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Australia’s first casino in Hobart has been heritage listed, in a move that has angered local residents and puzzled some experts.
The Tasmanian Heritage Council officially added the Wrest Point Hotel Casino, the state’s “most recognisable tourism symbol”, to the Tasmanian Heritage Register last week.
The casino officially opened in 1973 after a 1968 referendum to introduce Australia’s first casino license. At 73 metres, it is the tallest building in Hobart.
Tasmanian urban planner and heritage architect Robert Vincent said while the building certainly marked an important milestone for Hobart, it was also a sign of what not to do in the future.
“The casino is a product of its time – it was a point which changed Hobart. Hobart was not on the horizon at all and was slipping backwards when the casino was dreamed up, and it did dramatically change the whole of Hobart’s status and existence,” Mr Vincent said.
“But the things that have been added on it are abominable to say the least, and nothing like the standard of the original tower or building. I don’t necessarily think it’s a model for the way Hobart should go, it’s exactly the opposite. It demonstrates what not to do.”
The casino was added to the heritage list due to its role in local tourism and it being the “only example of a late 20th century circular high-rise tower” in the state, Tasmanian Heritage Council chair Brett Torossi said.
“The inclusion of Wrest Point Hotel Casino on the Heritage Register gives important recognition to the significant role this place has played in the development of Tasmania’s tourism and hospitality industry,” he said.
The building’s owners, the Federal Group, recently announced a $70 million plan to refurbish the casino, bringing its three separate gaming areas into a single space.
The Federal Group general manager Dominic Baker said the building was “iconic” to Tasmanian tourism.
“From a Tasmanian tourism perspective, it shows the longevity that this operation has had over many years,” Mr Baker said.
“It’s something that we can actually tell prospective visitors to Tasmania and to this site that underpins the importance that it plays and has played over many years to the Tasmanian economy.”
The listing has also raised the ire of some Hobart residents.
“I guess that means that we need to redefine the meaning of ‘heritage’ because I certainly don’t see it as a heritage building, let alone anything to be proud of,” Jolanda Naarding told ABC News.
Another a local took a different perspective, saying that the listing would at least encourage “other high-rise hotels to congregate in that area” rather than the city’s more historic precincts.
“It’s like the building architecture forgot,” another said.