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Force of Nature

Tony Fung, Chairman, Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort

Force of Nature

Tony Fung has a plan. The Hong Kong-based private investor wants to bring Chinese tourists to Australia in great numbers to see a once-in-a-lifetime development.

Recently venturing into the gaming industry, Fung is taking the industry by storm with his impressive project in Australia: the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort. This A$8 billion resort is proposed to have two casinos, eight hotels with 7,500 rooms, along with luxury residences, an 18-hole golf course, a water park with a man-made lake and lagoon, shopping, dining and entertainment, convention facilities and a sports stadium. The development is incorporated with the natural surroundings of the Queensland region, with spectacular architecture and design that make the resort as much a destination as the reef itself.

Born to Chinese investment billionaire Fung King Hey, Tony Fung has quite a bit of experience with investments. He took over his late father’s Sun Hung Kai Securities in 1985, where he served as chairman until 1996, when he founded an investment banking firm called Yu Ming Investment Management. Fung gained more and more experience by redeveloping retail outlets, shopping centers and other businesses under Yu Ming. After years of building a foundation of experience, it was time for him to take on new territory in Australia.

In addition to owning personal property in Australia, Fung has invested in a cattle farm, a wagyu beef-breeding business and a sugar cane plantation. Recently, he announced plans to acquire Casino Canberra, a facility in Australia’s capital region, so that it and Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort can be put on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to raise capital.

Fung takes pride in his family-friendly concept for Aquis, which is not a common approach within the gaming industry. He wants the casino resort to be enjoyed by all family members, which is why he has decided to include many non-gaming amenities in this development.

Fung also hopes the development will appeal to a market that is building popularity. “The large-scale integrated resort concept is relatively new for Australia,” he says, “and there is a real opportunity for Queensland and Cairns to participate in the emerging Asian integrated resort market.”

Fung believes the Aquis development will appeal to families and international tourists alike by being in close proximity to Australia’s two World Heritage-listed locations, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics.

Although Fung’s project has been given the initial approvals, he ran into a few hurdles in late 2014. His attempt to buy the Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns was put on hold as Queensland’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation failed to complete all the necessary investigations to grant approval. The delay also threatens the Casino Canberra purchase, which was expected to take place before the end of 2014 at a discount of $3 million to the original $9 million price. Fung has threatened to drop his development plans, but Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is holding tough on his demands for licensing.

Between the family-friendly concept and the overall grandeur of the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort, Fung could change the gaming industry in Australia. Projected to open in 2019, this game-changing development will not only expand the international gaming market of Australia, but will also cement Tony Fung’s place in the gaming industry.

David Rittvo is the director of business development and leads the Innovation Group’s food and beverage division, Innovation Food and Beverage. Rittvo has 15 years of experience with food and beverage operations across the globe. He can be reached at 504-352-6856 or [email protected]

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