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Friday, May 29, 2009

Daniel Tzvetkoff falls back to earth with a thud, by James Mccullough - The Courier-Mail - 25th May 2009

Barely a year up-and-coming entrepreneur Daniel Tzvetkoff was the Gen Y version of author Tom Wolfe's "Master of the Universe".

For, like Sherman McCoy, Wolfe's central character in his masterful 1987 book about financial high-flyers, Bonfire of the Vanities, Tzvetkoff had everything.

Today, however, the company he majority owns owes about $30 million to online US poker houses.

And if the recent disposal of some of his assets is a guide, he's had a harsh reality check.

Mr Tzvetkoff hit the headlines last year after the mysterious 24-year-old internet entrepreneur had shelled out an impressive $29 million to buy tourism entrepreneur Tony Smith's palatial mansion at Hedges Ave on the Gold Coast.

He drove a Lamborghini with the number plate "baller", owned a massive boat, chartered impressive jets, opened his own Fortitude Valley nightclub, Zuri, sponsored a V8 supercar racing team – and was busy amassing property and doing interesting side deals.

In between driving the Lambo he got around in a Ferrari 599, an Audi S6, a Range Rover and a Ford GT40. During regular trips to Las Vegas, where he is rumoured to have a house, he was again spotted in a Lambo.

Mr Tzvetkoff is young and good looking. He loves fine champagne and had a penchant for the very high life, although deep down he is a boy from Ipswich with Bulgarian parents.

In some IT sectors he was and still is described as a genius who created an enviable business through his main Australian company Intabill, based in Brisbane's inner-west suburb Milton, of which he owns a two-third's share and is managing director.

That company is owned by BT Projects Pty Ltd, whose three shareholders are listed as Tzvetkoff, local lawyer Sam Sciacca and an Alberta, Canada-based company called Rendel Investments.

In recent times Mr Tzvetkoff's business has come back to earth with a thud. A few weeks back Intabill sacked 96 staff from its Milton head office. At the time Mr Tzvetkoff blamed the global economic crisis and said he was refocusing his company. Barely a dozen staff remain at Milton.

His prized Lamborghini and other flash European cars have now gone. His Hedges Ave mansion is believed to be back on the market.

The Courier-Mail understands Tzvetkoff has been personally contacting potential buyers of the property.

Ray White's salesman Michael Kollosche, who handled the original sale, said he had not received any instructions to resell the property.

"As far as I understand it, he is hoping to finish the renovations and move into the property in the next few months," Mr Kollosche said.

Mr Tzvetkoff told The Courier-Mail on March 17 that the house would be completed in "about three or four weeks" but work on the property now seems to have slowed.

The house, bought for $29 million, had a $19 million mortgage over it through National Australia Bank but was remortgaged in recent months.

An apartment he also owns on Hedges Ave at Mermaid Beach – the Coast's "Millionaire's Row" – went to auction last week but did not sell.

The boat of about 27m is moored at the Gold Coast and up for sale. The latest leased jet has been left on the tarmac at Las Vegas.

"Basically everything is for sale," one Intabill insider revealed last week.

Mr Tzvetkoff and his business partner Mr Sciacca had signed a contract for more than $20 million to buy their office headquarters on the corner of Coronation Drive and Cribb St, Milton, from the Becton Group. But whether that contract will settle is now not certain.

So how could things have turned for the worse for a young man in a hurry with some great ideas, huge piles of cash and a solid group of talented followers?

In its early days Intabill claimed to be one of the world's top 10 online payment processors, enabling more than a million transactions a month between websites, customers and banks. It originally had more than 5000 clients, mostly in Europe and North America, from online gambling and travel websites to airlines and global banks.

About 50 per cent of Intabill's business relates to online gambling, with the balance a fair spread between online ticketing, travel and the like.

Funds were sent to online poker houses often via a processing company or an intermediary – a Salt Lake-based independent company called Impact. Today Intabill owes four of the largest online poker sites in the world about $30 million.

The figure was higher but asset sales and "arrangements" put in place by Intabill and the sites reduced some of the debt.

About $25 million is owed to the largest online poker site, the Isle of Mann domiciled Poker Stars – which operates out of North America, run by the powerful Isai Scheinberg – and Full Tilt Poker, based in Dublin but also run out of the US.

Mr Scheinberg is believed to be worth more than $US1 billion ($A1.28 billion) and his so called poker stars, include the likes of actor Jason Alexander (Seinfield), author and part time poker player Anthony Holden, Brazilian auto racer and team owner Gualter Salles and Darus Suharto, who made the final table of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Events.

Another $3 million is owed to Absolute Poker and a further $2 million to Golden Palace, a casino and online poker group.

It's understood Impact became increasingly anxious about funds owed and pulled the plug on Intabill's processing operation.

Other insiders blame the loss of customers on increased "charge backs" – or R10s as they are called in the trade – where consumers complain about their credit card or direct debit charges.

It's understood Intabill's charge backs were very low in some areas and reasonably high in others.

Last month when Intabill slashed its staff numbers, Mr Tzvetkoff blamed challenging market conditions and the increased cost of funding loan products.

Mr Tzvetkoff pointed out that – as experienced already by the likes of GE Money – the cost of funding in wholesale markets has dramatically increased in the present volatile market conditions.

He said this has meant a planned diversification into lending products had been terminated.

"In recent weeks we have come to the realisation that diversifying in these difficult market conditions presents too many risks and challenges," he said.

"Hence we have decided to scale back our operation to focus on our core e-commerce processing platform."

Despite several phone calls and email requests, Mr Tzvetkoff did not respond to The Courier-Mail's request for an interview. (Credit: The Courier-Mail)

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Virgin Bingo Announces Relaunch Of Bingo Game Offering

28th May 2009

Virgin.com Limited has announced that it will be relaunching its bingo offering through its VirginGames.com portal using software from Alderney-licensed online bingo and gambling platform provider Virtue Fusion Limited.

