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Friday, October 31, 2008

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JackPotCity.com Comes To Casino News Media

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Virgin Games Set To Scoop More Industry Awards

Virgin Games Shortlisted In Five Categories at CAP Awards 09

London, 29th October 2008 – Virgin Games (www.virgingames.com) has been nominated across five categories at the CAP (Casino Affiliate Programs) awards. Nominated and voted for by affiliates and industry peers, the awards set out to reward excellence in the iGaming affiliate market amongst operators, vendors and affiliates themselves.

Virgin Games have been shortlisted in the following categories:

- Best Poker Affiliate Program
- Best Casino Affiliate Program
- Best Overall Affiliate Program
- Best Bingo Affiliate Manager
- Best Overall Affiliate Manager

The winners will be crowned in January 2009 at the second CAP Awards ceremony. These latest nominations top off a great year of industry recognition for the Virgin Games Affiliates program including scooping the award for 'Best Casino and Gaming Affiliate Program' at the A4U Awards (June 2008) and a shortlist nomination for 'Best Gaming Affiliate Program' at the Egaming Awards (September 2008).

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

"After such a rewarding year we are quite simply ecstatic to be up for another 5 affiliate Awards from the largest online gaming affiliate community on the internet. For our work to be recognised by CAP Members is an honor for Virgin Games, a heartwarming pat on the back for our affiliate team and a testimony to the quality and commitment of the affiliate partners who decided to team up with us this year. Competition in the online gaming marketplace can be fierce, and this makes our nominations all the sweeter. We wish good luck to all other nominees, and look forward to the Awards dinner next January."

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 CAP Awards please visit http://www.capawards.com

About Virgin Games
Virgin Games (www.virgingames.com), a subsidiary of Virgin.com Ltd, launched in June 2004 and has quickly established itself as one of the leading gaming websites in the U.K. Virgin Games comprises four distinct offerings:

• Virgin Casino, part of the Wagerworks network, brings consumers classic casino offerings like blackjack and roulette, as well as great feature slots like Monopoly, Cluedo, Elvis Multi-strike and the highly popular Mega-jackpots progressive games, with a seeding value of £1,500,000
• Virgin Poker, part of the Boss Media network, offers a huge array of games and content for beginners through to experienced pros – as well as the most generous loyalty scheme in the industry
• Virgin Bingo, part of the St Minver network, offers cash prizes worth thousands of pounds in the progressive jackpots, as well as featuring regular celebrity guests in the Virgin chatroom

For further information please contact:

Melissa Robinson / Lucinda Pride
Nelson Bostock Communications
Tel. 020 7792 7436 / 020 7792 7471
Email: melissa.robinson@nelsonbostock.com / lucinda.pride@nelsonbostock.com

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

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Crown sees solid growth in 2009 - Business Spectator

Casino operator Crown Ltd is forecasting solid growth in fiscal 2009 despite a challenging market, but says the next 12 to 18 month will be "particularly challenging, especially overseas."

Crown reported a four per cent rise in revenue from table games and gaming machines for the first quarter of fiscal 2008, compared to the same period last year.

While particular areas of the business are showing signs of softness, Crown expects solid growth in 2008/2009, despite anticipating a more difficult trading environment, chief executive officer Rowen Craigie said at the annual general meeting.

"While a few customer segments are exhibiting some signs of softness (e.g. low end gaming machines, corporate events and corporate hotel bookings), these impacts have been offset by solid growth in other customer segments (e.g. table games, high end slots, leisure hotel bookings and private functions)," Mr Craigie said.

"We expect solid growth in 2008/9 despite the anticipation of a more difficult trading environment and the disruption from the casino refurbishment programs," he said.

Chairman James Packer told shareholders that the next 12 to 18 months would be particularly challenging, especially overseas.

"While on a 12 to 18 month view it will be challenging particularly in Las Vegas, on a two to three year view we see ourselves as having some of the best operating assets in the industry and importantly one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry. Hence, we are confident about our long term prospects beyond the current challenging operating environment," Mr Packer said.

Mr Craigie said recent trading at Crown's Australian casinos continued to be solid and the company was confident a casinos industry in Macau was sustainable.

"Recent trading at our Australian casinos, Crown Melbourne and Burswood, continues to be solid," Mr Craigie said.

Combined revenue from table games and gaming machines was up four per cent in the period from July 1 to October 21, against the same period in fiscal 2008.

Crown's Australian casinos earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 8.2 per cent in 2007/08.

Crown delivered a normalised net profit after tax of $370.1 million and its total dividend for the year was 54 cents per share.

Crown shares closed down 2.78 per cent to end at $6.30 on Tuesday.

(Credit: Business Spectator)

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Crown bets on medium term - NineMSN - 28th October 2008

Crown Limited (CWN) said its operating performance in Australian casinos over the first half of 2009 had been solid. The company said despite tough conditions it was confident of its long-term prospects.

At the company's AGM, CEO Rowen Craigie said combined revenue from table games, excluding VIP commission program play, and gaming machines from 1 July to 21 October 2008 was up 4% on the prior corresponding period last year.

"Year-on-year growth in international VIP commission program play has been very strong over the same period," he said.

Mr Craigie admitted that a few customer segments were exhibiting some signs of softness, including low end gaming machines, corporate events and corporate hotel bookings.

However, he said the impact had been offset by solid growth in other customer segments such as table games, high-end slots, leisure hotel bookings and private functions.

"Following the 8.2% growth in EBITDA at Crown's Australian casinos in 2007/8, we expect solid growth in 2008/9 despite the anticipation of a more difficult trading environment and the disruption from the casino refurbishment programs," Mr Craigie said.

He added that Crown Melbourne had shown solid and consistent EBITDA growth over the past decade and had shown resilience in difficult times in the past.

"We are confident that over the medium term this pleasing growth trend will continue," Mr Craigie said.

Executive chairman James Packer said the 12 to 18 month view was challenging particularly in Las Vegas.

"While these are certainly tough times in financial markets and for the global economies generally, we mustn't forget that these are the times when if you take a medium term view on your investment decisions you can make good returns," he said.

"On a two to three year view we see ourselves as having some of the best operating assets in the industry and importantly one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry."

Mr Packer said Crown management's focus over the coming year would be on ensuring that its Australian properties continued to deliver consistent earnings growth, on managing the major capital expenditure programs at those properties and on optimising the performance of its international businesses.

Mr Packer said in Macau, Crown Macau was trading well, completing its first full year of operation.

"Melco Crown Entertainment's next development, City of Dreams, is on track to open in the first half of 2009," he said.

"We believe this will be an exciting and attractive property."

However, Mr Craigie admitted that restrictions from the Chinese government on some of its citizen's being able to obtain visas to travel to Macau had an impact in September, with year-on-year gaming revenue growth for the month declining by about 3%.

"However over the medium term, we have confidence that the Chinese and Macau governments will manage the visitor flow and the approval of new gambling product in Macau to ensure an ongoing sustainable casino and tourism industry in Macau with balanced growth rates," he said.

Meanwhile, in the US, the company said Cannery had continued to improve its operating performance in Pittsburgh with revenue in the quarter to 30 September 2008 up 14% on the same quarter last year, despite the US economic downturn.

In Las Vegas, Mr Craigie said Cannery's casinos operated in the "locals" market.

"These properties are managing to capture customer share, although they are doing so in a declining market," he said.

"While the recent decline in the Las Vegas market is disappointing, Las Vegas locals casinos have a long term growth profile which has always overcome past negative impacts like the downturn following 9/11."

At 1525 AEDT, Crown was trading down 31c at $6.17.

Credit: NineMSN)

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Las Vegas most challenging for Crown: James Packer, by Lyndal McFarland - The Australian - 28th October 2008

Casinos group Crown expects the coming 12-18 months to be "challenging", chairman James Packer said today.

Las Vegas would pose the biggest challenge to Crown, Mr Packer said, but the group remained confident that its Australian businesses would continue to perform well this year.

Mr Packer told shareholders at Crown’s annual general meeting in Melbourne that the company was well positioned on a 2-3 year view.

Chief executive Rowen Craigie said recent trading continued to be solid at the group's Australian casinos, Crown and Burswood.

