chinese investment into north Queensland’s agriculture and seafood businesses expected in the next few weeks.

Mr Wang said he viewed the Aquis proposal and other Chinese investment in the state as complimenting the CAEAI plan and not competition.

“If you look at Las Vegas or Macau there are numerous casinos and hotels,’’ he said.

The CAEAI represents more than 500 entrepreneurs and professionals from China and Australia operating in a range of industries, including private and public infrastructure, residential and commercial construction, tourism developments, agricultural trade and marine biotechnology.

The group acts as an investment platform and to date has invested more than $A500 billion in various industries in China and Australia, including a number of Australian theme parks in cities across China.

The group officially lodged an Expression of Interest proposal with the Newman Government this week and is proposing also to build a China Town style precinct at Airlie Beach along with a retail and commercial complex and an international standard gaming hotel.

The group wants to build Queensland’s largest Buddhist temple with an associated hotel at Shute Harbour, Mr Wang arguing that when the Chinese travel they are also keen to visit their temple.

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