Hong Kong billionaire Fung's Australian gaming push clears regulatory hurdle




Aug 21 (Reuters) - Australian regulators said on Thursday they won't block the purchase of a casino in Cairns by Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung, boosting his ambitious push into agaming market that could become a haven for big-spending Chinese gamblers.

In a statement, the Australian Competition and Consumer  Commission (ACCC) said it wouldn't oppose plans by Fung's Aquis Reef Holdings Ltd to acquire Reef Casino Trust's Reef Hotel Casino.

While the deal would give Aquis two casinos in the northern Australian city if Fung wins agaming licence from the state government for his $8 billion Aquis Resort development , the ACCC said it was satisfied that would not amount to a monopoly of the market.

Shares in Reef Casino Trust rose 9 percent to A$4.14 after the ACCC announcement, the highest in more than a month.

The regulator said it was satisfied the two Aquis casinos would be in limited competition with each other. The existing Reef Hotel caters to local or domestic non-VIP gamblers, while the Aquis Resort under development would attract international high-rollers.

"The ACCC's investigations suggested that there was likely to be limited competition between the Reef Casino and the Aquis Resort in the absence of the proposed acquisition," ACCC Commissioner Jill Walker said in a statement.

The Aquis Resort, which will include eight hotels, high-end retail shopping, an aquarium, two theatres and convention and exhibition facilities, is one of two proposals shortlisted by the Queensland government for a casino licence. If its bid is successful, Aquis plans to include a casino with 750 gaming tables and 1,500 gaming machines.

The Queensland government plans to make a final decision on the licenses next year as it seeks to attract wealthy Chinese gamblers to the popular tourist destination. (Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)