Combined revenue from table games and gaming machines had risen 4 per cent from July 1 to October 21, as Crown recorded “very strong” growth in the international VIP commission program, Mr Craigie said.

While a few segments were showing signs of softness, such as low-end gaming machines, corporate events and corporate hotel bookings, these effects had been offset by solid growth in table games, high-end slots, leisure-hotel bookings and private functions.

The Cannery casinos portfolio in North America, which Crown had agreed to buy, saw a decline in the Las Vegas sector, where it caters to “locals”.

Revenue at its Meadows Casino in Pittsburgh, however, had risen 14 per cent in the September quarter.

(Credit: The Australian)

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Casino operator Crown loses $6bn, by Michael Sainsbury - The Australian - 29th October 2008

There are tough times ahead for the casino sector, where former media mogul James Packer now has the bulk of his investments.

Crown Ltd has lost $6 billion in value since last December and problems with new Chinese government restrictions on visitors to Macau.

While there have been solid results so far this year for Crown's Australian operations, the group's offshore expansion plans appear less certain of delivering much growth.

But analysts saw the results as better than rival Tabcorp's and a solid foundation for the next year.

Crown chief executive Rowen Craigie said yesterday at the group's annual shareholder meeting -- from which media were barred -- that there would be "some dislocation" over the next 18 months. "Crown's operations are diversified and located across different markets. This diversification assists in the mitigation of some of the risks associated with economic downturns in particular regions," he said.

"While some of the markets in which those businesses are located may see some dislocation in the next 12 to 18 months, taking a two to three year view we believe they are likely to return to steady growth trends."

But Crown's Australian operations continue to be its best business.

"Recent trading at our Australian casinos, Crown Melbourne and Burswood, continues to be solid. Combined revenue from table games (excluding VIP commission program play) and gaming machines from July 1 to October 21, 2008, is up 4 per cent on the previous corresponding period last year," Mr Craigie said.

"Year-on-year growth in international VIP commission program play has been very strong over the same period."

But he added there had been some "softness" in a few areas such as low-end slots, corporate functions and hotel bookings.

Crown's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation grew by 8.2 per cent in 2007-08 and the group said it expected solid EBITDA growth this financial year despite expecting a more difficult trading environment and ongoing renovations.

"For 2008-09, we forecast 5.3 per cent EBITDA growth on 4 per cent revenue growth for the two domestic casinos," said Citi analyst Jenny Owen.

Mr Craigie noted new measures by the Chinese Government to slow down growth in Macau, where Crown was building its second casino, due to open next year. "The Chinese Government has also been making changes which impose some restrictions on the ability of some Chinese citizens to obtain visas to travel to Macau," Mr Craigie said. "These changes are targeted at moderating the extraordinary growth in Chinese visitor numbers. We have seen the impacts of the latest restrictions in September with year-on-year gaming revenue growth for the month declining by about 3 per cent." Still, the news and continuing stock market slump sent Crown shares continuing their downward spiral, off 18c to close at $6.30. The stock has fallen from $14.27 since it was split from Mr Packer's media investment group Consolidated Media Holdings last December, wiping about $6 billion in value off the group.

While a raft of US-based casino stocks have fallen, many analysts believe Crown is undervalued. "Given weakness among peers, Crown were questioned on acquisition intentions," said Ms Owen, who had a price target of $11.

"Crown highlighted strength of their balance sheet relative to peers but the most important projects are the completion of domestic casino upgrades, and integration of Cannery."

The comments on the gaming business came only a day after Mr Packer cut ties with his family's 90-year-old media empire.

(Credit: The Australian)

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Packer not keen to do a Kerry, by Miriam Steffens - The Sydney Morning Herald - 29th October 2008

James Packer has hosed down speculation that he may emulate his late father Kerry and buy back the family's media empire at a bargain price, saying times have moved on.

He urged shareholders yesterday to place a long-term bet on his casinos despite tougher market conditions over the next year, particularly in Las Vegas.

While his exit from PBL Media marked "an emotional day for a whole series of reasons", Mr Packer said, his father's coup to buy out Alan Bond in the late 1980s had happened at a time when traditional media faced fewer challenges than today.

"Whilst I would never say never, I think it is a different world where free-to-air television and magazines occupy a different place."

Addressing shareholders at the Consolidated Media Holdings and Crown annual meetings in Melbourne a day after he cut his family's ties with the Nine Network and ACP Magazines, Mr Packer seemed eager to move on. He said he was "confident" about Crown's casino expansion, despite a share price that has halved this year on concerns about its prospects in a global downturn.

His top lieutenant, John Alexander, praised the prospects of pay TV. With CMH's remaining stakes in Foxtel and Fox Sports, "the story and growth of pay TV in Australia is essentially the story of CMH," he said, adding he could make "little useful commentary" on the traditional media businesses of PBL Media.

But the meetings were marred by controversy over the re-election of Mr Alexander, who could have been voted off Crown's board without Mr Packer's votes.

Excluding Mr Packer's support, only 49.7 per cent of votes were cast in favour of Mr Alexander, who pocketed $19 million from the Packer empire last year.

Mr Packer defended his deputy, saying Mr Alexander had received a "lot of unfair publicity" over problems at PBL Media.

The protest vote came after the corporate governance adviser Risk Metrics recommended fund managers apply a veto because there were too many "insiders" of the Packer camp on the board.

Shareholder questions were also asked about the need for a "big gorilla board" of 12 directors at a shell company like CMH. Mr Alexander said the board would start reviewing its size "probably by the end of the year".

Asked about the collapsed $3.3 billion buyout of CMH by Lachlan Murdoch this year, Mr Alexander said the board had never tried to change the price. "They couldn't secure full funding," he said, without explaining why Mr Packer wanted to sell a bigger stake than initially advised, which scuttled the deal.

CMH shares closed 6c up at $2.14 yesterday, less than half the value of Mr Murdoch's $4.80 offer. Shares of Crown closed at $6.30.

The iconic Las Vegas strip is on track for its biggest annual fall since the Nevada Gaming Control Board started compiling figures in the mid 1980s.

Admitting the coming months would be "challenging, particularly in Las Vegas", Mr Packer said the next year would centre on refurbishing Crown Melbourne and Burswood, bedding down the acquisition of the Cannery Casino Resorts in North Las Vegas and opening the City of Dreams, its second casino in Macau.

(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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The son sets on Kerry's media empire, by Miriam Steffens - The Sydney Morning Herald - 28th October 2008

A short, five-paragraph statement has ended the most powerful dynasty in Australian television. In it, James Packer cuts the 52-year ties to his late father Kerry's media empire and leaves the once all-powerful Nine Network and ACP Magazines in the hands of financial engineers.

James, blooded in his father's empire from an early age, severed the final link of family control over PBL Media yesterday when he announced he and lieutenants John Alexander, Chris Anderson and Martin Dalgleish had resigned from the board of the heavily indebted venture that runs the Packer media assets.

In 1956 James's grandfather, Sir Frank, aired the country's first television broadcast and began an era of dominance in Australian television that would survive until last year when Kerry Stokes's Seven Network snatched the ratings crown. The Packer ties to ACP go back even longer. An early milestone was the 1933 launch of the Australian Women's Weekly.

A Packer aide said: "For him, it was a very emotional decision. It's a big deal breaking away from his family's tradition and not to be on the board." But the aide noted: "He walked out of there with $5.5 billion in his pocket."

It wasn't a sudden exit but one played out in stages since Kerry's death in December 2005. Rather than inherit his father's passion for media, James's interests lay elsewhere. As one former Nine executive lamented yesterday: "I don't think Kerry Packer would have allowed this situation to happen. Kerry actually liked media and James likes gambling, that's the difference."

With the ink barely dry on the Federal Government's media law changes removing barriers to foreign ownership in October 2006, James moved swiftly to hive off half of PBL Media to the private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific. He pocketed $4.6 billion in cash as he sought to pursue his ambition to build an empire of his own with casinos in Australia, Macau and the US. The second stage came last year, when he sold another 25 per cent of the business to CVC for $525 million.

