New Lasseters Hotel And Casino Owners Prepare For $100M Refurbishment

Lasseters Hotel and Casino owners are preparing to spend more than $100 million refurbishing the iconic venue in Alice Springs.

The new owners of Lasseters Hotel and Casino are splurging at least $100 million on refurbishments. Iris Capital, Australia’s largest privately-owned property and hospitality group, has grand plans for the iconic venue.

The 1994 film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert made Lasseters world famous. Iris Capital spent $105 million acquiring the hotel and casino in April 2021. Previous owners wanted to sell the iconic casino for some time, but a perfect storm of taxation uncertainty and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced their hands.

“The gaming sector in Australia is highly regulated,” Lasseters’ former owner said at the time of the sale. “Recent events in the 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.”

Lasseters features a casino, in addition to the Alice Springs Convention Centre, and a 205-room 4.5-star hotel. These key areas will receive the bulk of the $100 million investment.

Iris Splashes The Cash To Revamp Lasseters

Craig Jervis is the Lasseters Chief Executive. Boosting the number of rooms to 405 is part of the grand plans for the $100 million investment. Furthermore, modernising the gaming room is a priority, Jervis explained.

“It’s a phenomenal amount of money and fantastic for Central Australia and the tourism that we will have in 24 months time. A lot more gaming offerings have arrived on day one, and it’s all newer technology. Everything will be enhanced from seating settings to lighting, to music, everything will change in the coming months.”

“We have our own compliance managers on-site, looking at any of the problem gambling stuff and meet all the requirements in that space.”

Boosting Lasseters hotel capacity is not only for the benefit of casino patrons. Two nearby mining projects are nearing the final stages of the application process. Those mining operations need beds for their staff, something Lasseters will offer as a result of its increased capacity.

Daniel Rochford is the Chief Executive of Tourism Central Australia. The upcoming Lasseters refurbishment pleases him.

“It’s certainly a great shot in the arm for the sector that’s been struggling as a result of the pandemic. What it does show is great confidence in the future for tourism. Both those [mining] projects are going through the final stages of their major projects applications. What it does say is that the new owners have done their homework and they understand the future. It’s looking very bright for us.”

Northern Territory Travel Restrictions Hinder Progress

Iris is committed to spending more than $100 million on refurbishing Lasseters despite current, ongoing travel restrictions in the Northern Territory. Mr Rochford says the Northern Territory COVID travel restrictions are a major hurdle for tourism in the area, in spite of national and international borders reopening.

“What we’re going to see is visitors, if they wish to come to the Northern Territory, from a red zone, they will have to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel. The simple reality if no one’s going to make that decision. That will mean that no one will come to the Northern Territory. We are expecting visitation will significantly decline over the coming few weeks and months as a result of that. At the end of the day, there’s the collateral damage and that collateral damage is the tourism, hospitality, and event sectors.”

About Iris Capital

Sam Arnaout launched Iris Capital in 1995 and has overseen meteoric growth. Arnaout initially focussed on Sydney;’s fast-growing southwest corridor, but now invests farther afield. Irish acquired 13 hotels by 2006 and continues expanding its portfolio. That portfolio has 25 thriving hotels. three vineyards, and more than 2,000 luxury apartments. Irish boosted its portfolio after spending $180 million on 17 Ibis hotels in 2020 and $105 million on Lasseters.