Virtue Fusion is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Internet bingo solutions and its network operates on an aggregated model so that partners benefit from shared critical mass and larger jackpots.

http://www.virgingames.com/bingo previously utilised software from St Minver but the change will see players able to enjoy one of the largest selections of networked games available through a bingo client. Virtue Fusion pioneered the mini game and offers titles including Marine Mayhem, Clover Rollover and Big Top Tombola, which have proven highly popular with players.

“It was important for Virgin Games to select a partner that could give our players the widest choice of game variants, jackpot sizes and price-points,” said Simon Burridge, Chief Executive Officer for VirginGames.com.

“Virtue Fusion’s network is undoubtedly the market leader in this respect. We are delighted to be joining the Virtue Fusion network and are looking forward to growing our business over the coming years.

”We value Virtue Fusion’s flexible network model because we value the right to offer something different. Virtue Fusion’s network structure allows us to be just what we want while benefiting from the largest prize pools available online today.”

“We are delighted that VirginGames.com has chosen Virtue Fusion’s industry-leading software for its bingo offering,” said Bob McCulloch, Chief Executive Officer for Virtue Fusion.

“VirginGames.com will benefit through our flexible networked approach to bingo by offering small games that are good for communities while leveraging the power of the network by offering the biggest jackpots available.”

About Virgin Games
Virgin Games, a subsidiary of Virgin.com Ltd, launched in June 2004 and has quickly established itself as one of the leading gaming websites in the UK. Virgin Games comprises three distinct entertainment offerings, giving consumers the chance to play their favourite online games the Virgin way:

• Virgin Casino Games, part of the Wagerworks network, provides a taste of Vegas online, with classic casino offerings like blackjack and roulette, as well as popular feature slots like Elvis, Cleopatra and Vegas, Baby!
• Virgin Free Poker,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. The successful Virgin Poker Festivals, which take place in casinos around the UK throughout the year, now allow gamers to experience the fun of Virgin Poker offline too
• Virgin Bingo, part of the St Minver network, offers cash prizes worth thousands of pounds in the progressive jackpots, as well as regular promotions and an unrivalled loyalty scheme

For further information please contact:
Melissa Robinson
Nelson Bostock Communications
Tel. 020 7792 7436
Email melissa.robinson@nelsonbostock.com

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vic govt denies favours for Crown casino, by Katie Bradford - Fairfax - 27th May 2009

The Victorian government denies giving special favours to Crown casino but admits it has a close working relationship.

Two weeks after announcing it was allowing Crown to expand its gaming floor in return for increased poker machine tax, Tourism Minister Tim Holding defended the government's relationship with the casino while promoting its new hotel on Monday.

"We work closely with Crown but there's no deal in relation to this development," Mr Holding told reporters.

"Whether you're coming to dine in the magnificent restaurant, whether you want to stay in the fantastic hotel, whether you're wanting to gamble in the casino ... whatever you want to do here on site there are fantastic opportunities to do so.

"The government is very pleased that Crown is so confident in the tourism industry of Victoria that it has decided to build Australia's biggest hotel."

Anti-gambling campaigners accused the government of having a "cosy" relationship with Crown after permitting it to expand its gaming area by a further 150 tables.

In exchange, Crown's tax rate on its poker machines will progressively increase by 10 per cent to 32.5 per cent by 2014/15 - only then matching what other gaming venues already pay.

"We actually use this as an example of how Crown is being treated the same as other venues across Victoria," Mr Holding said.

Crown Melbourne's chief executive David Courtney refused to comment on his relationship with the government, or the tax deal.

"We're really here today to talk about the new hotel, it's a significant investment," he told reporters.

Under repeated questioning, Mr Courtney said it had been 10 years since Crown had been allowed to expand its gaming operations.

"It's very important to allow us to beat international competitors."

He refused to answer questions on whether the casino had a "sweetheart relationship" with the state government.

But Mr Courtney admitted the expansion would attract more high rollers.

Victorian opposition leader Ted Baillieu said the relationship between the government and the venue was "obviously very close".

He demanded the government answer further questions about the extra tables deal, including who initiated it and what the exact conditions were.

"Clearly, until these questions are being answered by the government, it ought to be very cautious about the relationship."

Mr Baillieu said Mr Holding would do "anything he believes was in his own interests".

"But that's the way this government operates, this is a government of political patronage, this is the government that's searching for favours all over the place but it's lost touch with the community, it's lost touch with reality and has no credibility on integrity, on corruption and on good governance." (Credit: Fairfax)

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Review of website blacklist in wind, by Dan Harrison - The Age - 27th May 2009

The Federal Government is considering having a secret blacklist of banned websites reviewed by a panel of eminent Australians or a parliamentary committee to try to get more transparency in the controversial internet censorship regime.

The blacklist, which has existed since 2000, is maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which considers sites for inclusion based on complaints from the public, groups and law enforcement agencies.

The list is supplied to the makers of internet filters, but publication of the list is a criminal offence. This has led to criticisms that websites could be listed without their knowing it and without any opportunity to challenge their inclusion.

The Government became the subject of ridicule in March when whistleblower website Wikileaks published a list of websites it claimed was the blacklist. As well as child porn, bestiality, rape and extreme violence sites, the list included seemingly innocuous pages including online poker sites and the website of a dentist.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told a Senate estimates hearing yesterday that the Government was "considering options for greater transparency and accountability in respect of the blacklist", including a regular review of the list by a panel of eminent persons or parliamentary committee or a review of complaints by the classification board. The ACMA blacklist is being used as the basis for trials to test the technical feasibility of government plans to block banned websites at the internet service provider level.