Packer still owns 25 per cent in PBL Media, which can now be diluted over time. But until now, he and his executives had remained on the PBL Media board, and retained an important say in the business's direction.

For Packer, selling most of PBL Media at the top of the private equity boom might be the deal of his life, akin to his father selling Nine for $1 billion in 1987.

"James Packer did as good as his dad in this," said Roger Colman, a media analyst from CCZ Statton Equities. "He sold it to a second Alan Bond, which is the CVC people."

Selling high provided the financial windfall to push his expansion in the $343 billion global gaming market. Only this time, few expect he will buy back the media company.

The resignation leaves Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings with a half stake in Fox Sports, 25 per cent of the pay TV operator Foxtel and a 27 per cent stake in the job advertising site Seek. But for the first time, a Packer no longer calls the shots at Nine, which is struggling in the ratings and under a mountain of debt.

Private equity managers more experienced in financial engineering than boosting television ratings or magazine sales now face an uphill battle to turn around the businesses and assure their bankers they can meet their debt obligations.

The most pressing issue is rooted in the structure of Packer's private equity deal. It leaves CVC with a media company reeling under a debt load of $4.2 billion. Earning just $463 million in pre-tax earnings last year, the business struggled to pay the interest on that debt amid an advertising recession.

There are suggestions that earnings from the media assets may not be able to pay back interest payments on the debt by the end of the year.

Packer decided to pull the plug on the weekend. Analysts said it may have been made to avoid any repeat of the One.Tel disaster, when he was on the board of the collapsing telecommunications company with Lachlan Murdoch.

Packer's exit from PBL Media comes six months after a collapsed $3.2 billion buy-out of Consolidated Media Holdings with Murdoch, which Packer scuttled by refusing to budge on price. Since then, CMH shares have more than halved in value.

Given their media experience, CMH directors could see they were possibly "looking at a gradual collapse with a high-cost debt market", Mr Colman said. Resigning from PBL Media, "the directors have walked away from personal liabilities".

Not that Packer is carefree. He's fallen from the top of the Rich 200 List as share price falls in CMH and his gaming arm, Crown, eroded his wealth, last estimated at $5.2 billion in May. He has scrapped a plan to build a casino resort with the tallest tower in Las Vegas, and there are questions about Macau.

(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Virgin Games: Experience the excitement of Vegas with the new Virgin Casino game, Vegas Blackjack with 20+ Bonus

28th October 2008

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Casino operator Crown says trading 'solid' - The Australian - 28th October 2008

Casino operator Crown says recent trading at its Australian casinos continues to be solid and is confident a casino industry in Macau is sustainable.

"Recent trading at our Australian casinos, Crown Melbourne and Burswood, continues to be solid," chief executive Rowen Craigie told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting.

Combined revenue from table games and gaming machines was up 4 per cent in the period from July 1 to October 21, against the same period in fiscal 2008.

"Year-on-year growth in international VIP commission program play has been very strong over the same period," Mr Craigie said.

He said there had been some softness in takings for low end gaming machines, corporate events and corporate hotel bookings.

But this had been offset by solid growth in other segments, such as table games, high end slots, leisure hotel bookings and private functions.

Crown's Australian casinos earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 8.2 per cent in 2007/08.

"We expect solid growth in 2008/9, despite the anticipation of a more difficult trading environment and the disruption from the casino refurbishment programs," Mr Craigie said.

(Credit: The Australian)

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Packer's gamble finally takes his dynasty off the air, by Doug Conway - The Canberra Times - 28th October 2008

Any seismological activity in the Hunter Valley this week should be dismissed as Kerry Packer turning in his grave.

The Big Feller lived and breathed Channel Nine.

His father bought it, and his son has sold it.

It was Kerry, in the three decades in between, who made it what it was.

Packer and Nine were synonymous from the earliest days of television, but not any more after James Packer ended the family's half-century association with the network.

By pulling the plug on PBL media, James Packer has also ended a media dynasty stretching back to his great grandfather, Robert Clyde Packer, a newspaperman involved in founding Smith's Weekly in 1919 and the Daily Guardian in 1929.

His son, Sir Frank Packer, another newspaper buccaneer, established The Australian Women's Weekly and later The Daily Telegraph before setting up TCN-9, Australia's first TV station, which began transmitting in 1956. His son, Kerry Packer, took over the empire on Sir Frank's death in 1974.

Nine was a jewel in the crown of the $7billion empire Kerry bequeathed to James on his death in 2005.

But James was quick to sell off media assets to make a business out of what, for his father, had been a pleasure gambling.

Kerry Packer had turned Nine into Australia's top-rating network as he turned himself into the nation's richest man. Nine was The One, and so was he.

Kerry Packer himself once sold Nine, in 1987, but only because a swaggering Alan Bond made him an offer simply too good to refuse $1.05billion.

Three years later he bought his own network back from a near-bankrupt Bond for less than one-third of what he had sold it for.

Packer pocketed over $700million and remarked, with an endearing mixture of elation and sadness, ''You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime.''

Packer had Bond's cheque framed and hung it on the toilet wall at his Sydney office.

It was Nine, and specifically its wish to televise cricket, that turned Kerry Packer into an international name.

Frustrated by officialdom, Packer decided to provide his own bat and ball, sign up 50 of the world's best players and televise his own matches on his own network.

His World Series Cricket revolutionised the game in the 1970s, and the way Nine covered it revolutionised sport on the box.

Many of today's cricket millionaires have Kerry Packer to thank.

Coloured clothing and day-night matches were Packer innovations: they made one-day cricket the game it is, leading to its even shorter and richer version of Twenty20.

When Packer died, Cricket Australia ranked him alongside Sir Donald Bradman as ''one of the giants who have influenced the shape of Australian cricket''.

None of it would have happened without television.

Channel Nine formed the centrepiece of the Packer dynasty, but the tool could also be a toy.

Television folklore recounts how Sir Frank Packer once regaled guests at a soiree by phoning his station and ordering executives to interrupt programming and re-run footage of one of his horses winning earlier that day at Randwick.

When Kerry made a similar hands-on intervention, few were left laughing.

He prided himself on knowing what viewers wanted to watch, and once rang up Sydney's TCN-9 to order Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos, hosted by Doug Mulray, off the air. After inheriting the family business empire, James Packer took less than a year to announce an audacious $4.5billion deal to sell PBL media assets, including half the the Nine network and its ACP magazine stable.

It marked a shift in emphasis from the ''old media'' of TV and print to the new fields of internet and gaming. James Packer's net worth is now less than half what it was a year ago. AAP

(Credit: The Canberra Times)

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Packer's Crown wins in downturn, by Michael Sainsbury - The Australian - 28th October 2008

James Packer's gaming group Crown Limited is expected to unveil good trading results for its Australian casinos Crown and Burswood at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Melbourne today.

But Mr Packer's push to create a global gaming empire is continuing to run into the twin headwinds of the global financial crisis and slowdown of growth in China.

The gaming group's share price has been in steady decline -- falling from $14.27 in December last year to close at $6.48 yesterday, down 18c for the day.

A report released last week by investment bank Citi contained the results of a survey of gambling spending in regulated casino markets in the US. The results showed a rise in gambling spending over the past 12 months. In the 12 months to the end of August, total measurable gambling spending grew 2.3 per cent, compared with 1.4 per cent for the 12 months ended December last year.

Citi analyst Jenny Owen describes this as "contrary to the accepted wisdom" but another view says gambling is recession-proof and that people might even bet more during gloomy times.

But there has been a slowdown in Asia's emerging gambling hub, Macau.

Citing an article published by Lusa News Agency, Citi said Macau gaming revenue declined 3.2 per cent year-on-year to $863 million in September.

(Credit: The Australian)

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Packer Turns Back On PBL Media, by Tina Wang - Forbes - 27th October 2008

PBL Media looks like Australian billionaire James Packer's unwanted child.

His Consolidated Media has refused to further prop up the heavily indebted PBL, spun off from the media and casino empire Packer inherited from his father. The Australian tycoon, who ranks No. 3 on Forbes' list of Australia's richest people, also resigned abruptly from PBL Media's board.

