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Owner of Tasmanian Art Museum Plans to Open a Casino

Sep 29, 2014 - by Monica Erdei
David Walsh, the owner of the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania

David Walsh, the owner of the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania

David Walsh, who owns the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, has asked for permission to open a casino.

The Tasmanian Government it now seeking advice on whether to allow the millionaire to open a gambling venue targeted at high-roller tourists. The founder of the museum is planning to build a hotel in northern Hobart, at the Berriedale site, and has recently proposed to add a small casino to the hotel.

At present, the Federal Group has monopoly on operating gambling venues in Tasmania. The company has an arrangement with the local government, giving it exclusive rights to operate casinos here for a period of 20 years. The contract is due to expire in 2018.

According to local gambling news, Walsh’s proposal is for a pokie-free gambling venue for high-rollers, with a maximum of 12 gaming tables.

The Guardian: David Walsh plans mini casino for Tasmania’s Mona

Walsh made a fortune playing card games and now he hopes to offer tourists a small gambling facility that offers his type of entertainment: high-stakes casino games. The millionaire has begun to discuss his project with stakeholders.

“I would be very happy indeed to have a little high-roller, tourist-only, no-pokie casino to be part of the Mona package,” Walsh told reporters at the Mercury newspaper.

The casino would be called Monaco and it would have no more than 12 gambling tables for wealthy international art lovers to enjoy. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) opened in 2011 and has built a global reputation since, helping the Tasmanian tourism sector grow. Walsh thinks visitors would get a kick out of playing blackjack in highbrow surroundings.

A casino would certainly boost the museum’s profits, but for now the Federal Group has an exclusive license to operate the state’s two gambling venues. While Walsh does not believe his business would have a negative impact on the current casino operations, he still needs government approval to implement his project.

ABC News: MONA casino plan: Tasmanian Government seeks advice on proposal for high-roller tourists

The State Government received a proposal for a high-roller, no-pokie gambling venue and is now seeking advice on whether to allow it or not. Giving Walsh the green light would break the Federal Group’s 20-year monopoly on operating casinos in Tasmania, so it’s not an easy decision. On the other hand, the company’s exclusive arrangement expires in 2018.

Mayor Stuart Slade said he was surprised by the idea, but welcomed the absence of poker machines.Federal authorities have refused to comment on the casino issue, for now.

“We do have a number of poker machines in the City of Glenorchy, and of course that would just add further to that,” Slade said. “It’s my understanding… this is for a select group of people who wish to participate in a form of gambling and pokies wouldn’t be a part of that,” he explained.

David Walsh’s museum has brought thousands of tourists to Tasmania and has helped boost the local economy. The owner of the venue has been planning to expand accommodation for a while now, but recently added a small casino to the proposal.

With or without a casino, the hotel will be a huge success, says the Tourism Industry Council’s Luke Martin.

“I think everything MONA does is absolutely cutting edge, it’s innovative, it captures attention. Ultimately what that incorporates, whether that’s a casino or business events space, MONA is within its rights to look at the options and investment,” he said.

“Whether it does incorporate something like a casino, that’s obviously got a regulatory issue and they’re going to have to pursue that with the State Government.”

The Monthly: At Home With David Walsh, The Gambler

Most people didn’t hear the name David Walsh before 2009, when the man made global headlines thanks to a strange and somewhat macabre bet he placed. It was not your usual wager, where players try to guess football sports scores or place their money on a horse; Walsh had instead put money on the life of French artist Christian Boltanski.

The Monthly describes the details of the unusual wager placed by Walsh, this mysterious figure from Tasmania. Even in his home country, people know little about him apart from the rumor that he made his fortune by gambling.

Walsh built the highly successful Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, a private art museum dedicated to sex and death. The building resembles a post-apocalyptic fortress and it opened in January 2011, becoming a major attraction for art lovers.

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