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Sunshine Coast Opens its Arms to Casino Developments

‘If a casino facility were to be developed sensitively...and in the right location...then I think it could provide a terrific boost for tourism in the Sunshine Coast region.’

So says Steve Cooper, CEO of Sunshine Coast Destination Limited, one of the area’s leading tourism bodies. He was keen to stress last week, though, that any development would have to fit the area’s positive reputation for ‘clean and green’, family-oriented holidays. One of the sites that has been coming up again and again in the rumour-mill is the Coolum resort, which was managed by Hyatt up until last year, when Clive Palmer took the reins.

Palmer’s name alone has set the whispers going, but last month he fanned the flames by trademarking the name ‘Coolum Casino’ and a domain name to go with it. Palmer explained in an interview last week that the move was intended to prevent ‘other tourism operators from doing so in the future’, and that there were no firm plans in place even for a casino proposal.

That has done little to quiet the rumours, though, and what is clear is that the idea of a casino on the Sunshine Coast is one that very much divides opinion. The area has become synonymous with natural beauty and a lack over-development, and there is real concern that a casino would be a first step in losing that character.

But there are benefits to a casino in Queensland, too. In fact, most of the positives and negatives are opposite sides of the same coin. A Queensland casino development would appeal to Chinese gambling tourists, and they come with a stimulus to local businesses attached, with hotels leading the way for bars, clubs and other services.

Not to mention the boost to the Queensland construction industry and its small-business dependents that a major development would provide. But you can’t have all the benefits of a major development without the obvious increase in the area’s perceived level of development.

It’s a puzzle that the Queensland Government will want to solve, because there are real benefits to Palmer’s ambitions of Queensland being the first ‘China-ready’ state in Australia. Currently, New Zealanders make up the bulk of overseas visitors to the Sunshine Coast, but if Palmer is to commit himself to a casino development, he will hope to pull in the Chinese ‘whales’ in serious numbers before too long.

According to Palmer, speaking to Brisbane Radio, ‘we are working on a whole range of things on the Sunshine Coast and once all those things come together, we’ll make an announcement, we’ll seek to see what the government’s position will be on all of that.’ We’ll be keeping an eye on the situation, as we’re sure Crown Casino and Echo Entertainment will...

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