For Packer, who has been eager to pursue casino ventures around the world, it seems to be a final turning away from the media empire established by his family 70 years ago.

Consolidated Media said in a statement Monday to the Australia Securities Exchange that it "does not intend to contribute any further funding to PBL Media," and that Packer and Consolidated Media executive John Alexander had resigned from PBL Media's board.

Consolidated Media reportedly rejected a request by private-equity partner CVC, which owns 75% of PBL Media, to inject 75 million Australian dollars ($46.7 million) into the company, which is struggling to pay down debt amid an advertising slump and a rise in borrowing costs due to the global credit crunch.

PBL Media owns the Nine Network, Australia's second-ranked TV broadcaster, and ACP Magazines, the country's biggest magazine group.

With a recapitilization of PBL Media necessary, Consolidated Media's 25% stake stands to be severely diluted. CVC may plow 300 million Australian dollars ($185.9 million) into PBL Media, which would lower Consolidated Media's stake to 10%, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review.

PBL Media had a heavy debt burden from its birth, as Packer vigorously shook cash out of media assets to plow into gambling ventures worldwide. Packer inherited a media and gambling empire after his father Kerry's 2005 death. His company, PBL, sold off 4.6 billion Australian dollars ($4.5 billion) worth of media assets in 2006 to PBL Media, a 50-50 joint venture with CVC that was completely financed by debt assigned to itself, rather than taken on by PBL or CVC. PBL then sold off another 25% stake to CVC for 525 million Australian dollars ($515 million) in 2007. PBL's 25% stake was then transferred to Consolidated Media, after Packer split PBL into separate media and casino businesses, Consolidated Media and Crown (See " Billionaire Packer Carves Up His Media Empire").

PBL Media holds debt of 4.2 billion Australian dollars ($2.6 billion), on which it has to pay 450 million Australian dollars ($278.9 million) a year in interest.

After PBL's media-gambling split, Packer bought three U.S. casinos for $1.75 billion in 2007 (See " Crown Bets $1.8B On Las Vegas's Cannery Casino"), and opened a casino in Macau, which has overtaken Las Vegas as the world's biggest gambling center by turnover (See " Packer May Have Shaky First Hand In Macau").

Consolidated Media will hold its annual meeting in Melbourne on Tuesday. In midafternoon trading Monday in Sydney, the company's shares were up 12 Australian cents, or 5.6%, to 2.14 Australian dollars ($1.33).

(Credit: Forbes)

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Kentucky judge upholds seizure order of 141 online gambling domains

Judge Thomas Wingate in Kentucky has upheld the seizure order of 141 online gambling sites, and he's given them 30 days to implement measures that would block Kentucky residents from accessing them.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

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Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Wynn May Signal `Ugly' 2009 for Casinos, by Beth Jinks - Bloomberg - 27th October 2008

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Mirage, the three largest U.S. casino companies, may signal an ``ugly'' year ahead as gamblers curb casino trips and betting from Las Vegas to Macau.

Eight straight months of declining gambling revenue on the Las Vegas Strip and tightened visa limits by authorities in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, eroded third-quarter profits, said Dennis Forst, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets in El Segundo, California.

``It's ugly,'' Forst said in an interview. ``Investor expectation is for nothing good.''

Investors will scrutinize earnings forecasts to judge whether Sands and MGM Mirage can generate enough cash to pay for expansion projects and cover loans amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Shares of Wynn, controlled by billionaire Steve Wynn, have dropped 67 percent this year. Sands shares plunged 23 percent on Oct. 24, bringing its year-to-date decline to 94 percent and forcing it to relinquish its ranking as the biggest U.S. casino company by market value to Wynn.

No. 2 MGM Mirage, majority owned by Kirk Kerkorian, has fallen 87 percent. Penn has shed 79 percent, while Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. has lost 72 percent.

Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based based Penn National Gaming Inc. kicks off the biggest casinos' earnings reports today. MGM reports Oct. 29, and Wynn announces the next day. Las Vegas Sands hasn't said when it will release its results.

Trailing Estimates

Preliminary third-quarter profit released earlier this month by Penn and Wynn trailed company and analysts' estimates.

``Mid-September was gloom and doom; you could see a dramatic retrenchment in consumer gambling behavior,'' said Joel Simkins, an analyst at Macquarie Securities USA Inc. in New York. ``You could pretty much shoot a cannon through most casinos, that's how empty they were.''

Gambling revenue on the Las Vegas Strip has slipped 6.7 percent this year, ``on track'' for its biggest annual decline since data started being compiled in the mid-1980s, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said.

``This fourth quarter looks like it's going to be very difficult,'' said Frank Streshley, a senior analyst at the board. ``Spending is just way down from where it was a year ago or even two years ago.''

Atlantic City gambling revenue fell 15 percent in September, the biggest monthly decline since casinos first opened there in 1978. Winnings by the 11 casinos in the second- biggest U.S. gambling center have fallen 6.3 percent this year.

Gulf Coast

September hurricanes may have hurt earnings at companies with Gulf Coast casinos, including Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., Boyd Gaming Corp., Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. and Penn, analysts say.

Las Vegas faces a ``tough 2009'' as businesses scale back the conventions that usually fill 40 percent of rooms on the Strip, Simkins said. International tourists who once spent freely in Vegas because of the cheaper dollar may stay away as the currency regains strength, he said.

Spokesmen for Las Vegas Sands and MGM declined to comment before the earnings, and a Wynn spokeswoman didn't return an e- mail.

Sands, Wynn, and Melco Crown are spending billions to add resorts in Macau, a former Portuguese colony. Tougher visa limits have progressively reduced the number of visitors, causing casino revenue to fall for a second straight quarter in the three months that ended Sept. 30.

Capital at Sands

Sands, the owner of the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, said Oct. 24 it hired an investment bank to raise capital with the help of billionaire Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson.

The Las Vegas-based company may say profit excluding some items fell to 10 cents a share from 12 cents a year earlier, based on the average estimate of 18 analysts.

MGM Mirage, with 10 Strip casino resorts, may report this week that third-quarter adjusted earnings fell to 34 cents a share as revenue declined, according to the average estimate of 22 analysts.

Wynn, which is building resorts called ``Encore'' to add to its namesake Strip and Macau properties, reported Oct. 13 a preliminary operating loss of as much as $2 million from its Vegas casino.

Melco Crown, a Nasdaq-listed Macau venture between Australian billionaire James Packer and casino magnate Stanley Ho's son Lawrence, may report next month that that it broke even, four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimate. The company posted a loss a year earlier, before its Crown Macau casino opened in May.

Penn Preview

Penn, the owner of 19 casinos and racetracks, said Oct. 2 that adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization would be 18 percent lower in the third quarter than it had forecast.

Penn has more cash than most of its rivals, bolstered by about $1.48 billion in new funds from an abandoned takeover by Fortress Investment Group LLC and Centerbridge Partners LP, who scrapped their $6.1 billion buyout plan in July.

``There's almost nothing that's attractive in gaming right now, even at the prices they're trading at,'' said Forst. He recommends buying Penn because it can ``take advantage of distressed sales.'' He has ``hold'' ratings on MGM and Sands and recommends selling Wynn.

(Credit: Bloomberg)

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Online Casino Launches Multiplayer Blackjack

27th October 2008

Blackjack is the most popular card game in the world, so it's easy to see that JackpotCity's new multiplayer blackjack tournaments will be a big hit. It offers players a great game, nice player interaction and caters to all skill levels.

The tournaments consist of tables with 2, 4, or 6 decks and can ‘seat' up to 7 players and the dealer. They are part of a global online network with daily freerolls and entry fees starting from as little as $1. Prize money is guaranteed by JackpotCity.com for every tournament.

JackpotCity.com is a member of Belle Rock Entertainment and offers over 300 casino, blackjack, slot and multiplayer tournaments. They offer a great ‘500 free' sign-up bonus.

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GameAccount.com Affiliate Program Unveils New Commission Structure

MONTREAL (PR WEB), Oct. 22, 2008 – GameAccount.com has unveiled a new promotional commission structure for its affiliate program (http://www.redhotpartners.com/). Powered by the Income Access affiliate marketing software (http://incomeaccess.com/affiliate_software_solutions.asp), GameAccount.com affiliates already enjoy in-depth tracking reports. The new commission structure is expected to increase the earning potential of GameAccount.com affiliates.