The proposal has attracted fierce criticism on free speech grounds and from others who suggest it will be ineffective and will slow internet speeds. Senator Conroy said the results of the trials would be considered along with possible transparency measures before the Government makes a final decision on implementation of the policy.

About 30,000 customers have been invited to participate in the trials by the nine internet service providers taking part. Senator Conroy has promised to release a report on the results of the trials, which are expected in July.

The blacklist contains 977 websites. Senator Conroy said the Government hoped to expand the list through co-operation with international agencies.

Communications and Media Authority officials told the hearing of a 90 per cent increase in complaints about websites in the past 18 months. They attributed this to greater public awareness of the list.

Senator Conroy has said the filtering efforts would focus on "refused classification" material, such as child sexual abuse and instruction in crime. (Credit: The Age)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Casino case likely to spark inquiry, by Jason Dowling and Kate Lahey - The Age - 22nd May 2009

Victoria's gambling authority is expected to investigate the explosive case of a property developer who is suing Crown Casino.

Gaming Minister Tony Robinson said yesterday he was concerned about claims made in court.

Harry Kakavas, 42, is suing Crown, its chief executive Rowen Craigie and chief operating officer John Williams for about $35 million.

He claims they knew of his gambling addiction but lured him to the casino with incentives, including the use of a private jet and boxes of $30,000 to $50,000 in cash.

"Any gaming minister in Victoria would be concerned with those claims," Mr Robinson said. "We take those very seriously. However at this stage they are claims and I note there are also counter-claims."

Crown is counter-suing Mr Kakavas for $1 million and argues he did not have a pathological addiction when he asked to return to the casino after a long exclusion, then turned over almost $1.5 billion in 15 months, ultimately losing $20 million.

Mr Robinson said he expected the Victorian Commission for Gaming Regulation to use its wide powers to investigate and act if necessary.

The commission, which has the power to revoke Crown's licence, has not yet said if it will launch a formal investigation. In its most recent review of the casino's licence, it said it would "closely monitor" the Kakavas case.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard claims that Crown used different bank accounts to allow heavy gamblers to disguise their betting habits.

Mr Kakavas said he borrowed millions of dollars from friends to support his gambling addiction, and their cheques were made payable to Southbank Investments.

PBL Finance was also used to disguise the funds, the court heard. "Southbank Investments is another company the casino uses so players are able to camouflage the funds," Mr Kakavas said.

Mr Robinson would not say whether the Government intended to chase the $700 million Mr Kakavas won at Crown during the 15 months he was an "interstate excluded person" whose winnings should have been forfeited.

Opposition gaming spokesman Michael O'Brien said Victorian taxpayers were missing out on the $700 million because Premier John Brumby was "asleep at the wheel".

The trial continues next week. (Credit: The Age)

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

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Downturn savages Packer's Macau push, by Eli Greenblat - The Age - 21st May 2009

James Packer's multi-billion dollar bet on the Macau gambling market has been savaged by the global economic downturn after its Melco Crown Entertainment joint venture posted a 55 per cent drop in revenue and a slide into the red with a quarterly loss of of $US35.3 million.

Crown Limited, which owns Melbourne's Crown casino, Burswood casino in Perth as well as gaming assets in Canada and the US, has a 36.4 per cent stake in Melco Crown Entertainment after initially forging a joint venture with Lawrence Ho's Melco casino group in 2006 shortly after the death of Kerry Packer.

The move by James Packer was initially valued at $US8.7 billion and reflected his ambitious strategy to reap earnings for the Crown group from the gambling-mad city state of Macau off the coast of China.

Under the original terms of the partnership Crown, then called Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd, had a post-listing 41.4 per cent equity share in the Macau vehicle which was valued at $4.73 billion.

Together Mr Packer and Mr Ho, the son of Macau casino tsar Stanley Ho, planned to open two landmark casinos, The Crown Macau and the City of Dreams project on Macau's Cotai strip.

However, the economic downturn and dwindling values for casinos in Asia and the US has sunk Melco Crown Entertainment's share price and made it harder for the duo's casinos to attract patrons.

Overnight Melco Crown Entertainment revealed the impact of the global recession on its balance sheet, posting net revenue of $US216.5 million for the first quarter of 2009, down from $US482.9 million for the comparable period ending March 31, 2008.

Mr Ho blamed the fall on an abnormally high win rate and greater rolling chip volume at Altira Macau in the first quarter of 2008.

Documents filed with the Nasdaq exchange in the US, where Melco Crown Entertainment shares are traded, showed adjusted EBITDA was $US21.3 million for the first quarter against $US77.4 million in the first quarter of 2008.

The Company recorded a net loss for the first quarter of 2009 of $US35.3 million. This compared to a profit of $US43.2 million in the first quarter of 2008.

Mr Ho, co-Chairman and chief executive officer of Melco Crown Entertainment said as the City of Dreams casino was scheduled to open on June 1, and the budget is unchanged.

"Our financial position remains strong and our balance sheet is one of the best in the gaming industry. We held approximately $US755 million of cash, excluding cage cash, at the end of the first quarter, and we expect to spend approximately $US244 million on construction activities and pre-opening preparations at City of Dreams from the start of the current quarter through its opening," he said.

For the quarter ending March 31, 2009, net revenue at Altira Macau was $US183.6 million against $US459.9 million in the quarter ending March 31, 2008. Altira Macau generated adjusted EBITDA of $US20.2 million in the first quarter of 2009 compared with $US76.7 million in the first quarter of 2008.

"Although we had a difficult comparison for Altira Macau in the first quarter, we are pleased with the property's results.

