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ClubsNSW reject Centrebet PC plan - The Australian - 29th September 2008

The NSW clubs industry has rejected an offer from online gambling giant Centrebet to set up computer terminals in its venues, saying it is taking a stand against the internet gaming industry.

Centrebet approached the industry representative body ClubsNSW in April with an idea to set up an internet cafe-style system linking gamblers directly to the online company's website.

Clubs were offered a 50 per cent cut of all revenues generated on the computers, which would be paid for on gambler's credit cards.

A similar mobile phone system was also proposed by Centrebet, Australia's largest online bookmaker.

ClubsNSW represents almost 1400 registered clubs.

The ClubsNSW board today revealed it had rejected the offer in June, saying it was taking a stand against credit card and internet gambling.

It was the first of two approaches made by online betting agencies, with smaller player betezy.com.au making a similar offer last week.

ClubsNSW chairman Peter Newell said the federal government should step in and ban credit card betting.

"It's one thing to gamble with your own money, it's a completely different thing to gamble with money that is being provided on credit,'' he said in a statement today.

"ClubsNSW has taken a stand at a financial cost - one which we believe is the responsible action to take.

"Now it is up to government to address the issue."

Mr Newell said problem gambling affected less the one per cent of Australian adults, but recent research showed the number of internet problem gamblers was rising.

"Recent research shows that the number of internet problem gamblers is on the rise at well over 20 per cent,'' he said.

Greg Tingle comment

My interpretation of this is that Centrebet and ClubsNSW are doing their best to try to protect their business interests, play the right political cards and build a better mousetrap. I think they see that some of the mice are finding other mousetraps to play in. Regarding credit cards, are they going to try to stop people spending up on plastic for Christmas time also. Make no mistake, it's all about money and trying to protect turf. News Corp's own Rupert Murdoch said, "Big will not beat small anymore, it will be the fast beating the slow". Seems that Centrebet and ClubsNSW know what Murdoch was talking about. It will be interesting to see where this goes in the news media business. Online casinos continue to shake up the landscape.. just ask James Packer and Stanley Ho about it.

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Casino News Media received the following...

An expansive, above-the-fold A1 story in the NYT highlights John McCain's "many ties" to the gambling industry, illustrating with an accompanying graphic that contributions from gambling interests to McCain's campaign are double those made to Barack Obama. McCain is a "lifelong gambler" and "one of the founding fathers of Indian gaming," according to a professor and "leading Indian gambling expert." More than 40 of McCain's advisers and fundraisers have worked for "an array of gambling interests" ranging from Las Vegas casinos to online poker purveyors. The only comment the Times received from the McCain campaign was a hostile suggestion that the story would "insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists" and "gamble away" its remaining credibility.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

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Digital lessons from a Google exec, a casino mogul, Darwin and a tortoise - The Australian - 24th September 2008

Wires and Lights in a Box

Vickey Williams - Strange things happen in Vegas every day so it wasn’t weird at all to hear a casino mogul and a Google executive advise newspaper editors on the evolution of their industry.
...
Richard Gingras, a senior adviser at Google who has spent the last year studying the online giant’s relationship with and impact on the news industry, won over what could have been a prickly crowd by stating the obvious. “Google will impact the evolution of news whether it does anything or not,” he said. “Better to impact it in a positive way.”
...
“Lots of times the question is: What’s the standard for our website? Is it ‘Just put it online and it doesn’t matter’? Or is the expectation of the online delivery of our paper the same as print,” that is, providing a robust, quality experience for the consumer?

Will Sullivan, interactive director of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said the speed of the transition to a day where online staff are looked at as holding the keys to a newspaper’s future may have left other things unsaid. “At the start, they were made to feel like a production department. So change the expectations.”

Read ‘Digital lessons from a Google exec, a casino mogul, Darwin and a tortoise’ at Readership Institute.

Greg Tingle comment

We are all in the communications, people and advertising business, whether it’s officially Google, a casino, or another type of business. It was News Corp’s own Rupert Murdoch who went on record with, “Big will not beat slow anymore, it will be the fast beating the slow”. Google used to be a very small operation run by a couple of guys out of a garage. Via evolution, being quick to capitalize, positive word of mouth, online buzz and a solid advertising based business model, they became huge. Now they even have Google News, and they move at the speed of news most of the time. Switched on casinos are also moving into the online casino world and also providing online casino news media updates. It’s about content, relevance and engaging with the audience, online or not.

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Gaming websites take gamble on kids - News.com.au - 29th September 2008

Internet gaming sites are looking ahead to when kindergarten kids are old enough to place bets in a move that has outraged anti-gambling campaigners.

Tech-savvy kids are being seen as the next generation of gamblers by online gaming operators who say it is only a matter of time before they grow up and become a big revenue stream.

LBetezy managing director Vince McDonald, who has approached ClubsNSW to fund PC gambling terminals in the state's 1400 clubs, said: "As the younger generation is IT-minded, with even kindergarten children being taught keyboard skills, it's not a matter of if you go down this path to generate revenue from members, but when."

Greg Tingle comment

The internet gaming sites need to be closely monitored by both the Australian state and federal government in a collaborative approach. Many business sectors have the lucrative youth market well in mind, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the gaming and online casino sector is also looking to cater to their needs also. Many online gaming and casino websites already have a free and a play for money option, so it looks like the campaigning is already well on the way.

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Trio rolls dice on casino pic - Companies team on 'Fabulous' film, by Michael Fleming - Variety - 17th August 2008

A trio of production companies are teaming to tell the story of the Moulin Rouge, the first desegregated hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

Tyro scribe Milosz Feigin has completed penning "The Fabulous Moulin Rouge," and the producers are setting up the film to be shot in Dubai.

Pic is a co-production of Dubai-based Exwaze, Hollywood-based Hughes Capital Entertainment and Garden Grown Entertainment, the last of which was formed by brothers Mos Def, Khalil Prescott-Bey and Rahman Prescott. Exwaze managing director Abbi Shabazz and Hughes Capital prexy Patrick Hughes will be producers.

While casino gambling isn't permitted in Dubai, Shabazz and Hughes said they plan to erect a replica of the casino that sprang up in 1955 and closed six months later under mysterious circumstances just as it was gaining momentum and attracting singers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra.

Drama will focus on a fictional African-American character who rises from mob debt collector to manager of the Moulin Rouge. Shabazz said Dubai is ambitious about attracting film shoots, and he opened a company there to take advantage of funding opportunities as they raise coin to shoot the picture late next year.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Clubbing revives Las Vegas cool - The Sydney Morning Herald - 25th September 2008

It's after midnight when celebrity heiress Paris Hilton glides into the PURE nightclub at Caesar's Palace with her sister, Nicky, sending the dance floor throng into a frenzy.

That PURE remains one of the hottest nightspots on the Las Vegas Strip four years after it opened is a testament to both the power of celebrity and the continuing lure of the club scene to young, free-spending tourists who would have passed up Las Vegas for hipper destinations in the past.

"It helps the casinos tap into a market they don't often tap into, a younger crowd," David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Gaming Research Center, said.

"Twenty years ago nobody in casinos would dream of charging somebody for their drinks. The whole idea was to get them to gamble," Schwartz said. "Now it's, 'Well, if you don't want to gamble you can spend your money (at the nightclub)'."

Las Vegas casinos, which once relied on slot machines and table games for most of their profit, now get nearly about 60% of their revenue from things like restaurants, shows and shopping malls.

Major resort casinos along the Las Vegas Strip first opened nightclubs only in the late 1990s, partly in response to competition from Indian casinos in California.

"It used to be you came to Vegas to catch Sinatra or Elvis and bask in the glow their fame," Schwartz said. "Now I think people in their 20s want to be the star of the show. And one way of doing that is having the whole nightclub experience. They can take pictures of themselves and upload them to the web."