The new commission structure offers affiliates the potential to earn a 50% rev share until the end of November. Affiliates will be able to earn these commissions by promoting any of their suite products which include games like Multiplayer Blackjack, Backgammon, Domino Duel, and Gin Rummy. Affiliates can earn 40% on $0-10,000 of revenue they refer, 45% on $10,001-25,000 of revenue, and 50%on all revenues they generate above $25,000.

GameAccount.com will also be offering affiliates CPA commissions on an ongoing basis. For referring 1-10 players, affiliates will earn $50. They will also earn $60 for referring 11-20 players, and $70 for referring 21-30 players. Affiliates that refer 31 players or more will earn an $80 commission.

"We wanted to offer something special to our affiliate partners as part of the roll-out of our new head-to-head games,” said Per Petersen, Marketing Director at GameAccount.com. “These new games are proving popular with old and new customers alike and coupled with the new commission structure, our affiliates have quite the opportunity.”

The GameAccount.com affiliate program is powered by the Income Access affiliate marketing software. Providing in-depth tracking reports, this software gives affiliates insight on their marketing campaigns. The Income Access software also features a variety of marketing tool that affiliates can use to optimize their marketing efforts.

"This new commission structure is quite the opportunity for affiliate marketers,” said Nicky Senyard, CEO of Income Access. “Coupled with the reporting and tools of our software, GameAccount.com affiliates are in a particularly advantageous position at the moment.”

Those interested in applying to the GameAccount.com affiliate program should visit: http://www.redhotpartners.com/.

About GameAccount
Established in the United Kingdom in April 2001, GameAccount Global Limited ("GameAccount") operates a network of websites (“the GameAccount Network”) dedicated to person-to-person games of skill for real money. Every week the equivalent of millions of dollars are won by players competing within the GameAccount Network from over 130 countries worldwide.

About Income Access
A provider of affiliate marketing solutions, since 2002, Income Access has partnered with over 60 operators across all gaming verticals. Offering three types of services, Income Access offers affiliate marketing solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of their various partners: 1) an affiliate network of over 17,000 gaming affiliates, 2) affiliate management services, and 3) white label affiliate marketing software. Working with the most trusted names in online gaming, Income Access’ partners include Bingo.com, Jackpot Joy, Unibet, and Centerbet.

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James Packer quits Consolidated Media's PBL unit, by Lyndal McFarland - The Australian - 27th October 2008

Consolidated Media today said that billionaire James Packer had stepped down from the board of its PBL Media unit, ending the Packer family's long association with the media assets.

A statement by Consolidated Media, which owns 25 per cent of PBL Media, said that chairman John Alexander would also stand down from the board of the media unit, which owns free-to-air TV operation Nine Network and ACP Magazines.

Both moves take immediate effect and mean that Consolidated Media will not have any board representation at PBL Media.

Consolidated Media shares had lost 2.48 per cent to $1.97 late this morning, as the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index shed 1.14 per cent.

The board moves came after the group said it would not contribute any further funding into PBL Media, 75 per cent of which is owned by private equity group CVC Asia Pacific.

PBL Media was formed last year after CVC Asia Pacific agreed to take an initial 50 per cent stake in the unit, through a $4.6 billion deal. CVC later increased its stake to a holding of 75 per cent.

Since the death of Kerry Packer in 2005, James Packer has increased his focus on the family's casino business, Crown, with a focus on Macau.

Crown is also building its presence in North America, where it owns the Canneries chain of casinos in Las Vegas.

Analysts have said that, while the late Kerry Packer had a soft spot for the group's media operations, James Packer holds no such sentimentality. Kerry Packer inherited the operations from his father, Frank.

James Packer’s private Consolidated Press Holdings vehicle owns 38.4 per cent of Consolidated Media.

He will face Consolidated Media shareholders at the group's annual general meeting in Melbourne tomorrow, the same day as Crown’s scheduled AGM.

Consolidated Media said that, following the move, it will no longer equity-account for PBL Media. Many analysts already value the debt-laden media business at zero.

Mr Alexander said in August that PBL Media was carrying $4.2 billion of debt, with an estimated annual debt bill of $450 million.

PBL Media posted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $463 million for the 2008 financial year.

The news comes about 10 months after Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, failed in a $3.3 billion bid to privatise Consolidated Media, which would have involved James Packer.

The indicative bid was pitched at $4.80 a share.

Along with concerns about debt levels, it has been a tough couple of years for PBL Media's businesses. The Nine Network has lost the No 1 ratings mantle to rival Seven Network, and, along with the rest of the industry, faces slowing advertising growth as economic conditions deteriorate.

PBL Media's management has also implemented a number of cost-cutting measures.

Dow Jones Newswires

(Credit: The Australian)

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Problem gamblers banned, pay quarantined under dob-in plan, by Joe Hildebrand - The Daily Telegraph - 22nd October 2008

Gambling addicts' families can have their loved ones banned from pokie venues, forced to attend counselling and have their pay quarantined under a radical plan.

The Clubs Australia proposal has been put to the Federal Government and could prompt hundreds of interventions, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph reports.

It would force clubs and gambling agencies such as Centrebet or the TAB to black ban someone or require them to receive counselling if their family or friends could make a case for it.

Should problem gamblers be banned from pokie venues? Have your say.


Clubs Australia president Peter Newell will launch a push for the measure as part of a six-point plan to be outlined at the National Press Club today.

It is modelled on a program in South Australia in which a partner, child, parent or other member of a gambler's family - or, in special cases, a friend or non-family member - can complain to the Independent Gambling Authority.

The authority then has the power to make orders such as barring access to gaming outlets, requiring the person to seek counselling, or even changing the way their wages are paid.

This has resulted in about 150 complaints in SA since the measures were introduced in 2004.

About one in 10 progressed to formal action.

Mr Newell said the move would help problem gamblers get help faster.

"Recognising a problem gambler and helping them is much more difficult than spotting someone who has had too much to drink. In fact, usually there is absolutely no change in the behaviour of a problem gambler and their addiction can remain a secret," he said.

"Where their behaviour is detectable is sometimes at home. By allowing a family member to share their concern with a gambling venue, the process of determining if a problem exists can be commenced virtually immediately.

"I don't pretend such a system would work every time. There is the possibility of a family member over-reacting or misreading someone's behaviour and level of gambling.

"But clubs have long taken the view that it is better to suffer the occasional difficult conversation with a responsible gambler or their family than to sit on the sidelines and do nothing as gambling takes over someone's life."

This week the Federal Government launched a Productivity Commission inquiry into problem gambling, which is expected to consider this option.

Other measures in the six-point plan include a ban on credit betting and tighter regulation of online gambling.

Read about the dob-in-a-gambler plan.


(Credit: News Limited)


Greg Tingle comment

Involving family and loved ones could potentially make things worse. We all have to take personal responsibility for our own actions. This is starting to take shape into a new media beat-up. Aussie's love a punt, be it at the horse racing of whatever. Sports betting is ramping up at the NRL starting with the Gold Coast Titans deal. An important question which I don't think there's an any answer for regards educating youth about the gaming business and the laws of probability, be it in a classroom or otherwise. There's no question that when one's gaming behaviour gets out of control it is devastating for family and friends. Just ask Tim Freedman from 'Blow Up The Pokies' fame. Internet gaming and online casinos present more interesting equations. This is going to keep our state and federal politicians very busy in the upcoming weeks and months and is likely to cause a few headaches. The buck stops with the player, but family and government guidance are part of the bigger equation. Final thought... if Crown's James Packer, Virgin's Richard Branson and Stanley Ho can loose bit money in casino deals gone wrong in Macau, what does this tell us about the chances of having a wager on on pokie at the clubs or online. Steve Wynn can't bail out everyone that ever took a chance. EzyBet, Virgin, PKR, Jack Pot City and others are in the gaming business because it usually makes money. CAP Down Under comes to Sydney next month. That may be one place to get an insider look at the industry and a real education. Lasseters online business loss was an exception to the rule. Winners are grinner's, but not everyone wins. Ok, the Government does because they get their cut, but the problems come back to haunt the tax payer in any event. As they say, bet with your head, not over it!

