When the Sands resorts in Wisp, Queensland, close its doors, a large swath of the community will be left behind, a devastating blow for locals who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the resort, and a loss for the local economy.
A number of local businesses and businesses that cater to tourists will also close their doors, leaving locals to fend for themselves, and it will also be a devastating loss for locals living in nearby towns.
“It is the worst-case scenario,” said resident Mike McKeown.
“There is not going to be anything for us, the community is gone.”
“We’re looking at losing a significant portion of our community, and we’re also going to lose some of the tourism revenue that we’ve brought into the community.”
Local businessman Peter Johnson said he was “heartbroken” by the closure of the Sands.
“We’ve been in business for 30 years, and now we’re going to have to close our doors,” he said.
“The community has been the heartbeat of this community for 30-odd years, it’s our lifeblood, it sustains us, it feeds us, and so we’re just very disappointed.”
He said it was important to remember that the resort was in its “golden age”, and he was pleased that its management team had been able to keep it going for so long.
“I think the management team have been very good stewards of the estate, they have made a lot of sacrifices, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens,” he told Al Jazeera.
“What is going to happen with the businesses that are going to close down, we’ve got some businesses that have opened up over the years that are probably going to go out of business, so we’ve just got to see what happens.”
The owners of the casinos are seeking legal advice on how to proceed, with the casino company unable to confirm the fate of the business in question.
“As this has unfolded, we are currently in the process of assessing our options, and there will be no further comment at this time,” the casino’s spokesman, Chris McKeon, said in a statement.
“We are working with the relevant authorities in relation to this matter and are currently considering all options,” he added.
“Our customers are of paramount importance to us, they are the lifeblood of our business and the future of this business depends on them.”
McKeon said the casino had been in negotiations with the Sands since at least August, but the “ongoing dispute” with the resort had made it impossible for the two parties to come to an agreement.
“This dispute has been a long time coming, it was very difficult to get an agreement in place and a deal was not reached,” he explained.
“However, we have now reached a point where we feel that we can no longer continue to operate our business under our current conditions.”
The closure of all Sands resorts, including Wisp in Queensland, will affect a number of businesses in the area, including a hotel and restaurant chain called The Great Escape.
The restaurant and hotel chain operates on the same casino site as The Sands, and has opened two restaurants and three restaurants catering to the hotel industry.
The casino’s business manager, Paul Jones, told AlJazeera that the hotel business had been “in the process” of closing, but he had no further information to share on the status of that business.
Jones said that the closure would be a “huge loss” to the business, with employees who were based at the casino in Wiscasp and at The Sands and those who were part of the restaurant and hospitality industry in Wisps town centre.
“They are the people who have come in and been part of this, they’ve brought a lot to this community, they’re a really important part of our local community,” he noted.
“The hotel and the restaurant chain has been part and parcel of this area for quite some time, so to see that it will be lost for good is a massive blow.”
Jones said he hoped the closure could be “implemented in a phased manner, as we do have other resorts in the region, but in the meantime it is very sad to see the end of an era.”
He also said that “all of our employees are devastated”.
“We do have a small number of employees who are employed at The Great Escapes, we’re working with them, and they’re very supportive,” he acknowledged.
“There will be a number who will not be working at The Escapes at all.”
But I do think it’s a devastating, terrible blow for the community, for the resort and for the industry as a whole.
“Jones, who also owns the Great Escape restaurant and casino in Queensland’s Gold Coast region, said that while there was a lot going on at The Sands, “there’s still a lot we can do to help the community”.”
It’s sad for us that it’s going