Celebrities are gold

Beyond attracting a younger demographic, the nightclubs have in the last five years achieved something even more difficult and ephemeral: transforming the image of Las Vegas from a stodgy old gambling town into a hip party destination, complete with celebrities.

A mention in the gossip pages of an international superstar partying at PURE, Tryst or LAX can be gold for the club, drawing young women who in turn lure young men.

Though club owners are reluctant to discuss finances, sources close the scene say stars have been paid six-figure appearance fees.

Noah Tepperberg, partner and co-owner of TAO at the Venetian and LAVO, which recently opened at the Palazzo, said his clubs do not pay celebrities to party there but will use other means to make sure they show up.

"We take a different approach - we usually get people who are looking to promote themselves. We do things like cover flights, rooms and expenses," he said.

Despite the weak U.S. economy, TAO, the three-year-old restaurant/nightclub/pool party, is doing better business this summer than a year ago, Tepperberg said.

"No matter what, people still want to go out and drink. They still need to go out and eat," he said.

Hilton's appearance at PURE, wearing a pink dress with a sequined cell phone and matching headband, electrified the crowd one recent Friday night. Nearly everyone on a nearby dance floor reached for their cameras as the Hilton sisters waved from a special raised VIP area.

The sisters are gone within a couple hours. But at PURE, and across the Las Vegas nightclub scene, the party rages on.

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Crown Macau from Flop to Winner - 8th September 2008

James Packer and Lawrence Ho, two sons of billionaires, opened a $US524 million casino in Macau in May 2007. It was a flop.

The empty building was “eerie,’ the 31-year-old son of casino magnate Stanley Ho said in an interview. Three months after Crown Macau’s grand opening, the two co-chairmen of Melco Crown Entertainment, its Hong Kong-based owner, decided it was time to “throw in a nuclear bomb,’ Ho said.

Packer and Ho ripped out two-thirds of their low-limit gambling tables and four-fifths of the slot machines to make space for high rollers. The casino shifted its focus from middle- class gamblers to VIP players who spend at least 1 million patacas ($130,000) per visit.

The strategy handed Melco Crown 15% of Macau’s casino business in less than a year as it seeks to take VIP share from larger establishments run by Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts.

“Before, Crown Macau couldn’t even break even,’ said Billy Ng, a Hong Kong-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase. “Now it looks like it’s making a profit.’

Melco Crown’s shares, which dropped 42% this year, will climb 67% over the next 12 months, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with predictions of a decline for Wynn and a 1.4% gain for Sands, based on Aug. 12 stock prices.

The shares were unchanged at $US6.75 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading on Aug. 12.

`Undervalued stock’

“The stock is undervalued,’ Michael Perna, an analyst with AAD Capital Management LP in California, said in an interview. The fund manager bought 1.55 million Melco Crown shares, according to a second-quarter regulatory filing. He’s since continued buying, he said.

Melco Crown, which had a loss of $US178.2 million ($205,00) in 2007, posted a profit of $US43.2 million in the first quarter of this year. It will report a second-quarter profit when it releases earnings today, according to the average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The company’s new focus on big spenders is also being applied to its $US2.1 billion resort development called City of Dreams being built in Macau’s Cotai Strip district. Among the VIP- oriented changes planned for the casino, scheduled to open next year, is a reduction in slot machines to 1,500 from 3,500, Ho said, which appeal primarily to middle-class gamblers.

“We want to be a higher-value proposition than’ Las Vegas Sands’ Venetian Macao across the street, he said.

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McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry, by Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr. - The New York Times - 27th September 2008

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

As a two-time chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain has done more than any other member of Congress to shape the laws governing America’s casinos, helping to transform the once-sleepy Indian gambling business into a $26-billion-a-year behemoth with 423 casinos across the country. He has won praise as a champion of economic development and self-governance on reservations.

“One of the founding fathers of Indian gaming” is what Steven Light, a University of North Dakota professor and a leading Indian gambling expert, called Mr. McCain.

As factions of the ferociously competitive gambling industry have vied for an edge, they have found it advantageous to cultivate a relationship with Mr. McCain or hire someone who has one, according to an examination based on more than 70 interviews and thousands of pages of documents.

Mr. McCain portrays himself as a Washington maverick unswayed by special interests, referring recently to lobbyists as “birds of prey.” Yet in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors.

When rules being considered by Congress threatened a California tribe’s planned casino in 2005, Mr. McCain helped spare the tribe. Its lobbyist, who had no prior experience in the gambling industry, had a nearly 20-year friendship with Mr. McCain.

In Connecticut that year, when a tribe was looking to open the state’s third casino, staff members on the Indian Affairs Committee provided guidance to lobbyists representing those fighting the casino, e-mail messages and interviews show. The proposed casino, which would have cut into the Pequots’ market share, was opposed by Mr. McCain’s colleagues in Connecticut.

Mr. McCain declined to be interviewed. In written answers to questions, his campaign staff said he was “justifiably proud” of his record on regulating Indian gambling. “Senator McCain has taken positions on policy issues because he believed they are in the public interest,” the campaign said.

Mr. McCain’s spokesman, Tucker Bounds, would not discuss the senator’s night of gambling at Foxwoods, saying: “Your paper has repeatedly attempted to insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists — and it reveals that your publication is desperately willing to gamble away what little credibility it still has.”

Over his career, Mr. McCain has taken on special interests, like big tobacco, and angered the capital’s powerbrokers by promoting campaign finance reform and pushing to limit gifts that lobbyists can shower on lawmakers. On occasion, he has crossed the gambling industry on issues like regulating slot machines.

Perhaps no episode burnished Mr. McCain’s image as a reformer more than his stewardship three years ago of the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican Indian gambling lobbyist who became a national symbol of the pay-to-play culture in Washington. The senator’s leadership during the scandal set the stage for the most sweeping overhaul of lobbying laws since Watergate.

“I’ve fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes,” the senator said in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination this month.

But interviews and records show that lobbyists and political operatives in Mr. McCain’s inner circle played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation. The senator’s longtime chief political strategist, for example, was paid $100,000 over four months as a consultant to one tribe caught up in the inquiry, records show.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the senator acted solely to protect American Indians, even though the inquiry posed “grave risk to his political interests.”

As public opposition to tribal casinos has grown in recent years, Mr. McCain has distanced himself from Indian gambling, Congressional and American Indian officials said.

But he has rarely wavered in his loyalty to Las Vegas, where he counts casino executives among his close friends and most prolific fund-raisers. “Beyond just his support for gaming, Nevada supports John McCain because he’s one of us, a Westerner at heart,” said Sig Rogich, a Nevada Republican kingmaker who raised nearly $2 million for Mr. McCain at an event at his home in June.

Only six members of Congress have received more money from the gambling industry than Mr. McCain, and five hail from the casino hubs of Nevada and New Jersey, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics dating back to 1989. In the presidential race, Senator Barack Obama has also received money from the industry; Mr. McCain has raised almost twice as much.

In May 2007, as Mr. McCain’s presidential bid was floundering, he spent a weekend at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas strip. A fund-raiser hosted by J. Terrence Lanni, the casino’s top executive and a longtime friend of the senator, raised $400,000 for his campaign. Afterward, Mr. McCain attended a boxing match and hit the craps tables.

For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We were always concerned about appearances,” one former official said. “If you go around saying that appearances matter, then they matter.”

The former official said he would tell Mr. McCain: “Do we really have to go to a casino? I don’t think it’s a good idea. The base doesn’t like it. It doesn’t look good. And good things don’t happen in casinos at midnight.”

“You worry too much,” Mr. McCain would respond, the official said.

A Record of Support

In one of their last conversations, Representative Morris K. Udall, Arizona’s powerful Democrat, whose devotion to American Indian causes was legendary, implored his friend Mr. McCain to carry on his legacy.

“Don’t forget the Indians,” Mr. Udall, who died in 1998, told Mr. McCain in a directive that the senator has recounted to others.