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BlackJack Extreme™ Licensing Now Available through Swiss Gaming Corporation

26th August 2008

USA – Switzerland: BJX Entertainment (BJX) and SGC officials announced today that the company has selected Swiss Gaming Corporation (SGC) to help bring their revolutionary new game, BlackJack eXtreme™ into the global Gaming Industry.

Invented for television, BJX is a new method of playing blackjack at the poker table. It is a player vs. player game and the casino takes no risk. Several key features of the new game include allowing the player/dealer to choose which card the table sees, allowing players to raise their original bets up to all-in and then receive as many cards as needed to improve the hand, and the player/dealer is allowed to surrender to the table.

“We are delighted to work with BJX to bring this innovative product into the Gaming Industry,” said RenĂ© Lindsen, chief executive officer of Swiss Gaming Corporation. “Like hold’em, this totally new game seems deceptively simple until you actually play the game – then you see that each hand is a unique situation. The explosive growth of poker indicates that social or community gaming attracts new players and offers a fresh attraction which brings regular visitors back more frequently.”

“The broad scope of Swiss Gaming Corporation’s operations make them ideal to represent us in multiple markets,” said Mark Koetting, CEO of BJX, “BlackJack eXtreme can be played on any poker table, Internet or electronic platform which currently offers Texas hold’em. Our goal is to increase profitability for gaming companies by increasing the productivity of their current investment.”

“RenĂ© Lindsen has more than 20 years of experience in the international leisure and gaming industry, through the ranks over the years from a dealer to general manager. He opened and ran several Switzerland casinos. His reputation, relationships and expertise will be a valued addition to our global team.”

Lindsen will also represent the television production licensing in addition to the casino and online licensing. BlackJack eXtreme uses hole cards to increase the challenge and enables card counting by using two decks and showing every card dealt at the end of each hand. TV audiences will be shown the hole cards and a running count will be displayed onscreen.

“Bad beats and elegant strategy will keep viewers riveted to their screens,” states David Thomas, CCO of BJX, “and we will pit poker pros against card counting pros. We expect emotional fireworks at our TV tournaments. We’re betting that like poker, once viewers discover the game, they will want to play it themselves.”

ABOUT SWISS GAMING CORPORATION

Founded in 2006, Swiss Gaming Corporation manages and advises casinos on strategic development, realizing concepts, capital projects and reorganizations plans. With more than 20 years of international experience in all aspects and departments of the casino industry, Swiss Gaming executives have vast experience in a wide range of disciplines, including hospitality and casino management, financial structuring, urban and strategic planning, demographic analysis, geography, economics and transportation planning. Swiss Gaming Corporation employees operate in modern casinos and have helped establish the quality standards of casinos in Holland, Switzerland and Suriname. Swiss Gaming produces a popular monthly newsletter that reaches subscribers across the globe. For more information, please visit www.swissgamingcorporation.com or contact rlindsen@swissgamingcorporation.com.


ABOUT BJX ENTERTAINMENT, LLC

The company was founded by Internet marketing pro Mark Koetting and movie producer David C. Thomas to develop a way to make blackjack interesting to watch. Mark immediately grasped the potential for internet play and the resulting game, BlackJack eXtreme was tested and tweaked for months to achieve a completely new game. A demonstration version of the game, and more information is available at www.playBJX.com.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Casino Complex to Be Built at Aqueduct, by Jeremy W. Peters - The New York Times - 23rd October 2008

After seven years of political wrangling and delay, a deal to build a casino at the Aqueduct racetrack is now in place.

Under a contract announced by the Paterson administration on Thursday, a Buffalo company will construct a complex featuring a 184,000-square-foot gambling floor and 4,500 video gambling terminals, multiple restaurants including one with a 600-seat buffet, at least 300 hotel rooms and a 60,000-square-foot conference center.

The Buffalo company, Delaware North, said it planned to start construction in early 2009 and finish the casino, its adjoining restaurants and the parking structure in about a year. The project will be completed in phases within five years, it said.

In its promotional material, Delaware North has boasted that the complex will be “all right in the heart of Queens,” a subway ride away on the A train. The track is in South Ozone Park just northwest of Kennedy Airport.

For the casino itself, gamblers should think more arcade than Atlantic City. There will be no blackjack tables with dealers, or roulette wheels. Instead the casino will have video-screen terminals that will accept money for virtual hands of poker and other games.

Delaware North operates a similar hybrid racetrack-casino — known as a racino — in Saratoga Springs. The company beat out two other bidders — the commercial real estate firm S L Green Realty, in partnership with Hard Rock Entertainment, and Capital Play, which had joined with Mohegan Sun.

State officials said Delaware North prevailed because it was offering more money in advance: $370 million for its license to operate the casino and entertainment complex.

“They offered the most money up front,” said John D. Sabini, chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. “And I think that’s important to the state because of the financial situation we’re in.”

In addition to the up-front payment, the state expects to reap more than $10.3 billion in revenue from the gambling terminals over the next 30 years.

Though the State Legislature has already trimmed more than $420 million in state spending this year, Gov. David A. Paterson said this month that the faltering economy had opened a new $1.2 billion hole in the budget.

After the Aqueduct negotiations hit a snag two weeks ago when Senate Republicans said they wanted more time to review the plan, Mr. Paterson and fellow Democrats accused Republicans of dragging their heels and delaying the start of a project that would create about 1,000 construction jobs at a time when employers in New York are shedding workers.

“This deal will provide a critical revenue stream — especially given the financial crisis that is battering our state and nation,” Mr. Paterson said in a statement,

The push to build a casino at Aqueduct began in 2001, when in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks the Legislature began passing laws that would allow for a major expansion of the state’s gambling industry.

In approving the deal, the state once again finds itself turning to gambling to strengthen its weakened cash flow. But with New Yorkers expected to spend less as the financial crisis expands, Delaware North’s president was asked on Thursday whether a casino could remain a steady source of state revenue during an economic downturn.

“Clearly the gaming business is not a recession-proof business,” the president, William J. Bissett, told reporters in a room overlooking the neatly groomed racetrack at Aqueduct.

“There is a large population that will have an easy means to get to this location to entertain themselves,” he said. “We take comfort that, even in a recession period, the fact that Aqueduct sits where it does in a huge metropolitan community buoys our confidence that we will be successful here.”

The project is expected to create about 2,000 jobs in Queens. About half those jobs would be permanent jobs at the casino complex once it is fully operating, and the rest would be construction jobs.

“The ultimate goal, of course, is not only to create revenue for the state but to create jobs,” said State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, a Republican from Queens. “So as far as economic development, I think you can put it in big letters: J-O-B-S.”

Mr. Maltese, who is locked in a competitive re-election battle that may decide which party controls the Senate next year, objected to the Delaware North proposal two weeks ago after Mr. Paterson and the Democratic-led Assembly signed off on it.

At the time, Mr. Maltese and other Senate Republicans said they were not convinced the plan included enough economic benefit for the Queens community. So the developers agreed to put more of their plans in writing, including the proposal for building the hotel and convention center and a community advisory board to inform Delaware North on their satisfaction with the development. In addition, the company agreed to open an office in the community that will make it more convenient for people to apply for a job.

Jonathan Starkey contributed reporting.

(Credit: The New York Times)

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Betting terminals in clubs spark problem gambling fear - The West Australian - 26th October 2008

New self-service TAB betting machines could go into community and sporting clubs across WA, particularly in country areas, under a plan by Racing and Wagering WA.

It has been trying the new machines, on which punters bet on horse races, over the past 18 months.

Financial counsellors said it would lead to an increase in gambling-related social problems.

The terminals are aimed at making it viable for licensed country clubs in particular to have a betting venue by eliminating the need for staff to run the service.

Clubs WA said it wanted the terminals put in at least 50 community venues such as bowling and sporting clubs over the next two years.

The Australian Hotels Association said many of its members also were keen to install the machines.