"Despite an 11% decline in rolling chip volume and a lower hold percentage, our sequential EBITDA performance remained solid due to strong cost containment programs."

Rolling chip volume was $US9.1 billion for the first quarter of 2009, down from $US19.4 billion in the first quarter of 2008. The rolling chip table games hold percentage in the first quarter of 2009 (calculated before discounts and commissions) was 2.79% versus 3.13% recorded in the first quarter of 2008. Our target rolling chip hold percentage is 2.85%.

At the release of Crown Ltd's half-year results in February, chief executive Rowen Craigie said the Macau gaming market had grown 51.5 per cent in the period January 2008 to August 2008.

Crown's share of Melco Crown Entertainment's normalised result for the half - adjusted to theoretical win rates and excluding pre-opening expenses - was a loss of $11.3 million.

Shares in Crown were down 14 cents, or 2 per cent this morning, to $6.85. (Credit: The Age)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Crown denies scheme to lure gambler, by Kate Lahey - The Sydney Morning Herald - 20th May 2009

Crown Casino says it is not responsible for a man who gambled almost $1.5 billion over 15 months, despite giving him free accommodation and entertainment and flying him to Melbourne on a jet so he could bet at cards.

At times, property developer Harry Kakavas was betting $300,000 on each hand of baccarat, which can take just seconds to play, the Victorian Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Mr Kakavas had previously obtained a self-exclusion order from Crown because he could not control his gambling. When that was revoked at his request in 1998, Crown immediately banned him from the complex because of a dispute between Mr Kakavas and another Crown regular.

In January 2005 Crown allowed him back in under the alias Harry Kay, flying him back and forth between his home on the Gold Coast and Melbourne in the Crown jet. Crown argues Mr Kakavas insisted on the jet.

Mr Kakavas is suing Crown for the $20 million he lost between June 2005 and August 2006, and damages worth about $15 million.

Lawyers for Crown have told the court Mr Kakavas was an aggressive, intelligent and cunning patron who had threatened to sue the casino if it continued to ban him from playing there.

Mr Kakavas called a Crown officer in 2000, while he was banned, and threatened to "f--- Crown, Lloyd Williams and Kerry Packer", the court heard.

Mr Kakavas has argued Crown hatched a scheme to lure him back to the casino to exploit his addiction.

Neil Young, QC, for Crown, said that was untrue. "There was no effort in any sense of the word to lure Mr Kakavas back to Crown or to embark upon some scheme to achieve that objective," he said.

He said Crown organised flowers for the gambling pit for Mr Kakavas's return.

Mr Kakavas persistently asked to be let back in between 1998 and 2005 and threaten to sue Crown if he was not allowed entry, Mr Young said.

Mr Kakavas also told Crown officers he was worth a net $70 million, had bought a Maserati to go with his Ferrari, and was in control of his gambling.

Mr Young said in the 15 months in which Mr Kakavas turned over nearly $1.5 billion, winning $700 million before losing it again, he was in control, rarely chased his losses and often left with winnings in his pocket.

He said it was Crown's operations director, John Williams, who then urged Mr Kakavas to take a break from gambling.

Mr Kakavas told the court yesterday he began betting in 1993 while working as a real estate agent for Colliers Jardine. To fuel his gambling addiction he had his parents mortgage a property and borrowed constantly from friends. In 1998 he served four months in jail for a $286,000 fraud.

The case continues. (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The casino billionaires - Forbes

The city of Las Vegas covers 113 square miles - but that apparently isn't big enough for Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. The pair of casino billionaires has been feuding for nearly two decades, and time shows no sign of healing the rift.

Adelson, the world's 12th-richest person, has complained that eruptions from the fake volcano at the Mirage hotel and casino built by Wynn are too loud. Wynn, the world's 277th-richest person, countered by claiming Adelson isn't building enough parking at his Las Vegas projects and the overflow snatches spaces from his own customers. Adelson called Wynn an "egomaniac". Wynn shot back that Adelson has an "inferiority complex".

The testy relationship is rooted in the casino properties that made them neighbours. The first casino Adelson built, the $US1.5 billion Venetian, is a short walk from the Mirage. They won't be getting away from each other anytime soon. Earlier this year, Adelson opened the $US1.9 billion Palazzo right next to Wynn's Wynn Las Vegas.

The world of casino billionaires is a small one. With gambling illegal in much of the world, the gaming properties of the world's richest are often directly competing with each other.

In addition to Wynn and Adelson, three other billionaires owe at least part of their fortune to Las Vegas. Kirk Kerkorian and brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta all own casinos in Sin City.

The 90-year-old Kerkorian and his company MGM Mirag own more than half of the hotel rooms on the Las Vegas strip. His properties include the Mirage, which he bought from Wynn, and the Mandalay Bay Resorts, which he shelled out $US7.9 billion for in 2004.

The Fertittas opted to cater to area locals instead of building colossal casinos aimed at out-of-towners. It worked. They now own 17 casinos in the Las Vegas suburbs and are each worth $US1.3 billion, riches they parlayed into creating the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a billion-dollar sports empire.

The latest hot spot for gaming billionaires is Macau, a former Portuguese colony on the coast of China. The location makes the area an easy trip for much of China's huge and increasingly affluent population. Macau has already passed Las Vegas as the world's top gambling destination.

The king of Macau for decades has been Stanley Ho. Ho was the territory's only casino operator for 40 years thanks to government licenses that effectively gave him a monopoly. It's an advantage he put to good use. Forbes puts the net worth of this father of 17 at $US8.0 billion.

While Ho is still king of the area, his rule is no longer absolute. In 2002, Macau started issuing new gaming licenses. Wynn and Adelson were the first in line. Ho still owns 18 of the region's 27 casinos, but the new players are eager to grab more market share.