More than a decade earlier, Mr. Udall had persuaded Mr. McCain to join the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Mr. McCain, whose home state has the third-highest Indian population, eloquently decried the “grinding poverty” that gripped many reservations.

The two men helped write the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 after the Supreme Court found that states had virtually no right to control wagering on reservations. The legislation provided a framework for the oversight and growth of Indian casinos: In 1988, Indian gambling represented less than 1 percent of the nation’s gambling revenues; today it captures more than one third.

On the Senate floor after the bill’s passage, Mr. McCain said he personally opposed Indian gambling, but when impoverished communities “are faced with only one option for economic development, and that is to set up gambling on their reservations, then I cannot disapprove.”

In 1994, Mr. McCain pushed an amendment that enabled dozens of additional tribes to win federal recognition and open casinos. And in 1998, Mr. McCain fought a Senate effort to rein in the boom.

He also voted twice in the last decade to give casinos tax breaks estimated to cost the government more than $326 million over a dozen years.

The first tax break benefited the industry in Las Vegas, one of a number of ways Mr. McCain has helped nontribal casinos. Mr. Lanni, the MGM Mirage chief executive, said that an unsuccessful bid by the senator to ban wagering on college sports in Nevada was the only time he could recall Mr. McCain opposing Las Vegas. “I can’t think of any other issue,” Mr. Lanni said.

The second tax break helped tribal casinos like Foxwoods and was pushed by Scott Reed, the Pequots’ lobbyist.

Mr. McCain had gotten to know Mr. Reed during Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, which Mr. Reed managed. Four years later, when Mr. McCain ran for president, Mr. Reed recommended he hire his close friend and protégé, Rick Davis, to manage that campaign.

During his 2000 primary race against George W. Bush, Mr. McCain promoted his record of helping Indian Country, telling reporters on a campaign swing that he had provided critical support to “the Pequot, now the proud owners of the largest casino in the world.”

But Mr. McCain’s record on Indian gambling was fast becoming a difficult issue for him in the primary. Bush supporters like Gov. John Engler of Michigan lambasted Mr. McCain for his “close ties to Indian gambling.”

A decade after Mr. McCain co-authored the Indian gambling act, the political tides had turned. Tribal casinos, which were growing at a blazing pace, had become increasingly unpopular around the country for reasons as varied as morality and traffic.

Then came the biggest lobbying scandal to shake Washington.

Behind an Inquiry

At a September 2004 hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain described Jack Abramoff as one of the most brazen in a long line of crooks to cheat American Indians. “It began with the sale of Manhattan, and has continued ever since,” he said. “What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit.”

Over the next two years, Mr. McCain helped uncover a breathtaking lobbying scandal — Mr. Abramoff and a partner bilked six tribes of $66 million — that showcased the senator’s willingness to risk the wrath of his own party to expose wrongdoing. But interviews and documents show that Mr. McCain and a circle of allies — lobbyists, lawyers and senior strategists — also seized on the case for its opportunities.

For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.

The Abramoff saga started in early 2003 when members of two tribes began questioning Mr. Abramoff’s astronomical fees. Over the next year, they leaked information to local newspapers, but it took the hiring of lobbyists who were competitors of Mr. Abramoff to get the attention of Mr. McCain’s committee.

Bernie Sprague, who led the effort by one of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewas in Michigan, hired a Democratic lobbyist who recommended that the tribe retain Scott Reed, the Republican lobbyist, to push for an investigation.

Mr. Reed had boasted to other lobbyists of his access to Mr. McCain, three close associates said. Mr. Reed “pretty much had open access to John from 2000 to at least the end of 2006,” one aide said.

Lobbyist disclosure forms show that Mr. Reed went to work for the Saginaw Chippewa on Feb. 15, 2004, charging the tribe $56,000 over a year. Mr. Abramoff had tried to steal the Pequots and another tribal client from Mr. Reed, and taking down Mr. Abramoff would eliminate a competitor.

Mr. Reed became the chief conduit to Mr. McCain’s committee for billing documents and other information Mr. Sprague was digging up on Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Sprague said, who said Mr. Reed “did a great to service to me.”

“He had contacts I did not,” Mr. Sprague said. “Initially, I think that the senator’s office was doing Reed a favor by listening to me.”

A few weeks after hiring Mr. Reed, Mr. Sprague received a letter from the senator. “We have met with Scott Reed, who was very helpful on the issue,” Mr. McCain wrote.

Information about Mr. Abramoff was also flowing to Mr. McCain’s committee from another tribe, the Coushatta of Louisiana. The source was a consultant named Roy Fletcher, who had been Mr. McCain’s deputy campaign manager in 2000, running his war room in South Carolina.

It was in that primary race that two of Mr. Abramoff’s closest associates, Grover Norquist, who runs the nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform, and Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition, ran a blistering campaign questioning Mr. McCain’s conservative credentials. The senator and his advisers blamed that attack for Mr. McCain’s loss to Mr. Bush in South Carolina, creating tensions that would resurface in the Abramoff matter.

“I was interested in busting” Mr. Abramoff, said Mr. Fletcher, who was eventually hired to represent the tribe. “That was my job. But I was also filled with righteous indignation, I got to tell you.”

Mr. Fletcher said he began passing information to John Weaver, Mr. McCain’s chief political strategist, and other staff members in late 2003 or January 2004. Mr. Weaver confirmed the timing.

Mr. McCain announced his investigation on Feb. 26, 2004, citing an article on Mr. Abramoff in The Washington Post. He did not mention the action by lobbyists and tribes in the preceding weeks. His campaign said no one in his “innermost circle” brought information to Mr. McCain that prompted the investigation.

The senator declared he would not investigate members of Congress, whom Mr. Abramoff had lavished with tribal donations and golf outings to Scotland. But in the course of the investigation, the committee exposed Mr. Abramoff’s dealings with the two men who had helped defeat Mr. McCain in the 2000 primary.

The investigation showed that Mr. Norquist’s foundation was used by Mr. Abramoff to launder lobbying fees from tribes. Ralph Reed was found to have accepted $4 million to run bogus antigambling campaigns. And the investigation also highlighted Mr. Abramoff’s efforts to curry favor with the House majority leader at the time, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, a longtime political foe who had opposed many of Mr. McCain’s legislative priorities.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the senator did not “single out” Ralph Reed or Mr. Norquist, neither of whom were ever charged, and that both men fell within the “scope of the investigation.” The inquiry, which led to guilty pleas by over a dozen individuals, was motivated by a desire to help aggrieved tribes, the campaign said.

Inside the investigation, the sense of schadenfreude was palpable, according to several people close to the senator. “It was like hitting pay dirt,” said one associate of Mr. McCain’s who had consulted with the senator’s office on the investigation. “And face it — McCain and Weaver were maniacal about Ralph Reed and Norquist. They were sticking little pins in dolls because those guys had cost him South Carolina.”

Down on the Coushattas reservation, bills related to the investigation kept coming. After firing Mr. Abramoff, the tribe hired Kent Hance, a lawyer and former Texas congressman who said he had been friends with Mr. McCain since the 1980s.

David Sickey, the tribe’s vice chairman, said he was “dumbfounded” over the bills submitted by Mr. Hance’s firm, Hance Scarborough, which had been hired by Mr. Sickey’s predecessors.

“The very thing we were fighting seemed to be happening all over again — these absurd amounts of money being paid,” Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance’s firm billed the tribe nearly $1.3 million over 11 months in legal and political consulting fees, records show. But Mr. Sickey said that the billing statements offered only vague explanations for services and that he could not point to any tangible results. Two consultants, for instance, were paid to fight the expansion of gambling in Texas — even though it was unlikely given that the governor there opposed any such prospect, Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance and Jay B. Stewart, the firm’s managing partner, defended their team’s work, saying they successfully steered the tribe through a difficult period. “We did an outstanding job for them,” Mr. Hance said. “When we told them our bill was going to be $100,000 a month, they thought we were cheap. Mr. Abramoff had charged them $1 million a month.”