RWWA chief executive Richard Burt said the machines could be put only in licensed premises which had to pass a strenuous social audit which involved RWWA writing to local financial councillors and police to ensure that the terminals would not have an adverse impact. They also had to be vetted by the Gaming and Wagering Commission.

“Because we haven’t had self-service terminals before, it means that hotels or clubs that couldn’t previously justify having someone stand there and take bets, because it’s a fairly low margin business, this suddenly becomes interesting to them,” he said. “We are transitioning from serviced venues and we’re adding a few more (terminals) where sporting and bowling clubs in particular put their hands up and say yes we want to have one.”

Mr Burt said requests from clubs would determine how many machines went into service but he expected about 20 new venues over the next two years, equal to less than 10 per cent of the TAB network.

Clubs WA executive director Peter Seaman said at least 50 clubs were interested. “They are an ideal tool for community clubs,” he said. They would strengthen local clubs which provided a social outlet and helped people feel part of their community. The peer aspect of clubs would ensure there were effective constraints on gambling, unlike the wave of internet betting options available.

New figures show that demand for gambling-related counselling services at Centrecare jumped more than 20 per cent in 2007, after remaining steady for the previous five years.

The Barnett Government has adopted the Carpenter government’s gambling policy, saying it would maintain the ban on poker machines at Burswood Casino and would not allow them in pubs and clubs.

Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron said yesterday he supported Racing and Wagering’s plan because there was a well-defined approvals process that examined any public interest issues.

Shadow racing minister Mick Murray said he saw no problem with the new machines, given that they would be in licensed premised and allowed gambling breaks between races, unlike poker machines.

Centrecare team leader Amanda Cole said that despite stringent controls on the gambling industry and on new venues, any increase would lead to a rise in problem gambling.

She said about 2 per cent of Australian’s had a gambling problem, defined as a person spending more they could afford in time or money on gambling pursuits. It had an insidious effect in the rest of their lives, be it relationship problems or ability to study and work.

(Credit: The West Australian)

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Bintan gambles on major expansion - 23rd October 2008

SINGAPORE - Bintan Resorts International has flagged a massive hotel expansion programme and is unconcerned that the Indonesian island will be marketing its major projects during a global economic downturn.

The expansion is likely to include a gaming facility, which will be seen as a competitor to the gaming resorts under construction in Singapore.

Bintan is 55 minutes by ferry from Singapore.

“We want to prepare ourselves to come out of this downturn in a stronger position by providing new attractions and infrastructure,” said Asad Shiraz, director of marketing for Bintan Resorts. We want to be ahead when the next growth cycle begins.”

The new development will focus on a 1,300 hectare integrated resort development at Lagoi Bay that will include international resorts, marinas, golf courses, food, retail and entertainment outlets.

An expansion of the island’s ferry terminal and airport is also in the master plan. Two new high-speed ferries under construction in China will lop about 10 minutes off the journey time from Singapore" the gateway to Bintan.

There is also talk of a casino operation on Bintan at the proposed Bintan Treasure Bay development being undertaken by the Malaysian group, Landmark Bhd, which is part owned by casino and cruise ship operators, Genting.

There is a proposal before the Indonesian parliament for gaming to be allowed on Bintan. Currently, Indonesia forbids casinos.

Alila Hotels has purchased two plots of land at Lagoi Bay for hotel development while a separate nine acres has been bought by a Russian investor.

Shiraz said investor interest had alos come from the Netherlands, India, China, the Middle East, Singapore and the United States.

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RMD Entertainment Group (RMDM) Australian Casino Gaming Opportunity

BEIJING, Oct 22, 2008 - The Company ( www.rmdmgroup.com ) is pleased to announce a planned acquisition of TiDiGaming of Australia. TiDiGaming holds the rights to about 80 new Asian style casino based table games for introduction into the casino industry.

According to the company's research there are more than 3,000 land and ship based casinos that have tables around the world. These properties are constantly looking for new and different casino games in order to get a market edge over its competitors. The company's management believes that this acquisition represents a perfect fit for the games industry involvement presently being considered.

The company is in the process of due diligence stage and will report the progress shortly, however the gaming opportunities in Macau appear ideal for a suite of games such as these. The company has filed an information synopsis for the TiDiGaming merger on Pink Sheets, and will keep the market informed as to our continued due diligence process of these opportunities.

The issuer intends to close this transaction on an all cash basis without disturbing the current share structure, with already pre-arranged financing based on the strength of TiDiGaming.

Safe Harbor statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: Certain information contained in this release contains forward-looking statements that involve risk and uncertainties, including but not limited to, those relating to development and expansion activities, domestic and global conditions, and market competition.

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Macau sees gambling revenue drop - BBC News - 20th October 2008

The credit crisis and economic slowdown have led to a 10% drop in Macau's gaming revenues in the third quarter, according to a Macau gaming body.

Casino revenue dropped to 25.99bn patacas (£1.9bn; $3.2bn) between July and September, said the Macau Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau.

This is the second successive quarter revenues have slid compared with the previous three months.

Between April and June, revenues stood at 28.89bn patacas.

The recent slide has halted a growth streak that began in 2005.

Apart from the economic slowdown, the Beijing Olympics kept gamblers away from the casinos, and travelling restrictions directed at Chinese travellers also hit Macau's gambling revenues.

Some analysts now believe that pressures in the financial markets could lead to some investment projects being delayed.

Last month, Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson told the Reuters news agency that the firm was reconsidering raising $5.25bn in financing for projects on the Cotai Strip, and was more likely to try to raise smaller-scale financing for individual projects.

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Officials: Aqueduct video slots deal final, by Michael Gormley - AP - 23rd October 2008

ALBANY, N.Y.

New York Gov. David Paterson and the Senate's Republican majority said Thursday the deal is final to put lucrative video slot machines at Aqueduct race track. The project promises to bring more than 1,000 jobs to Queens and $370 million upfront to the state as it faces deepening deficits.

But just hours after announcing the agreement in separate statements, Paterson and the Republican majority couldn't even agree if their the deal is the same one that the GOP Senate rejected almost two weeks ago, before the economic development issue became a political issue.

The Aqueduct plan will include a 328,000-foot gaming and entertainment facility for the 4,500 video slot machines, a hotel with as many as 500 rooms, a spa, a 60,000-foot conference center, 3,000-seat "event center," and up to 30,000-square feet of retail space, according to Delaware North Cos. of Buffalo, the winning bidder. The facility is scheduled to be complete in 12 to 14 months, according to the company.

The video slot machines will operate through the state Lottery Division and provide the state at least $10.3 billion earmarked for education over 30 years, according to the agreement.

"Delaware North presents the strongest financial proposal with an upfront payment of $370 million," said Paterson, who said the state will have a $2 billion deficit this fiscal year.

"It will revitalize the neighborhood surrounding the race track and bring new energy to the community," said Sen. Serphin Maltese, a Queens Republican whose district includes Aqueduct.

The project is expected to require 1,000 construction workers and will employ about 1,100 Delaware North workers in Queens and 100 in the main office in Buffalo.

After years of review, the agreement was further delayed when it became a big political issue in Maltese's bid for re-election, a race that could help decide whether Republicans keep the Senate majority.

Just hours before the formal announcement of the deal, Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith was saying Republican "foot-dragging has already cost the state $13 million ... that will never be recaptured.

The project has been in the works since the Legislature looked for ways to boost revenue after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Two weeks ago, Paterson and the Assembly's Democratic majority chose Delaware North. But the Senate Republicans refused to go along, saying the company's plans for improvements and jobs near the track in Queens were lacking.

Maltese and Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos insisted on hearing details of spin-off commerce to help the community before they would support Delaware North. State officials and the competitors had warned that the Republicans couldn't seek changes in the company's plan because that could have violated rules designed to make competitive bidding fair.

After the proposal was altered to include community input and the economic development that includes a hotel and commercial space, the Republicans agreed.

"It's not the same proposal. We significantly adjusted and changed it," said John McArdle, spokesman for the Senate majority.

"Anyone can sue," McArdle said. He said no contract or legal agreement has yet been signed, but the Republican majority is now on board.

"The proposal submitted today is exactly the same as it was 13 days ago," said Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook.