Adelson has been particularly energetic in pursuing the opportunity. Through his company Las Vegas Sands, he's already spent billions constructing two casinos in Macau. His company and partners have plans to build 13 hotels in the area.

The next big battleground for gaming billionaires could be Singapore. Adelson's has a good head start, though. Last year, he won the country's first gaming license. He's now building the Marina Bay Sands there on a 51-acre site. When his casino opens on the wealthy island nation in 2009, it's a good bet that Adelson, already worth $US26 billion, will be adding to his chip pile even more.

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Start Spreading The News... PartyCasino.com Launches New Sinatra Slot

Gold Mega Jackpot Now At $1.88 Million!

18th May 2009 -- http://www.partycasino.com is the world’s largest online casino and it has just got even bigger with 13 new games added! The headline act of the release is Sinatra, a musical slot tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes.

With rights acquired from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), a joint venture of the Sinatra Estate and Warner Music Group, the Sinatra Slot was developed in-house and is a five-reel, 20 line slot game with a Sinatra Big Band feature. Play through the three ages of Frank in Hollywood, Las Vegas and New York, collecting and writing big band tunes on the way. The game features an accumulating bonus trigger; collect a Treble Clef for each reel to build up a Sinatra track at the top of the screen. Complete the track to see Frank sing a classic track and then get a chance to write your own number in the Big Band Bonus feature. The minimum bet is $0.01 and maximum is $1,000.

A PartyCasino.com spokesman said: “Sinatra is top of the bill of our latest release and we encourage players to embrace the musical interactivity of this great new game. We’re also delighted to add 12 new others including the classic Dolphin Reef, the Fantastic Four and Hulk themed games.”

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

PartyPoker.com Reissues Paris Hilton Challenge!

One Night In Paris? Here's One Night To Win A Bentley!

14th May 2009 -- http://www.partypoker.com has seen the recent news that Paris Hilton has had her beloved blue Bentley vandalized, with reports suggesting eggs were also thrown. It is not the only reported problem the heiress has had with her luxury four wheels as in April 2006 it was suggested that the multimillionaire had lost a Bentley Continental GT in a poker game. That month, PartyPoker.com offered her the chance to win her car back and now, more than three years later, the online poker room is repeating its offer! The rules are simple - she takes on poker legend Mike Sexton in a heads-up poker tournament for the chance to win a Bentley!

A PartyPoker.com spokesman said: “Forget one night in Paris, we’re offering her one night to win a replacement for her vandalized Bentley! Fortune may be on her side in many ways but when it comes to Bentleys it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case so we’re confident Mike Sexton would win.”

“We challenge her to take us up on the offer. Three years is a long time in showbusiness and we’re sure she’d jump at it now - it is a simple offer for the former Simple Life star. Following the original offer in 2006 the likes of Clonie Gowen also made public challenges to the heiress but so far Paris has resisted.”

“It is reported that in January this year Paris met Lady Gaga but she didn’t show the pop sensation her poker face. We encourage her to not walk on eggshells and show it to Mike Sexton instead!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Second high-roller deal for Crown casino, by Michael Warner - Herald Sun - 16th May 2009

EXCLUSIVE: CROWN casino has hit the jackpot for the second time this week.

The state's gambling watchdog revealed it had given preliminary approval for Crown to expand its rich high-roller Mahogany Room.

It comes just days after Premier John Brumby announced the casino would be granted an extra 150 gaming tables in a sweetheart deal with its billionaire owner, James Packer.

The Mahogany Room expansion will see a new VIP facility built above the Crown Towers driveway at the casino's eastern end.

High-stakes roulette, blackjack and baccarat tables will cater for bets of up to $280,000.

And smoking will also be permitted under special international exemptions, despite the vast majority of patrons hailing from Victoria.

"We've told them (Crown) that, based on how they've described it to us, we see no impediment to it proceeding," Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation chief Peter Cohen said.

"They've sought some boundary changes to the room."

Mr Cohen revealed sections of the casino's public gaming floors were also set to increase.

But a spokeswoman for Gaming Minister Tony Robinson said last night the two rulings were unrelated.

"I've just had a few more discussions, and my understanding is that all of this is at very preliminary stages between Crown and the VCGR. And so at this point, the minister has not been formally advised of any expansion of the Mahogany Room," Rebecca Harrison said.

Mr Brumby revealed on Tuesday - just hours before the handing down of the federal Budget - that he had handed Crown 150 new tables in exchange for higher tax on the casino's poker machines.

He defended the timing of the announcement and rejected criticism that he had tried to hide the deal.

But sources suggested the agreement was signed more than 10 days ago, and its announcement delayed until Budget day.

Mr Brumby admitted to private discussions with Mr Packer at a taxpayer-funded suite at the Albert Park Grand Prix six weeks ago.

He initially refused to detail the discussions, claiming they were private, but has since said they talked about Tiger Woods' visit to Melbourne in November and not the lucrative casino deal.