The firm’s fees covered the services of Mr. Fletcher, who served as the tribe’s spokesman. Records also show that Mr. Hance had Mr. Weaver — who was serving as Mr. McCain’s chief strategist — put on the tribe’s payroll from February to May 2005.

It is not precisely clear what role Mr. Weaver played for his $100,000 fee.

Mr. Stewart said Mr. Weaver was hired because “he had a lot of experience with the Senate, especially the new chairman, John McCain.” The Hance firm told the tribe in a letter that Mr. Weaver was hired to provide “representation for the tribe before the U.S. Senate.”

But Mr. Weaver never registered to lobby on the issue, and he has another explanation for his work.

“The Hance law firm retained me to assist them and their client in developing an aggressive crisis management and communications strategy,” Mr. Weaver said. “At no point was I asked by Kent Hance or anyone associated with him to set up meetings with anyone in or outside of government to discuss this, and if asked I would have summarily declined to do so.”

In June 2005, the tribe informed Mr. Hance that his services were no longer needed.

Change in Tone

After the Abramoff scandal, Mr. McCain stopped taking campaign donations from tribes. Some American Indians were offended, especially since Mr. McCain continued to accept money from the tribes’ lobbyists.

Resentment in Indian Country mounted as Mr. McCain, who was preparing for another White House run, singled out the growth in tribal gambling as one of three national issues that were “out of control.” (The others were federal spending and illegal immigration.)

Franklin Ducheneaux, an aide to Morris Udall who helped draft the 1988 Indian gambling law, said that position ran contrary to Mr. McCain’s record. “What did he think? That Congress intended for the tribes to be only somewhat successful?” Mr. Ducheneaux said.

Mr. McCain began taking a broad look at whether the laws were sufficient to oversee the growing industry. His campaign said that the growth had put “considerable stress” on regulators and Mr. McCain held hearings on whether the federal government needed more oversight power.

An opportunity to restrain the industry came in the spring of 2005, when a small tribe in Connecticut set off a political battle. The group, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, had won federal recognition in 2004 after producing voluminous documentation tracing its roots.

The tribe wanted to build Connecticut’s third casino, which would compete with Foxwoods and another, the Mohegan Sun. Facing public opposition on the proposed casino, members of the Connecticut political establishment — many of whom had received large Pequot and Mohegan campaign donations — swung into action.

Connecticut officials claimed that a genealogical review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was flawed, and that the Schaghticoke was not a tribe.

The tribe’s opponents, led by the Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, turned to Mr. McCain’s committee. It was a full-circle moment for the senator, who had helped the Pequots gain tribal recognition in the 1980s despite concerns about their legitimacy.

Now, Mr. McCain was doing a favor for allies in the Connecticut delegation, including Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a close friend, according to two former Congressional aides. “It was one of those collegial deals,” said one of the aides, who worked for Mr. McCain.

Barbour Griffith & Rogers wanted Mr. McCain to hold a hearing that would show that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was “broken,” said Bradley A. Blakeman, who was a lobbyist for the firm at the time.

“It was our hope that the hearing would shed light on the fact that the bureau had not followed their rules and had improperly granted recognition to the Schaghticoke,” Mr. Blakeman said. “And that the bureau would revisit the issue and follow their rules.”

Mr. McCain’s staff helped that effort by offering strategic advice.

His staff told a lobbyist for the firm that the Indian Affairs Committee “would love to receive a letter” from the Connecticut governor requesting a hearing, according to an e-mail exchange, and offered “guidance on what the most effective tone and approach” would be in the letter.

On May 11, 2005, Mr. McCain held a hearing billed as a general “oversight hearing on federal recognition of Indian tribes.” But nearly all the witnesses were Schaghticoke opponents who portrayed the tribe as imposters.

Mr. McCain set the tone: “The role that gaming and its nontribal backers have played in the recognition process has increased perceptions that it is unfair, if not corrupt.”

Chief Richard F. Velky of the Schaghticokes found himself facing off against the governor and most of the state’s congressional delegation. “The deck was stacked against us,” Mr. Velky said. “They were given lots of time. I was given five minutes.”

He had always believed Mr. McCain “to be an honest and fair man,” Mr. Velky said, “but this didn’t make me feel that good.”

Mr. Velky said he felt worse when the e-mail messages between the tribe’s opponents and Mr. McCain’s staff surfaced in a federal lawsuit. “Is there a letter telling me how to address the senator to give me the best shot?” Mr. Velky asked. “No, there is not.”

After the hearing, Pablo E. Carrillo, who was Mr. McCain’s chief Abramoff investigator at the time, wrote to a Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbyist, Brant Imperatore. “Your client’s side definitely got a good hearing record,” Mr. Carillo wrote, adding “you probably have a good sense” on where Mr. McCain “is headed on this.”

“Well done!” he added.

Cynthia Shaw, a Republican counsel to the committee from 2005 to 2007, said Mr. McCain made decisions based on merit, not special interests. “Everybody got a meeting who asked for one,” Ms. Shaw said, “whether you were represented by counsel or by a lobbyist — or regardless of which lobbyist.”

Mr. McCain’s campaign defended the senator’s handling of the Schaghticoke case, saying no staff member acted improperly. The campaign said the session was part of normal committee business and the notion that Mr. McCain was intending to help Congressional colleagues defeat the tribe was “absolutely false.”

It added that the senator’s commitment to Indian sovereignty “remains as strong as ever.”

Within months of the May 2005 hearing, the Bureau of Indian Affairs took the rare step of rescinding the Schaghticokes’ recognition. A federal court recently rejected the tribe’s claim that the reversal was politically motivated.

Making an Exception

That spring of 2005, as the Schaghticokes went down to defeat in the East, another tribe in the West squared off against Mr. McCain with its bid to construct a gambling emporium in California. The stakes were similar, but the outcome would be far different.

The tribe’s plan to build a casino on a former Navy base just outside San Francisco represented a trend rippling across the country: American Indians seeking to build casinos near population centers, far from their reservations.

The practice, known as “off-reservation shopping,” stemmed from the 1988 Indian gambling law, which included exceptions allowing some casinos to be built outside tribal lands. When Mr. McCain began his second stint as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee three years ago, Las Vegas pressed him to revisit the exceptions he had helped create, according to Sig Rogich, the Republican fund-raiser from Nevada.

“We told him this off-reservation shopping had to stop,” Mr. Rogich said. “It was no secret that the gaming industry, as well as many potentially affected communities in other states, voiced opposition to the practice.”

In the spring of 2005, Mr. McCain announced he was planning a sweeping overhaul of Indian gambling laws, including limiting off-reservation casinos. His campaign said Las Vegas had nothing to do with it. In a 2005 interview with The Oregonian, Mr. McCain said that if Congress did not act, “soon every Indian tribe is going to have a casino in downtown, metropolitan areas.”

Prospects for the proposed California project did not look promising. Then the tribe, the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, hired a lobbyist based in Phoenix named Wes Gullett.

Mr. Gullett, who had never represented tribes before Congress, had known Mr. McCain since the early 1980s. Mr. Gullett met his wife while they were working in Mr. McCain’s Washington office. He subsequently managed Mr. McCain’s 1992 Senate campaign and served as a top aide to his 2000 presidential campaign. Their friendship went beyond politics. When Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, brought two infants in need of medical treatment back to Arizona from Bangladesh, the Gulletts adopted one baby and the McCains the other. The two men also liked to take weekend trips to Las Vegas.

Another of Mr. McCain’s close friends, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, was a major investor in the Guidivilles’ proposed casino. Mr. Cohen, who did not return calls, was best man at Mr. McCain’s 1980 wedding.

Scott Crowell, lawyer for the Guidivilles, said Mr. Gullett was hired to ensure that Mr. McCain’s overhaul of the Indian gambling laws did not harm the tribe.

