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Queensland Eyes $14 Billion China-Backed Casinos to Rival Echo

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- The government of Australia’s Queensland state will study proposals for two new casinos backed by Chinese and Hong Kong investors, challenging Echo Entertainment Group Ltd.’s hold on the local gambling market.

Aquis at the Great Barrier Reef Pty and ASF Consortium Pty will be allowed to submit detailed plans for new resorts in Cairns and the Gold Coast, the state’s Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said in an e-mailed statement today. Echo has the only casino in the Gold Coast and would have to reduce investment in the site if a second project was allowed in the city, former Chief Executive Officer John Redmond said in an April 2013 interview.

Hit by falling prices for its largest export, coal, Queensland state is considering a bet on the A$15.65 billion ($14 billion) casinos to lure Asian gamblers who’ve fueled investment in new resorts in Macau and Singapore. The state’s royalties from resource extraction will fall by A$324 million over the four years to June 2017, the government said last December.

“These projects have the potential to create thousands of new jobs in these two key tourism centers,” Seeney said in a statement. “We promised to grow the construction and tourism sectors of the Queensland economy and today’s announcement paves the way for this to happen.”

The Aquis proposal, backed by Hong Kong investor Tony Fung, is valued at A$8.15 billion and could create more than 3,700 construction jobs as well as 10,000 jobs, according to the statement.

The Broadwater Marine project, which includes ASF Group Ltd., China State Construction Engineering Corp., and CCCC Guangzhou Dredging Co., is worth A$7.5 billion and could create 1,300 construction jobs and more than 10,000 operational jobs, Seeney said.

The government has yet to decide on a site in the center of Brisbane, where Echo already has a casino and investors including Crown Resorts Ltd. have submitted bids.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Fickling in Sydney at dfickling@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net Terje Langeland, Dave McCombs

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