Mr Packer described the talks as "casual" and unrelated to the arrangement. (Credit: Herald Sun)

Greg Tingle comment

The Crown Casino - Victorian government deal looks to be a win - win (unless your in the minority and are an out of control gambling addict that doesn't know when to stop feeding the pokies or playing over your head at the tables). Crown Casino has further built its reputation as a world class casino and entertainment icon, and James Packer has further built upon his business reputation which looks to be a masterstroke. James Packer was in fine form at the Grand Prix... chats with Premier John Brumby, Sir Richard Branson and other switched on folks. This massive business deal has already achieved major state, national and international headlines so Victorian tourism and Australian tourism should benefit. Casino whales and big time holiday makers are known to do the Las Vegas strip, Macau (James Packer's working on his City of Dreams there also), and with the Crown Casino upgrades and extra money in the pockets of the Victorian government, Australia may see a boost in state and national tourism. World class entertainment acts are known to like to perform at top class venues and it sounds like Crown Casino is well prepared for them. Sydney's Star City Casino would be watching this space closely and the UFC is looking to have its first ever live event in Australia in approximately 1 year. Perhaps Network Nine, Foxtel of the like may look at doing a reality television or feature documentary based upon Crown Casino now the exciting news has been announced. You can bet Richard Branson's Virgin Airlines would have interest to fly in casino whales and big spending international holidaymakers to Crown. Then they would look at swinging by Macau's City of Dreams on the back, then the Kangaroo Route and give them a flutter on the Las Vegas Strip. Casinos have long been part of the state, national and international tourism (and big business) landscape. Crown Casino has been and continues to be pro active involved in getting the message out on "Bet with your head, not over it". Crown will be watching out for fake casino chips. They wouldn't want to get stung with a $12m dud check like their Sydney counterpart. There's an excellent chance that history will show this "sweet" deal between Crown Casino and the Victorian government to be one of the best things to happen to Australian tourism and the entertainment industry. This deal can also only help boost job prospects and will put some cash into the economy. In the meantime the publicity has helped people further realize not to over do it at the casino and bet within their limits. The world awaits James Packer's next big deal... he's sure jumped out of any shadow that may have been there. Packer - business comeback of the year!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Average Australians Support Crown Casino Expansion - great for tourism, entertainment industry and having a punt! - 15th May 2009

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Virgin's Branson Supports The Prince Of Wales 'Frog' Campaign - Virgin Poker

Today (11th May 2009) Richard Branson pledged his support for the Prince of Wales “Frog” Campaign. Richard stated “As you all know, for many years I have been concerned with climate change and its impact. The plight of the world’s rainforests is a massive influence on this and perhaps the single most important factor in protecting our environment – that is why I have served on the steering group for this project.

“I will use my speeches and contacts to reinforce his message. The Prince is looking for public support across the globe by seeking millions of sign ups for his web based petition.”

Simon Burridge CEO of Virgin Games (poker, casino and bingo games) commented “This is another great initiative by Richard and The Prince of Wales. They are setting the standard when it comes to campaigning on climate change. Virgin Games is thrilled to be a part of helping bring awareness of the devastation that it’s having to rainforests all over the world.”

To find out more and get involved with the The Princes Rainforest Project please go to www.rainforestsos.org and pledge your support to saving the worlds rainforests.

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Crown's win at tables facing growing opposition, by David Rood - The Age - 15th May 2009

A deal to increase the number of gaming tables at Crown Casino by more than 40 per cent could be blocked by Opposition parties in the state's upper house.

The casino deal, which allows Crown to add an extra 150 gambling tables in exchange for tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, requires amendments to casino laws.

But the Opposition, Greens and DLP have left open the option of blocking changes.

Opposition gaming spokesman Michael O'Brien said the deal was made in secret, and blocking the changes was "on the table".

"We are not convinced, at this stage, that expansion of gambling is going to be in the taxpayers' or the community's interest," Mr O'Brien said.

The Greens' Colleen Hartland said the Government had "no guarantees that the legislation will be passed".

The DLP's Peter Kavanagh said he was not enthusiastic about the changes, saying there were already enough avenues for people to gamble. "I really don't think we need more gambling," he said.

The manoeuvring comes as Premier John Brumby and Crown's executive chairman, James Packer, said they did not discuss the deal at a meeting at the Melbourne Grand Prix in March.

After initially refusing to say whether they discussed the deal at the Government's corporate suite, Mr Brumby said yesterday it was not raised.

"It is a ludicrous proposition to say that I would sit down in a room full of people at a Grand Prix, in front of everybody, and discuss matters that are for the Treasurer or the Gaming Minister," he said.

Asked if he had discussed the Crown deal with Mr Packer at any other meeting, Mr Brumby said: "I didn't have any other meetings with him."

In a rare media statement, Mr Packer said: "The tax arrangements at Crown Melbourne were not discussed."

The Crown deal, which will see taxes on poker machines at Crown increase from 22.25 per cent to 32.57 per cent in exchange for the extra tables, has also angered the anti-gambling lobby.

Mr O'Brien said Mr Brumby should say whether the deal was instigated by the Government or Crown. "This is a deal conceived in secret to massively expand the level of gambling … at Victoria's monopoly casino."

A Government spokesman would not say last night who instigated the discussions, only that talks began in April.

Mr Brumby said the Government was committed to helping problem gamblers with measures such as a cap on the number of pokies, which evidence showed were more addictive than any other form of gambling. (Credit: The Age)

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Americans to Obama: Legalize Online Poker!

Citizens Briefing Book shows strong demand for full legalization of Internet poker (among many other ideas)

May 14, 2009 (CAP Newswire) -- An online survey released by the U.S. White House this week shows what's really on Americans' minds when it comes to priorities for the new president. Among the most important action items is "Boost American Economy with Legal Online Poker".

The report, called the Citizen’s Briefing Book, compiled the opinions of 125,000 U.S. citizens in an effort to illustrate to the new president what his priorities should be, as defined by the public he serves. The report is officially addressed “to President Barack Obama, from the American people”.

The suggestions are broken down into 10 categories: Economy, Education, Energy & Environment, Foreign Policy, Health Care, Homeland Security, Service, Technology, Veterans, and Additional Issues.

Number one on the list of Technology suggestions: “Boost America’s Economy with Legal Online Poker” (followed closely by “Restore Net Neutrality Protections to the Internet”, an issue that’s also relevant to the iGaming industry given the recent censorious activities in Minnesota).