Mr. Gullett said he never talked to Mr. McCain about the legislation. “If you are hired directly to lobby John McCain, you are not going to be effective,” he said. Mr. Gullett said he only helped prepare the testimony of the tribe’s administrator, Walter Gray, who was invited to plead his case before Mr. McCain’s committee in July 2005. Mr. Gullett said he advised Mr. Gray in a series of conference calls.

On disclosure forms filed with the Senate, however, Mr. Gullett stated that he was not hired until November, long after Mr. Gray’s testimony. Mr. Gullett said the late filing might have been “a mistake, but it was inadvertent.” Steve Hart, a former lawyer for the Guidivilles, backed up Mr. Gullett’s contention that he had guided Mr. Gray on his July testimony.

When asked whether Mr. Gullett had helped him, Mr. Gray responded, “I’ve never met the man and couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

On Nov. 18, 2005, when Mr. McCain introduced his promised legislation overhauling the Indian gambling law, he left largely intact a provision that the Guidivilles needed for their casino. Mr. McCain’s campaign declined to answer whether the senator spoke with Mr. Gullett or Mr. Cohen about the project. In the end, Mr. McCain’s bill died, largely because Indian gambling interests fought back. But the Department of Interior picked up where Mr. McCain left off, effectively doing through regulations what he had hoped to accomplish legislatively. Carl Artman, who served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary of Indian Affairs until May, said Mr. McCain pushed him to rewrite the off-reservation rules. “It became one of my top priorities because Senator McCain made it clear it was one of his top priorities,” he said.

The new guidelines were issued on Jan. 4. As a result, the casino applications of 11 tribes were rejected. The Guidivilles were not among them.

Kitty Bennett and Griff Palmer contributed to reporting.

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Top Ten Gambling Industry Donors to McCain, By Griff Palmer - The New York Times - 28th September 2008

The following is a list of the top ten highest campaign contributors to Senator John McCain since 1992 in the gambling industry, based on analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

1. MGM Mirage
$108,450

2. Mashantucket Pequot Tribe
$56,950

3. Wynn Resorts
$39,800

4. Las Vegas Sands
$32,500

5. International Game Technology
$19,450

6. Harrah's Entertainment
$14,000

7. Station Casinos
$13,800

8. Mandalay Resort Group
$10,000

9. (tie) Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona
$8,000

Stockbridge-Munsee Community
$8,000

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Star City's $475 million facelift with largest outdoor gaming area, by Justin Vallejo - The Daily Telegraph - 24th September 2008

Sydney's famous skyline will undergo a major facelift as part of a $475 million upgrade to Star City.

But hidden among the glitz and glamour of the new-look casino are plans for the largest outdoor gaming area in NSW.

Once ridiculed as the "Pyrmont Workers Club", the aging casino will undergo a complete overhaul - with these artists impressions revealing the first look at the dramatic changes.

The expansions plans of "Project Star", going on exhibition today , reveal a giant reshaping of the casino to face towards the harbour and Sydney's city views.

A new 309 room hotel on vacant land next to the casino will be the first major five star hotel build in the CBD since the Olympic Games.

Tabcorp's Chief Executive of Casinos Walter Bugno said Star City was now more than 10 years old and was in need an overhaul.

"This is our chance to build a world-class casino and entertainment complex," Mr Bugno said.

"For the first time, Star City will be facing the harbour and the city and that will give us an advantage that no other casino in the world can match."

Star City has included the outdoor gaming proposal in its major development application before the NSW Planning Department after it was rejected by City of Sydney Council in July.

At the time, Lord Mayor Clover Moore called the outdoor gaming area an appalling development that "would prey on the most vulnerable of society" while the NSW Health Department said it failed to meet smoke-free legislation.

It is understood that substantial changes have been made to the original proposal that was withdrawn from the council to ensure it complies with the state's unenclosed space laws.

While new licensing agreements will allow Star City to operate additional tables subject to approval, there will be no increase in the number of poker machines above the current 1500 cap.

About 750 construction jobs will be created over the next three years while another 900 hotel and casino jobs will be created when the expansion in complete in 2011.

A new grand entry to the casino on the harbour side will replace the current staircase while the existing ballroom will be expanded to hold at least 1200 people.

The final floor plans are still being designed but Mr Bugno estimates there would be around 17 restaurants and 11 bars in the new complex.

(Credit: The Daily Telegraph)

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Star City throws $475m at 'tacky' image - ABC - 24th September 2008

Tabcorp has announced plans for a $475 million redevelopment of Sydney's Star City Casino.

The 10-year-old casino will be expanded to include a new five-star hotel, more restaurants, shops and outdoor gaming areas if the New South Wales Government approves the plans.

It would also be renovated to face Sydney Harbour and the city skyline.

A new entrance is planned for the harbour side of the building, while the main gaming floor would be redesigned and restaurants would be built to face the skyline.

Star City managing director Craig Garvin says there will be no new poker machines but an application has been made for extra gaming tables.

Mr Garvin says the project is aimed at improving the casino's image.

"We do have a five-star hotel and the best theatre in Australia, which attracts the very best productions from around the world, which we think is very important," he said.

"Yet the perception here is that perhaps we're tired and tacky, and we aim to fix that perception."

The new 309-room hotel would be built on a vacant block of land next to the casino.

Residents groups have indicated they do not have any major concerns with the plans, which go on public display today.

If approved, construction is expected to start early next year and be completed in 2011.

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PKR scoops industry award - 23rd September 2008

LONDON, England -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- PKR.com is celebrating after winning the Hotshot Operator of the Year at the 2008 eGaming Review Awards.

The Hotshot Operator of the Year award is reserved for the online gaming operator which has had the biggest impact in 2007/2008 and shown the greatest promise for the future on a global scale. The next-gen site secured the most votes to beat rivals Everest, Betsson and Betclick to the coveted prize. The award crowns a truly successful year and cements PKR.com as a major player in the online gaming industry.

PKR.com also received an honourable commendation in the Poker Operator of the Year category. The other nominees were industry stalwarts Party Gaming, Everest and 888.com, and the commendation alone is testament to PKR.com's incredible achievement in a short period of time.

CEO Malcolm Graham said, "We are absolutely delighted with the award which not only considers our accomplishments over the last year, but also reflects our potential for the future. The honourable commendation capped off a great evening and we feel privileged to receive special mention and be recognised as such a big player in the online poker sector."

About the eGaming Review Awards

The eGaming Review Awards are the best recognised and most prestigious online gaming awards in the UK. Adjudicated by an independent panel of industry experts the awards are designed to distinguish the best businesses in the sector.

The fourth annual eGaming Review Awards ceremony took place on 19th September in Park Lane's Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

About PKR

PKR is a revolutionary new concept in online poker that has changed the way that online poker is played.

Featuring stunning real-time 3D graphics and a uniquely engaging and immersive gaming system, PKR brings an unparalleled and previously unseen level of realism to online poker.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Star City expansion to create world-class casino for Sydney

Media Release
24th September 2008

Tabcorp Holdings Ltd today announced that it will invest $475 million to transform Star City casino into a world-class entertainment destination, complete with a new 5 star hotel, more restaurants, bars and improved entertainment and gaming facilities.

The expansion plans have been lodged with the New South Wales Planning Department and go on public display today (Wednesday).

The major investment follows an agreement with the New South Wales Government to extend Star City’s exclusivity and concession arrangements for a further 12 years.

The Star City expansion proposal will:

* Reorient the casino towards the harbour and Sydney skyline. The main gaming floor and new top-end restaurants will face the city skyline, giving customers one of the best views of Sydney
* Create a new grand entry to the casino at the harbour side of the existing building, replacing the current staircase
* Build a new, 309 room hotel on a vacant block of land next to the casino. The hotel will be the first major 5 star hotel built in the Sydney CBD since the Olympic Games. The hotel will add 500 car parks to the property
* Expand the food and beverage offer to give customers a choice of up to 30 restaurants and bars
* Create a new retail galleria offering quality fashion and retail stores
* Expand the existing ballroom to hold at least 1,200 people and create additional conference / banquet facilities
* Redevelop the existing gaming floor to bring it up to world standard and expand it towards the city skyline and under the new hotel tower.

