Casino Canberra Loses Discrimination Case

Casino Canberra loses a long-running discrimination case with an employee that it threatened after he gave an interview in 2018.

A four-year feud between a Casino Canberra employee and the casino is over. An appeals court in the Australian Capital Territory ruled in favour of the long-time employee, much to the casino’s annoyance.

Bryan Bradford Kidman participated in an interview with The Canberra Times in 2018. This was during a time Blue Whale Entertainment was in talks to purchase Aquis Entertainment, the owners of Casino Canberra. Kidman, an employee since 2003, voiced his concerns over the potential impact on employment from the sale.

Casino Canberra officials did not take kindly to Kidman’s comments. Indeed, the company’s directors sent threatening letters warning Kidman of severe consequences. Kidman complained to the ACT Human Rights Commission who forwarded the complaint to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Blue Whale failed to secure regulatory permissions and the sale did not happen. However, the legal case rambled on for four years until this week.

Court Rules Casino Canberra Discriminated Against Kidman

Casino Canberra claimed Kidman broke protocol when he participated in the interview. Kidman retaliated, claiming the casino discriminated against him. Kidman’s union representative argued casino executives should have never threatened retribution. In addition, the union stated Kidman was only looking out for the best interests of his fellow employees.

The court in 2020 determined the casino violated the ACT Discrimination Act. Casino Canberra, unhappy at the decision, took their case to the appeals court but that court ruled in Kidman’s favour too.

The court ordered the casino to pay Kidman $4,000 in damages. However, it also incurred $4,620 in legal fees. This is a relatively tiny sum compared to what the casino earns, but it is a victory for the little man and more symbolic than the monetary value.

Casino’s Owner Again Turns a Profit

Aquis Entertainment owns Casino Canberra along with several other establishments. It floated on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in 2011 but lost almost 80% of its value. Heavy, consecutive losses between 2014 and 2019 caused the plummeting share price.

Year Loss
2014 $392,004
2015 $616,310
2016 $7,680,683
2017 $13,811,804
2018 $3,396,832
2019 $3,956,569

Aquis turned a $798,201 profit in the 2020 financial year despite COVID-19-related closures. The government’s JobKeeper scheme helped considerably with staffing costs. It received $4,793,250 from the scheme.

The company made a $470,628 operating loss in 2021. However, income tax benefit of $701,424 meant the company enjoyed a $231,456 profit. Operating costs soared by $7,520,115 compared to last year. Staffing costs made up the bulk of that increase.

Aquis has almost $9.38 million in cash but owes former chairman Tony Fung $35.6 million. Fung loaned the company these funds to make up the shortfalls from the losses.

A Mainstay in ACT Since 1994

The Federal Government gave the green light for a casino licence in ACT in January 1992. It began operating on a temporary licence after paying $19 million up front for the lase in addition to $500,000 annual licencing fees. The permanent casino opened on July 29, 1994.

Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung acquired the casino in 2014. However, he stepped down from his active role in August 2021. The casino owns Fung more than $35 million in loans.

Casino Canberra holds the only licence in the Australian Capital Territory. The popular venue does not have any pokies, unlike other casinos such as Crown Melbourne or The Star Sydney. This is because Canberra’s clubs feared losses from the casino installing poker machines.

Casino officials know pokies are highly profitable and continually lobby for their installation. They offered to hand land back to the government and pay upfront fees for 200 pokies in March 2003. Pleas fell on deaf ears.

May 2016 saw a proposal to redevelop the casino in exchange for the right to house 500 pokies. A deal was struck in principle for 200 machines but with caveats. Any machines must come from the existing pool of machines under the pokies cap.