"Let online poker players in the United States play legally and without fear of prosecution," the report quotes a voter's opinion. "Reform the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to exempt poker, a game of skill, from the law. Boost the economy by letting American companies and American players make money and pay taxes instead of sending online poker businesses offshore. Protect online poker players by regulating the industry to ensure that no one is ever cheated."

Sure, this is a document of opinions, and not one of official policy. But, given President Obama's focus on popular issues, as well as his general popularity in the U.S., it's very likely that he'll heed at least some of the report's suggestions.

In addition to the welcome news that Americans really, really want to get online poker legalized, this story is also significant because the Washington Post chose to highlight online poker as one of the three most important conclusions from the report. Combined with the recent surge of interest from the mainstream news industry on the issue of legalized online gambling (see yesterday’s story in the L.A. Times here), the media coverage of online gambling legal issues is rapidly growing, which is likely to help Barney Frank's drive to repeal the UIGEA bans.

Click here to read the Washington Post’s writeup on the story; click here to read the Citizens Briefing Book directly at the official White House website.

(Credit: CAP)

Greg Tingle comment...

President Barack Obama advises the American people that they listen, and the American people are speaking. Just like down under here in Australia, the people have long enjoyed a game of poker... (a game of skill). Then the internet came along, and the rest is history. Barack Obama and his team might do well to get in the ear and consult with California's Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has shown great listening skills and leadership in going after other important matters such as the environment, support for the average person, and he's embraced technology advancements, even having his office plugged into social networking websites and the like. Barack Obama is also pretty tech savvy so on the surface it appears these two great leaders would share some common ground which is a great place to start these talks from. And... it appears these talks would have potential to do wonders for the American economy. You can bet that the likes of the switched on teams at PartyGaming, BetUS, Virgin Games, Boss Media, Playtech, Microgaming, Harrah's Entertainment, World Poker Tour, World Series of Poker and even Australia's James Packer and co, and a few others, would be watching with great interest.
Greg Tingle
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

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Packer rebounds as Australia's richest, by Trevor Chappell - The Sydney Morning Herald - 14th May 2009

Gambling tycoon James Packer is Australia's richest man after a slump in the resources sector eroded the fortune of the previous wealth leader, iron-ore magnate Andrew Forrest.

Forbes Asia magazine's 2009 list of rich Australians shows Mr Packer, 41, took back the top mantle from third position.

But his estimated wealth fell to $US3.1 billion ($A4.12 billion), from $US5.3 billion in 2008, following a drop in the share prices of his casinos and media interests.

Mr Packer's interests in Australia include the Crown casino in Melbourne and the Burswood casino in Perth.

Mr Forrest, the boss of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, crashed to fifth, after his fortune shrank to $US1.65 billion ($A2.19 billion), from almost $US5 billion, as waning China demand for iron ore caused Fortescue's shares to drop by two-thirds.

Second on the list was shopping centre developer Frank Lowy, whose wealth decreased to $US2.8 billion ($A3.72 billion), from $US4.4 billion.

Harry Triguboff, head of Australia's biggest builder of apartments, Meriton, was third with $US2 billion ($A2.66 billion), down from $US2.7 billion.

Forbes Asia said that overall, Australia's billionaires and millionaires were less wealthy than they were 12 months ago, when the global financial crisis began to bite.

The number of billionaires among Australia's 40 richest business people contracted from 16 to nine.

However, three increased their wealth.

The head of hedge fund group CQS, Michael Hintze, had $US150 million ($A199.15 million) more to roll in and was in 12th position with $US900 million ($A1.19 billion).

At number 14 was Macarthur Coal founder Ken Talbot, whose fortune grew to $US750 million ($A995.75 million), from $US620 million.

Property tycoon Maurice Alter's wealth grew by $US20 million ($A26.55 million), to $US590 million ($A783.32 million).

Forbes Asia said Australia's tycoons were also getting older, with 16 on the list of 40 aged 70 years or more.

Packaging magnate Richard Pratt, who died in April from cancer aged 78, was replaced on the rich list by his son Anthony.

Anthony Pratt, who now heads Visy Industries, was in sixth spot, with a net worth of $US1.6 billion ($A2.12 billion).

Other newcomers to the list were Reece Australia chairman Leslie Alan Wilson at 28th with $US445 million ($A590.81 million), and gaming magnate Bruce Mathieson at 36th with $US350 million ($A464.68 million).

Mining heiress Gina Rinehart remained Australia's richest woman and seventh overall with $US1.5 billion ($A1.99 billion), down from $US2.4 billion in 2008.

Forbes Asia said that for the first time since it began compiling the annual list, a New Zealander was richer than the wealthiest Australian.

Kiwi Graeme Hart's mountain of money is estimated at $US4.7 billion ($A6.24 billion), well above Mr Packer.

Mr Hart made his fortune in the paper and packaging sector. (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Brumby says talks with Crown boss James Packer were private, by Michael Warner and Geraldine Mitchell - Herald Sun - 14th May 2009

Premier John Brumby has admitted he held private talks with Crown casino boss James Packer before his government caved in and granted it more tables.

But Mr Brumby yesterday refused to detail the discussions, claiming the talks were private, not public.

The casino has been granted another 150 gaming tables - announced while all eyes were on Tuesday's federal Budget.

The talks between the Premier and the billionaire took place in the taxpayer-funded Victoria Suite at the Grand Prix six weeks ago.

"Well, I spoke to James Packer at the Grand Prix, but there were lots of people at the Grand Prix," Mr Brumby said yesterday.

"There was no secret . . . I had a broad discussion about the world with him, and beyond that I wouldn't go into any private details of any discussion. You wouldn't expect me to."

Just hours before Tuesday's federal Budget, Mr Brumby announced a boost to Crown's lucrative blackjack, roulette and poker tables. Casino critic the Rev Tim Costello said it was the latest in a long line of questionable dealings between Crown and Labor since it took power in 1999.