A Republican senator in a close race, Maltese announced the GOP's changed position during a televised debate Wednesday.

The 15th Senate District features one of the closest races in the state as Democrats try to erase the Republicans' one-vote majority in the Senate. Maltese is being challenged by Joe Addabbo, a New York City councilman, for the seat he's held since 1988. Paterson endorsed Addabbo a day before he announced the Aqueduct deal that the Republicans then refused to join.

The other competitors were:

_ A partnership between developer SL Green and Hard Rock Entertainment, which operates Hard Rock Cafes, that offered $250 million up front.

_ Australia-based Capital Play, with an office in New York City, which offered $100 million up front through its partnership with the Mohegan Sun casino.

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Aussie Problem Gaming Debate Gathers Momentum

22nd October 2008

Moves by Clubs Australian, an organization representing a number of clubs offering poker machine gambling, to suggest anti-problem gambling measures that include family interventions, have been viewed with some scepticism by politicians and anti-gaming activists.

The Australian newspaper The Age reports that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd -- himself no lover of poker machine gambling -- is under pressure from Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon to take on the gambling industry.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee is currently examining three private members' bills aimed at reducing poker machine gambling.

Senator Xenophon was dismissive of the CA plan, describing it as a joke and a cruel hoax on problem gamblers. "Asking the gambling industry to look after problem gamblers is a bit like asking the wolf to look after Little Red Riding Hood," he told The Age.

"This is not so much a tall story that Clubs Australia has told us, it's more of a stall story. They want to stall the reforms that are inevitable."

Anti-gambling activist and World Vision chief executive Tim Costello said the proposals were window-dressing. "Here's the industry in utter panic mode saying 'Quick, stitch something together', but … it's not going to make any difference," he said. Costello was also critical of the concept of family intervention, asserting that it had been tried and failed in South Australia.

Instead, he proposed a regime of slowing machine spin rates or introducing smartcards to limit an individual's losses, saying this had far more chance of being effective.

Clubs Australia chief Peter Newell said it would cost at least $500 million to retrofit Australia's poker machines with smartcard technology. He would be open to the idea if its effectiveness was proven and state governments covered the costs.

A new Productivity Commission inquiry into gambling — which will update a 1999 study that found that 2.1% of Australians were addicted to poker machines — will begin next week and report late next year.

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Gambling man's explosive past inspired Hollywood - 18th October 2008

Lefty Rosenthal, 1929-2008

IT WAS the turbulent life and near-death experience with a car bomb of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, the one-time Chicago bookmaker who ran four Las Vegas casinos, that inspired the movie Casino.

Rosenthal, who has died in Miami Beach at 79, was barred from casinos because of alleged mob ties. He is credited with bringing sports betting to Las Vegas in the 1970s; Sports Illustrated called him "the greatest living expert on sports gambling".

As a casino boss, Rosenthal demanded the best in customer service. Once, when Rosenthal was walking through the Stardust Hotel and saw a cigarette butt on the casino floor, he picked it up - then fired the person responsible for cleaning the area. He ordered his casino security men to crush the right hand of a card cheat he had caught. "We used a rubber mallet," Rosenthal recalled. "Metal hammers leave marks, you know - and he became a lefty."

A tall and lanky man with what a journalist described as "a glare that makes him look like a menacing Fred Astaire", Rosenthal's response to how he stayed in such good shape was: "By keeping my mouth shut."

Rosenthal, who during his Las Vegas heyday also hosted his own local TV talk show featuring celebrity guests such as Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali, was a man with a past. Born to a Jewish family in Chicago, Frank Lawrence Rosenthal became a professional gambler as a young man, betting on football, basketball, baseball and boxing.

In a Senate hearing on gambling and organised crime in 1961, he invoked the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination 38 times, including when asked if he was left-handed. In 1962 he was convicted of trying to bribe an amateur athlete. After arriving in Las Vegas in 1968, Rosenthal launched a betting parlour. Wiretapped by the FBI, he was indicted on federal bookmaking charges but a judge threw it out on a technicality.

In 1969 Rosenthal had married Geri McGee, a former topless showgirl. The couple later divorced, after she had an affair with Rosenthal's boyhood friend, Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro.

At his wife's urging, Rosenthal got a job in a casino. He was working as a floor manager at the Stardust casino in 1974 - "The only guy below me was the shoeshine man" - when he was appointed to a $250,000-a-year executive position with the Argent Corp, which controlled the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina hotel-casinos.

But in 1976 the state gaming commission ruled Rosenthal was unsuitable for licensing, partly on grounds of alleged organised crime associations. He always denied any charges of mob involvement or skimming profits from the casinos he managed.

On October 4, 1982, Rosenthal had just finished dining at a Tony Roma's restaurant in Las Vegas when he climbed into his Cadillac Eldorado. When he turned on the ignition a bomb exploded, ripping the car apart and blowing him out of it. Authorities had warned Rosenthal a year earlier that they had heard of plots to kill him.

After that, Rosenthal moved with his children to California, then Florida. In 1988 the Nevada Gaming Commission listed him in the state's "black book" of people barred from casinos.

Rosenthal's life story was told in Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction book, Casino, which inspired the director Martin Scorsese's 1995 movie of the same name, starring Robert De Niro as Sam "Ace" Rothstein, Sharon Stone as his wife and Joe Pesci as his mobster pal.

When the book and movie came out, Rosenthal was managing his nephew's bar in Boca Raton, Florida. "Let me tell you this," Rosenthal said of the movie, "I'm not Bob, and he's not Frank."

In Florida, he also ran a sports betting website and served as a consultant for offshore casinos.

Lefty Rosenthal had two children with McGee, who died at 46 from a drug overdose.

Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times

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Tabcorp expecting results to be up - The Sydney Morning Herald - 23rd October 2008

Gaming firm Tabcorp Holdings Ltd says it expects normalised first half results for fiscal 2009 to be modestly ahead of last year, providing trading conditions do not change materially.

Tabcorp, which reported a normalised net profit before non-recurring items of $261.9 million in fiscal 2008, said that conditions in fiscal 2009 were challenging.

"If trading conditions do not change materially, we expect our normalised first half result to be modestly ahead of the previous year," Tabcorp chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper said at the company's annual general meeting.

"This is after adjusting both years for the additional amortisation charge in relation to our Victorian wagering and gaming licences."

Mr Funke Kupper said, however, that it was difficult to make predictions given global economic volatility.

"As you are well aware, there is considerable uncertainty and volatility in the global economic environment which makes it difficult to make predictions about future performance.

"However, it is no secret that general trading conditions have become tougher."

He said operational improvements the company put in place during fiscal 2008 had put Tabcorp in a good position to weather the economic downturn.

"Tabcorp has both strong operating cash flows and a sound balance sheet," he said.

Mr Funke Kupper said in the first quarter of fiscal 2009, revenues grew by 4.9 per cent and variable contribution increased by 2.7 per cent.

He said casino revenues were flat, gaming revenues were up four per cent and wagering revenues increased 11 per cent in the first quarter of this financial year.

"We expect that the trading conditions for our casinos will remain tough for the remainder of the year.

"Wagering revenues were up 11 per cent, assisted by the recovery from equine influenza, which hit the racing industry in the previous year."

In fiscal 2008, Tabcorp reported an annual loss after booking writedowns of $707.5 million, mostly due to a Victorian government decision not to compensate the gambling firm for the loss of its duopoly gaming licence after 2012.

It reported a net loss of $164.6 million in the year ended June, compared to a profit of $450.4 million in the previous year.

But its underlying net profit for 2007/08 rose 0.3 per cent to $516.9 million, as operating revenue increased 0.9 per cent to $3.92 billion.

Tabcorp chairman John Story told shareholders that the company would not be giving guidance on Thursday on its expected dividends for this financial year.

"In light of the deterioration in global financial markets we have witnessed in recent months it would be inappropriate to give a firm commitment on future dividends."

Mr Story said the board would determine the first half dividend for fiscal 2009 at the end of the first half, taking into account the performance of the company, the economic outlook for Australia, capital market conditions and the need to preserve the current financial strength of the company.

(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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