The new Star City complex will include a range of “green” initiatives such as environmentally responsible materials, harvesting rainwater for hotel use, avoiding the use of ozone depleting substances and other energy conservation measures.

The project will involve around 750 new construction jobs over the next three years and create an extra 900 hotel and casino jobs when the expansion is completed. The plans are all subject to Planning Department approval.

Tabcorp’s Chief Executive Officer Elmer Funke Kupper said Sydney deserved to have the best entertainment venue in Australia - and the new-look Star City complex will be a leading destination for local and international visitors.

“The expansion will make Star City the destination of choice for entertainment in Sydney. The new licence agreement with the New South Wales Government allows us to make a substantial investment and make the casino an integral part of ‘Brand Sydney’ that will attract domestic and international visitors. It is a great outcome for customers, for the State and for Tabcorp,” Mr Funke Kupper said.

Construction is expected to start in early 2009 and all work completed in 2011.

Tabcorp’s Chief Executive of Casinos Walter Bugno said Star City was now more than 10 years old and needed an overhaul. “This is our chance to build a world-class casino and entertainment complex,” he said.

“We are proposing to build a new entertainment and tourism precinct along the harbour foreshore - a place where Sydney-siders and tourists will want to visit and enjoy the best stage shows, restaurants, bars and gaming and entertainment facilities.

“For the first time, Star City will be facing the harbour and the city and that will give us an advantage that no other casino in the world can match. It will offer a stunning view across Sydney, matched with the best entertainment options for locals and international guests.”

Mr Bugno said the final floor plans were still being designed so it was too early to be specific about the proposed facilities, although he envisaged that there would be around 17 restaurants and 11 bars in the new complex.

“The Star Theatre will be transformed into a multi-purpose venue which will still be used for small concerts, live telecasts, cinema and fashion parades and it will also have an exciting new sports betting area,” Mr Bugno said.

“The Lyric Theatre - acknowledged as one of the best stage theatres in Australia - will be retained and remain a centrepiece of the expanded complex.

“That means we will continue to be able to bring the best shows in the world - like The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and others - to Sydney,” he said.

Mr Bugno said that, under the new licence agreement with the New South Wales Government, Star City can operate additional tables subject to Casino Control Authority approval. There will be no expansion of Electronic Gaming Machines and the current cap of 1,500 gaming machines remains in place.

Mr Bugno said the expansion plans were now being considered by the New South Wales Planning Department and will be put on public display for comment from today.

For further information contact:

Peter Grimshaw, Star City Media and Government Relations Director, 02 9657 7643
Nicholas Tzaferis, Tabcorp External Communications Manager, 03 9868 2529

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Plans unveiled for casino's star turn, Jano Gibson - The Sydney Morning Herald - 24th September 2008

Star City will unveil its plan today to turn the ugly duckling of Australian casinos into a harbour-front entertainment and gaming complex worthy of global attention.

The 13-year-old complex, which was built with its rear to harbour, will be turned around as part of a proposed $475 million makeover.

"For the first time, Star City will be facing the harbour and the city, and that will give us an advantage that no other casino in the world can match," said Walter Bugno, the chief executive of casinos at Tabcorp, which owns Star City.

Under the plan, a five-star hotel will be built on a vacant block at the rear of the site and there will be an expansion of dining options available, with 17 restaurants and 11 bars.

The existing Star Theatre will become a venue that can be used as a cinema as well as for concerts, fashion parades and live broadcasts.

The theatre redevelopment will also include a sports betting area. Last week Tabcorp announced a plan to open an online and phone bookmaking business, called Luxbet that would operate from the Northern Territory.

The development application, which goes on public display today, is also believed to contain a revised plan for an outdoor gaming area.

This year the casino was criticised after it sought the City of Sydney council's approval to create Australia's largest outdoor gambling zone as a means of recouping revenue lost after the introduction of indoor smoking bans. It is believed changes have been made to ensure it complies with the unenclosed space laws.

The application will require the approval of the NSW Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, who announced a shortlist of companies for another large harbour-front development yesterday: the $2.5 billion Barangaroo project.

The project, which will add at least 220,000 square metres of commercial space to east Darling Harbour, will be built by either Lend Lease and Westpac Corporation, Brookfield Multiplex or a consortium of Mirvac Projects, Leighton Projects, Nakheel PJSC and Macquarie Property Development and Finance. The winner will be announced in the middle of next year.

(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)


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Monday, September 22, 2008

Packer's wealth falls - The Sydney Morning Herald - 18th September 2008

James Packer's gambling company, Melco Crown, which trades on the Nasdaq, is down 23 per cent in the past three days - versus a 7.5 per cent fall by the broader Nasdaq Composite index - on rumours it had split with the company that organises gamblers to visit its Macau casino.

Amax Holdings, which provides the high-rollers, was yesterday forced to come out and deny the whispers.

Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings dropped 5 per cent yesterday, closing at $2.79, as speculation continued about who was behind the large share shuffle late on Wednesday afternoon, in which about 1.4 per cent of the company changed hands for $28 million.

No announcements were made about movements in the holdings of the two substantial investors possibly involved - JPMorgan and 2Fic Inc - which led market players to conclude it was a technical trade to cross shares, which happens if an investor switches brokers and transfers shareholdings.

Kerry Stokes's Seven Network is still believed to own about 4.82 per cent of Mr Packer's media investment company, staying under the 5 per cent threshold at which it would have to reveal its hand.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

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Crown casino's $1 rent deal at Southbank a lucky dip, Michael Warner - 12 September 2008

Crown casino is paying just $1 a year in rent for the site of the Southbank gambling mecca.

Full details of Crown's extraordinary 99-year lease were revealed for the first time yesterday in a report tabled in State Parliament.

The deal, signed in 1993, requires Crown to pay just $1 for the first 40 years of the lease and market value for the final 59 years.

"That was determined at the time by the people who negotiated the deal," casino spokesman Gary O'Neill said yesterday.

"It was a derelict piece of land before we got a hold of it."

But Mr O'Neill said Crown had since paid $200 million in licence fees and more than $2.5 billion in taxes.

And he revealed control of the 5ha riverside property would be handed back to the state after the expiry of the 99-year lease.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation report -- the findings of a five-year review of the casino complex -- also urged Crown chiefs to work harder in identifying gamblers likely to be punting with stolen money.

"The commission expects that Crown Melbourne will review its monitoring systems and implement changes so as to better identify situations where gamblers could be gambling with other people's money," the report says.

The report reveals an average of almost 7000 under-age youths are caught each month trying to enter the public gaming floor.

Another 2000 problem gamblers and troublemakers have been permanently banned.

One blacklisted punter was forced to forfeit more than $48,000 in winnings after being detected in the gaming area.

A total of 207 breaches of table game rules and procedures have been detected by VCGR inspectors since 2003.

But the report said Crown met the requirements of a world-class casino.

"In particular, the range and quality of restaurants far exceeds those available at any other Australian casino, and is on a par with the best of the international casinos.

"The commission is also satisfied that . . . there has generally been public confidence and trust in the credibility, integrity and stability of casino operations due to the manner in which the Melbourne casino has been managed.

"Accordingly, it is in the public interest that the casino licence remains in force."

VCGR inspectors compared Crown across a range of areas with leading casinos in Las Vegas and Macau.

Mr O'Neill said the report was an overwhelming endorsement of Crown.

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Casino operators rise as market tensions ease - AP - 19th November 2008

NEW YORK

Shares of casino operators rose along with the broader markets Friday as uneasy investors re-entered the fray after the government said it had a plan to rescue banks from bad debt and the Treasury Department said it will provide guarantees for U.S. money market mutual funds.

