Alice Springs Casino to be Sold for $105m to Sydney Investors

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An Alice Springs casino has been eyed off by a Sydney entrepreneur with a $105 million purchase.

The Weekly Times reports that pub and development entrepreneur Sam Arnaout’s private Iris Capital picked up the Alice Springs casino from Singapore-based Lasseters International, which has been seeking to offload the property for some years, with its final move spurred by the prospect of tougher regulation drying up finance.

Lasseters said it was selling the casino to unlock the value of the asset, but it also cited the regulatory clampdown on James Packer’s Crown Resorts as partly motivating its exit.

“The gaming sector in Australia is highly regulated.

“Recent events in this sector and the issues with the other casino operator in Melbourne in relation to regulatory inquiry on alleged money laundering and possible links to organised crime may have an impact on financial institutions’ risk appetite in financing this sector,” the Singaporean company said.

It also cited the need for it to come up with additional funding for capital expenditure requirements to further lift the property’s value “in the event financial institutions are not supportive in additional financing”.

Lasseters noted that under the casino operator’s agreement with the Northern Territory government, its new tax review date was in July next year and it could be subject to increases.

“This is an inherent risk and there is uncertainty around the possibility of an increase in gaming tax on the tax review date which may affect the long-term viability of the business,” the company said.

The high-profile purchase of the property that featured in the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a departure by self-made pub and hotel owner Mr Arnaout and expands the reach of his gambling empire beyond his expanding network of Sydney pubs.

Iris bolsters its diverse and expanding portfolio

Iris owns a swag of Sydney gaming pubs and is also undertaking major developers in Newcastle, with the company sporting an apartment pipeline of more than 1000 units.

Lasseters is the centre of entertainment in Alice Springs with the international standard casino featuring the latest tables and electronic games, with four restaurants, four bars, a sports theatre, pool-side cafe, nightclub, health club, day spa and TAB.

There is also a 4-and-a-half star hotel and resort-style pool and spa, as well as room service and concierge services.

Two Iris companies, Alice Springs Property and Alice Springs Operations, will take control of the property.

Iris Capital was set up in 1995 and has luxury apartment projects, three operational vineyards and 25 hotels.

Iris Capital’s presence covers locations across New South Wales including high-profile pubs such as Manly’s Hotel Steyne.

Its hospitality portfolio also includes the recent purchases of 17 Ibis hotels across Australia for $180 million, in the largest hotel transaction in Australia last year, which made Iris Capital into one of the largest hotel owners in the country.

Iris has been one of the big winners of the coronavirus crisis with its gaming focused pubs performing well and much of its property exposures in regional areas that are performing well.

The company initially focused on Sydney’s fast growing southwest corridor, but has taken its skills to larger and more prestigious locations.

It has undertaken integrated residential and mixed-use developments in Kings Cross and Clovelly, and right across the Sydney region.

Lasseters has sold off all its loss making assets in Australia and was left only with the casino and said there was little economies of scale in operating a single asset in a remote location.

“Our hotel and convention centre is still recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic and the sustainability of the record performance of the gaming sector remains uncertain,” Lasseters said.

William Brown

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