Sam Arnaout’s Iris Capital has announced plans for a massive $100 million redevelopment of its newly-secured Lasseters Hotel Casino.

Iris settled last week on the $105 million April acquisition, formerly known as the Diamond Springs Casino, which opened in 1981, and wasted no time looking to upgrade on its opportunity.

“We are well advanced in discussions with the Northern Territory government in relation to recapitalising the asset,” says Arnaout.

“Our master plan for Lasseters incorporates a new hotel offering within a fully integrated resort, and includes a repositioned casino floor with significantly expanded food and beverage offerings.”

Arnaout sees a lot of potential in catering to displaced and COVID-disrupted travellers, and FIFO workers.

“The investment is aimed at capturing pent-up demand for new domestic tourism destinations, as well as the international travel market, while also capitalising on the mining industry’s connection to the region.”

Lasseters is currently a 4.5-star hotel resort with 205 rooms, operated by InterContinental Hotel Group. The acquisition included the Alice Springs Convention Centre.

Lasseters staff celebrating their Award for Best Deluxe Accommodation in the NT

Iris is planning a major expansion of the property, with construction of more hotel rooms and upgrades to the Convention Centre, and also more residential facilities, on the basis that residential accommodation is lacking in Alice Springs, for locals and the mining community.

Lasseters found fame in the 1994 Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It is the second casino in the Northern Territory, alongside Darwin’s Mindil Beach Casino Resort, which was bought in 2019 by US hospitality giant Delaware North.

Iris has been in the hospitality game for 25 years, boasting $500m annual revenue and enterprise value of $3bn, and Arnaout is not perturbed about taking on a casino, suggesting it is like a pub, only “larger format”.

The company has moved with determination throughout the pandemic, not limited to purchasing 17 Ibis hotels from AccorInvest for $178m, and locking in the $65m redevelopment of The Bourbon and Empire Hotel site at Kings Cross.

Its property credentials led to selection in 2016 via government tender for the $1bn East End development and urban renewal project, in Newcastle.

Acquisition of Lasseters Hotel Casino from Singapore-listed Lasseters International Holdings followed a seven-month process to gain regulatory approval from the Northern Territory government to operate the casino. This was granted on 8 October.

Alice Springs airport already accommodates international flights, and Iris intends to align with the government’s vision for the city to be Australia’s “inland capital”.

“We’re putting the pedal to the metal to make sure the hotel and casino are ready to go in line with the government’s tourism vision for the region.

“We believe our plans will be a major shot in the arm for local stakeholders and other investors.”

Lasseters Hotel Casino
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