A temporary ban on short-selling, or placing bets that a stock will fall, was also expected to give a boost to the markets.

The government's plan to help banks has not been revealed, but it has helped stemmed the uncertainty that has pressured financial stocks this week.

In other developments, the Treasury said it plans to tap into a Depression-era fund to provide guarantees for the nation's money market mutual funds while the Federal Reserve says it will expand its emergency lending program to help support the $2 trillion in assets of the funds.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also early Friday imposed a temporary emergency ban on short-selling of financial company stocks, a trading method that bets the stocks will go down. As the financial crisis widened, calls to stem a swarm of short-selling contributing to the collapse of stock values in financial companies intensified.

Some gaming companies saw a sharp bounce, including Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., which climbed $1.14, or 12.1 percent, to $10.60 in early trading. MGM Mirage's stock gained $1.33, or 4.1 percent, to $33.83, while Las Vegas Sands Corp gained $3.61, or 9.8 percent, to $40.50.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tribal Casino Cheats Indicted - 13th September 2008

Tran Organisation defendants named in federal grand jury indictment

11 defendants accused of conspiracy to cheat a dozen tribal casinos across the country were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego, California this week according to federal government website postings.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Karen P. Hewitt announced the unsealing of the indictment, naming: Bryan Arce; Don Man Duong; Hogan Ho; Thang Viet Huynh; Outtama Keovongsa; Leap Kong, a/k/a "Lanida Kong;" Qua Le; Khunsela Prom, a/k/a "Danny Prom;" James Root; Darrell Saicocie; and Dan Thich each with one count of conspiracy to commit several offences against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos, and conspiracy to travel in interstate and foreign commerce in aid of racketeering.

According to the indictment, from approximately March 2002 through July 2007 the defendants and co-conspirators are alleged to have formed and participated in a conspiracy, defined in the indictment as the "Tran Organization," to cheat at gambling in casinos across the United States. The indictment lists 12 casinos that were allegedly targeted by members of the conspiracy, including five casinos that are owned and operated by Indian tribes.

According to the indictment, the defendants and others executed a "false shuffle" cheating scheme at some of the listed casinos during blackjack and mini-baccarat games. The indictment alleges that members of the criminal organisation bribed casino card dealers and supervisors to perform false shuffles during card games, thereby creating "slugs" of un-shuffled cards.

After tracking the order of cards dealt in a card game, a member of the organisation would signal to the card dealer to perform a "false shuffle," and then members of the group would bet on the known order of cards when the slug appeared on the table. By doing so, the indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy repeatedly won thousands of dollars during card games.

It is also alleged that members of the organisation used sophisticated mechanisms for tracking the order of cards during games, including hidden transmitter devices and specially created software that would predict the order in which cards would reappear during baccarat and blackjack games.

If convicted on the conspiracy charge, defendants face a maximum five year prison sentence.

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Top 5 Online Casinos For Month Named

The Media Man Australia - Casino News Media top 5 online casinos for the month, based on integrity, honesty, usability, customer service, testimonials, gameplay and overall positive experience are:

Virgin Casino

PKR Casino

Lasseters - AusVegas

World Poker Tour

888

Most Improved Online Casino

Jack Pot City

Top 5 Games Of The Month

Mega Jackpots

Monopoly

ELVIS® - A Little More Action

Tomb Raider - Secret Of The Sword

Deal Or No Deal?

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

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Friday, September 12, 2008

World-class casino's rent? Just $1 a year, by Michael Warner - Herald Sun - 12th September 2008

Melbourne's Crown casino is paying just $1 a year in rent for the site of the Southbank gambling mecca.

Full details of Crown's extraordinary 99-year lease were revealed for the first time yesterday in a report tabled in State Parliament.

The deal, signed in 1993, requires Crown to pay just $1 for the first 40 years of the lease and market value for the final 59 years.

"That was determined at the time by the people who negotiated the deal," casino spokesman Gary O'Neill said yesterday.

"It was a derelict piece of land before we got a hold of it."

But Mr O'Neill said Crown had since paid $200 million in licence fees and more than $2.5 billion in taxes.

And he revealed control of the 5ha riverside property would be handed back to the state after the expiry of the 99-year lease.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation report - the findings of a five-year review of the casino complex - also urged Crown chiefs to work harder in identifying gamblers likely to be punting with stolen money.

"The commission expects that Crown Melbourne will review its monitoring systems and implement changes so as to better identify situations where gamblers could be gambling with other people's money," the report says.

The report reveals an average of almost 7000 under-age youths are caught each month trying to enter the public gaming floor.

Another 2000 problem gamblers and troublemakers have been permanently banned.

One blacklisted punter was forced to forfeit more than $48,000 in winnings after being detected in the gaming area.

A total of 207 breaches of table game rules and procedures have been detected by VCGR inspectors since 2003.

But the report said Crown met the requirements of a world-class casino.

"In particular, the range and quality of restaurants far exceeds those available at any other Australian casino, and is on a par with the best of the international casinos.

"The commission is also satisfied that . . . there has generally been public confidence and trust in the credibility, integrity and stability of casino operations due to the manner in which the Melbourne casino has been managed.

"Accordingly, it is in the public interest that the casino licence remains in force."

VCGR inspectors compared Crown across a range of areas with leading casinos in Las Vegas and Macau.

Mr O'Neill said the report was an overwhelming endorsement of Crown.

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Jamie Gold Announced as Keynote Speaker for CAP Euro Barcelona

IRVINE, CA – September 3, 2008 – CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com (CAP), a leading online marketing resource and community website for Internet casino affiliates, has announced that 2006 World Series of Poker Champion Jamie Gold is to be the keynote speaker for CAP Euro: Barcelona, its upcoming international four-day industry conference.

In addition to delivering the conference’s key note speech on Saturday, September 27, Gold will also be running an exclusive poker coaching session for the Affiliate Series of Poker (ASOP) qualifiers and an autograph signing session. The winner of the biggest pot ever in WSOP history, Mr. Gold is also a television producer and talent agent. He will be at Cap Euro: Barcelona for all three days of the conference.

'There's no doubt that the explosion of poker around the world is directly connected to the emergence and phenomenal success of online poker,” Mr. Gold commented. “As well as making the game far more accessible, it has taken poker to entirely new levels, has fuelled worldwide exposure through mainstream TV sponsorship, and along the way provided tutorage of game play and strategy.

“In short, it has turned the back-room game into front-room entertainment and, more importantly, a seemingly recession-proof global industry. And as the one lucky enough to receive the biggest payout in history, it would be remiss of me not to mention the dramatic effect online poker has had on building the number of major tournaments, players and, of course, prize money!

“It's indeed an honor to follow the legend, Doyle Brunson, in being the key note speaker at this year's CAP Euro convention. I look forward to participating in discussions on how to maintain online poker's momentum — and to personally thank all of you for helping make poker the global success it is today.'

“We’re extremely honored and excited for to bring Jamie Gold, an absolute legend in the world of poker, to all our associates at this year’s CAP Euro Barcelona,” added Lou Fabiano, founder and president of CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. “There’s no doubt that his presence will only add to CAP Euro’s status as the premier affiliate marketing conference for the online gaming industry.”

To view a complete list of events and sessions planned for this year’s CAP Euro: Barcelona, please visit http://www.capeuro.com/schedule

About CAP Euro:

One of Internet gaming’s most celebrated events, CAP Euro is a four-day trade show organized by CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com and iGaming Business to bring together the top names in the iGaming affiliate marketing community. The fourth such conference organized by CAP and iGaming Business, CAP Euro: Barcelona is shaping up to be the biggest CAP Euro event yet. So far, more than 50 exhibitors from all corners of the globe have signed up for the conference, with many of the industry’s brightest stars among them. For more information on CAP Euro: Barcelona, please visit www.capeuro.com

About iGaming Business:

iGaming Business is the leading trade publication in the interactive gaming sector. Its comprehensive editorial covers existing and emergent technologies, events and progressions in the iGaming industry. Read by more than 7,000 gaming professionals, iGaming Business is the most widely read publication in the sector.

About CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com:

CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com is the largest and longest-running online gaming affiliate resource, featuring an active community forum, chat rooms, affiliate marketing tools, industry news/articles, scam alerts and a rigorous and distinguished certification process for online casino affiliate programs. For more information, please visit http://www.casinoaffiliateprograms.com

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Virgin Games Affiliates Shortlisted for eGaming Awards 2008

Press Release
London, 3rd September 2008

London, 3rd September 2008 – Virgin Games (www.virgingames.com) has been shortlisted for the affiliate program of the year award at the eGaming Review Industry Awards. The awards, now in their 4th year, are judged by an independent panel consisting of some of the most experienced practitioners across the sector and are established as the premier online gaming event of the year. The winner will be announced at the eGaming Review Industry Award ceremony on Friday 19th September at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

The eGaming Industry Review Awards reward excellence and innovation within the online gaming industry with 18 prestigious awards up for grabs. Up for the affiliate program of the year award for the first time, Virgin Games is one of only four companies to be shortlisted, where nominees were judged on innovation, creativeness, marketing strategy and overall effectiveness.

Pierrick Leveque, Head of Affiliates, Virgin Games, commented:

“We’re delighted to have made it to the final table of the 2008 eGaming Awards. It is an honour to be shortlisted in the “Best Affiliate Program” category alongside Everest, Centrebet and Ladbrokes. More importantly, it is a testimony to the quality and commitment of the affiliates who have decided to partner with us since we launched last year. We work hard to ensure our Affiliate operations match Virgin Games’ reputation as an online gaming operator. In that regard, our presence in this year’s shortlist is very uplifting. We are looking forward to the results of the Awards on the 19th of September.”

Virgin Games was recently voted ‘Best Gaming Affiliate Programme’ at the affiliate marketing industry’s a4uAwards 2008 - the most prestigious affiliate awards ceremony in the UK.

The Virgin Games’ Affiliate program is run by Virgin Games, a wholly owned subsidiary of Virgin.com Ltd. Virgin Games Affiliates has been in operation since 2005, and offers affiliates the reporting and marketing tools they need in order to promote Virgin Games services efficiently and effectively.

For more information on the eGaming Review Industry Awards, visit: http://www.egrmagazine.com/about/awards.html

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

3 Wheel Roulette™, now available at Virgin Casino - Press Release - 30th August 2008

Roulette, the most popular casino game in Europe, just got three times better.

Our 3 Wheel Roulette™ offers you 3 times the excitement and 3 times the chance to win on every spin.

Not only have we tripled the action, we have also supercharged your award potential with our new Colour Up Bonus™. Based on the combination of the final numbers from the 3 wheels, a single Colour Up Bonus bet makes you eligible for a half dozen different awards including 100x and even 1000x pays.

Game specifications

• 3 wheels gives the player 3 times the excitement
• Colour Up Bonus™ bet offers awards of up to 1000x
• Enjoy ultra-realistic ball movement based upon motion capture of actual roulette wheels
• Turbo play mode option to accelerate the pace and excitement
• Faster play when players rebet and spin with a single click

Game Features

• Three wheels spin simultaneously giving the player three outcomes on a single spin
• Exciting anticipation for outer wheel outcomes similar to a Big Six money wheel
• Colour Up Bonus™ offers six payouts from 1x up to 1000x

Top Bonus Award

• Players can win up to 1000x (currency units) by betting on the Colour Up Bonus™. All standard single-zero roulette pays also apply.

Visit the 3 Wheel Roulette™ game page for more information.

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eGaming Review Announces Shortlist for Affiliate Program of the Year

Montreal, QC (PRWEB) August 29, 2008 – Two Income Access (http://www.incomeaccess.com) partners have been been shortlisted for the eGaming Review Awards 2008. Both Centrebet and Ladbrokes are in the running to win Affiliate Program of the Year. This category will recognize the most resourceful and forward-thinking affiliate team in iGaming.

Ladbrokes is just one of the well-respected gaming brands that Income Access works with. Part of the Income Access affiliate network, Ladbrokes has been named to eGaming Review's "Power50", a list of eGaming brands that have shown particular strength and innovation over the last 12 months.

Ladbrokes earned a spot in the eGaming Awards shortlist for three reasons: (1) the effective rollout of their affiliate programme across all products; (2) strong signup rates generated by all their affiliate programmes; and (3) a standout product portfolio.

eGaming Review chose Income Access software client Centrebet for the awards shortlist based on their creative and original use of their Australian heritage. Specifically, excellent use of banners and creatives to push this marketing effort out to affiliates and players were what made Centrebet an easy choice for the awards shortlist. Centrebet also appears on eGaming Review's Power50 for 2008.

"The brands that have been nominated for this year's awards are leading names in the marketplace. Their drive and passion has certainly come through in their respective affiliate programmes, making them major earners for affiliates," says Nicky Senyard, CEO of Income Access. "Affiliates respond to these brands because they have devoted the resources necessary to make their programmes successful."

A leading provider of innovative affiliate marketing solutions, Income Access is sponsoring a category at the eGaming Review Awards for the second year in a row. The awards, recognized as the premier online gaming event of the year, have now grown to comprise 19 categories.

2008's Affiliate Program of the Year award will be given out on September 19th, 2008 at Grosvenor House Hotel in London, England. Further information about the eGaming Review Industry Awards can be obtained by contacting Kate Holden via email at k.holden@pageantmedia.com, or by telephone at +44 (0) 207 269 7588. Tickets for the eGaming Review Industry Awards can be purchased at http://www.egrmagazine.com/item/1976.

About Income Access
Since 2002, Income Access (http://www.incomeaccess.com) has provided comprehensive affiliate marketing solutions for the online gaming industry. With an emphasis on developing proactive relationships, Income Access has built partnerships with some of world’s leading gaming operators, and has amassed a network of more than 17,000 affiliates. Through its three tiers of service, Income Access provides merchants and affiliates the tools they need for success in the Bingo, Casino, Mobile, Poker, Soft Games and Sportsbook markets. Income Access supports brands including Ladbrokes, Jackpotjoy, Lasseters and Unibet.

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Foreign lotteries eye Camelot stake, by Mark Kleinman - The Telegraph - 31st August 2008

A pack of overseas lottery operators and private equity investors have made tentative approaches to acquire shareholdings in Camelot, the National Lottery operator.

Cadbury and Thales, which have appointed advisers to find buyers for their 20 per cent shareholdings in Camelot, have been contacted by a string of potential buyers, according to people close to the situation.

The identity of the suitors was unclear last night, although companies such as Sugal & Damani of India and Intralot of Greece have either bid for or expressed an interest in the National Lottery licence in the past. Camelot declined to comment.

Any buyer of the stakes in Camelot would be vetted to ensure it is a fit and proper owner. An intra-shareholder agreement means existing investors have a veto over new shareholders.

A formal sale process will commence next month with the distribution of an information memorandum produced by NM Rothschild, which is acting for Thales, the French aerospace company.

Of the remaining shareholders - De La Rue, the banknote printer; Fujitsu, the Japanese information technology group and Royal Mail - none is thought to be keen to exercise pre-emption rights to increase its stake in Camelot.

Cadbury has hired Greenhill, the investment bank, while KPMG, the professional services firm, has been engaged by the board of Camelot to advise it on the process.

Sir Richard Branson, who twice lost out to Camelot on bids for the licence, said this weekend that his Virgin Group was unlikely to bid for a stake in Camelot.

"I have always said the Lottery is a licence to print money, but given we wanted to run it on a non-profit basis, making money out of it as a shareholder would not be right," said Branson.

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