Mindil Beach Casino: What’s in a Name?

In its 40 years of existence, one casino in Darwin, Northern Territory, has been through many changes, including many names. When it was opened as the first casino in Darwin in 1979 – and the second in all of Australia at the time – it was the Don Casino.

It then became the Mindil Beach Casino in 1983 when the government acquired it by force. Greate Bay Casino and Aspinall holdings were to operate the venue. Two years later, Aspinall bought out Greate Bay Casino’s interest in the property for $1 million and the government’s interest for $5 million. The property then became the Diamond Beach Hotel and Casino

That didn’t last long. In 1995, MGM Grand bought it for $75 million and renamed it the MGM Grand Darwin. The name then stood in place for the next nine years.

In 2004, the Skycity Entertainment Group bought it for $195 million and, obviously, renamed it Skycity Darwin. It remained under this ownership for the longest period since its launch as a casino. But in an era of gambling business sales and mergers, it was only a matter of time before that changed.

In November 2018, Delaware North bought the property for $188 million. And in April 2019, it officially became Mindil Beach Casino & Resort.

A Long Sale Process

New Zealand’s Skycity Entertainment Group first made public that it was considering selling Skycity Darwin in 2017. The gaming floor had been underperforming due to the prevalence of video gaming terminals increasing as much as 75% in the Northern Territory. Their proliferation also included pubs and facilities close to the casino property.

When Chief Executive Graeme Stephens took over as the Skycity CEO in May 2017, he examined the status of the Darwin property. It was in good shape. Nevertheless, it had such a tough previous financial year that he planned to find a business partner or sell it.

The process was long and arduous. The next financial year, though, exceeded expectations, making it somewhat more amenable to a sale. And an early 2018 Australian Financial Review revelation estimated the property to be worth $200 million to $250 million.

In November 2018, a deal was then announced. An American company called Delaware North would be the new owner.

From Darwin to Delaware

Delaware may be a state in America, but the Delaware North company is actually based in New York. Delaware North mainly owns gambling and racing properties in the United States, but has been expanding in recent years. Skycity’s Stephens called the company the “ideal buyer.” He also added, “I’m very comfortable handing over the business we have built up over the past 14 years to an operator of this caliber.”

All the establishment’s 650 staff members stayed on as part of the deal. However, Skycity will have access to the casino’s VIP facilities for up to two years after the completed deal. And should the option to operate an online casino with government approval open in the future, Skycity reserves the right to operate it alongside Delaware North.

The deal did not include selling Little Mindil, the beachfront site and home of the Darwin Turf Club Cup Ball. At the beginning of April, the sale was complete with the approval of Northern Territory Attorney General Natasha Fyles. And the confirmed price of the now-unconditional sale was A$188 million for 100% of the shares in Skycity Darwin Pty Ltd.

The casino boasts 600 electronic gaming machines, more than 30 table games, a number of restaurants and bars, and a spa. And the hotel consists of 152 rooms and maintains a five-star rating.

– Australia A Second Home For Delaware North

Delaware North Co-CEO Lou Jacobs said the company has called Australia a second home for 30 years. Furthermore, it employs over 10,000 people across the country.

When the sale was finalized, the renaming took place, and the property once again became Mindil Beach Casino & Resort. New logos and uniforms were in progress.

Managing Director Gary Brown said, “Our team is exploring steps we can take to enhance what is already a terrific operation, such as infusing the international experience of Delaware North’s culinary team to enhance dining experiences throughout the resort, along with property-wide improvements to broaden appeal to new local, interstate, and international guests.”