"Steve Bracks met James Packer less than two weeks after winning that election. Ever since then, they seem to have given Crown almost everything they wanted," Mr Costello said.

"This is yet another secret and insidious deal that didn't even go through the Minister's (Tony Robinson) gaming advisory panel."

But Mr Brumby denied he tried to hide the deal.

"I know that you'll form your own views about this and the timing, (but) the fact of the matter is, as soon as the agreement was concluded we announced it," he said.

Liberal gaming spokesman Michael O'Brien said the extra casino revenue was included in last week's state Budget.

"So for Labor to claim that it could not tell the public about the deal until it was signed -- on federal Budget day, no less -- is dishonest."

Mr Brumby hesitated when asked if the Crown move was considered by Cabinet, saying only that it was determined by a commercial negotiator.

"The Government has strong views about gaming machines . . . and it's gaming machines and in gaming venues that problem gambling mainly exists," he said.

Gamblers lose more than $1 billion a year at Crown.

A spokesman for the Premier told the Herald Sun: "They definitely did not discuss (it) at the GP." (Credit: Herald Sun)

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Spacey to star in 'Casino Jack', By Tatiana Siegel - Variety - 12th May 2009

Thriller based on power broker Jack Abramoff

Kevin Spacey is slipping into the shoes of disgraced Washington power broker Jack Abramoff.

Thesp will topline the true story-based thriller "Casino Jack," directed by George Hickenlooper from an original screenplay by Norman Snider.

Film, formerly titled "Bagman," stars Spacey as the once high-powered lobbyist whose bribery schemes and fraudulent dealings with Indian casinos ultimately landed him in prison.

Gary Howsam, Bill Marks and George Vitetzakis are producing the film, which will begin lensing in Toronto this month. Richard Rionda Del Castro, Donald Zuckerman, Patricia Eberle and Lewin Webb are exec producing alongside Dana Brunetti for Spacey's Trigger Street Prods.

Hannibal Pictures is handling worldwide sales, excluding North America, and will sell the film at the Cannes Film Festival. E1 Entertainment has purchased Canadian rights. William Morris and Paradigm are handling U.S. rights.

Spacey most recently starred in "21" and HBO's "Recount," both of which he produced through Trigger Street. He will next be seen in "Shrink," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released in July. Other upcoming projects include "The Men Who Stare at Goats" alongside George Clooney and father-daughter comedy "Father of Invention." (Credit: Variety)

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Movie Mogul's Rogue Brand, Hard Rock Hotel Team Up, by Ronald Grover - California Chronicle - 12th May 2009

What do you do when you've raised north of $8 billion to make movies, and the well for private equity funds has dried up? You go to Vegas, of course. At least that's the path being taken by the 34-year-old founder of Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh, who despite the money he has funneled into Hollywood productions remains something of a mystery to most folks in the movie world.

Kavanaugh, who dropped out of UCLA in 1996 to start a dot-com-era venture capital firm, has since 2004 been Hollywood's biggest fundraiser, joining with hedge funds and private equity funds to raise mountains of money for studios such as Sony and Universal to make films. Relativity Media currently finances roughly 75% of Universal's films under an agreement struck in early 2008. But on May 6, Kavanaugh announced a deal to ally with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that could jump-start a new lifestyle brand called Rogue that he has quietly launched.

Rogue Pictures is the name of a Hollywood production company that Kavanaugh bought earlier this year from Universal for $150 million. Rogue specializes in slasher films such as The Hitcher and Seed of Chucky that appeal mostly to the under-30 crowd. But Rogue is just the jumping-off point. The financier, who has provided money to make films like Talladega Nights and who produced the Russell Crowe western drama 3:10 to Yuma, almost immediately announced plans to create a lifestyle company called, what else, Rogue. Scarcely two months after his Rogue purchase was announced, Kavanaugh said he was making a clothing line and an IamRogue.com social network that are both targeting 15- to 25-year-olds.

Rogue's Promotion Venue So, of course, if you need a place to promote your new company, what better place than Vegas? His deal with the Hard Rock will put the Rogue name on the casino's new concert venue, the Joint, which would also host premieres and screenings for upcoming Rogue flicks. Rogue clothes will be sold at the casino, which will also host Friday-night Rogue pool parties, complete with clips of upcoming Rogue movies shown on the walls. As for in-room TV sets, well, yes, they'll play plenty of Rogue films as well as clips of upcoming Rogue movies.

"Ryan comes to the Hard Rock a lot. He likes to have a good time," says Hard Rock vice-president and chief marketing officer Phil Shalala. Kavanaugh, keeping a low profile that he has cultivated in the past year, refused to talk to BusinessWeek. "The Hard Rock brand has always been a 'rogue' brand, in that it celebrated those rebels who believed they could change the world and then had the courage to do it," Kavanaugh said in a statement. Sounds a little like a movie story line. Or maybe the bio of a guy who has raised billions to make those films come to life. (Credit: California Chronicle)

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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Crown expansion plan draws fire from critics, by Sarah-Jane Collins and Jason Dowling - The Sydney Morning Herald - 13th May 2009

Crown Casino has been granted its biggest expansion in gambling capacity since opening at its Southbank location more than a decade ago, in a deal attacked yesterday by campaigners for responsible gaming.

The casino, now one of the biggest in the world, will be able to increase its number of gambling tables by more than 40 per cent to 500 tables.

"Clearly the casino is being treated as the primary and first citizen of the state, with privileges that are really a cosy deal without the rest of the community having any say," the Reverend Tim Costello said.

The Victorian Gaming Minister, Tony Robinson, said the Government had agreed with Crown to alter their licence agreement to allow for 150 extra gaming tables and an expansion of the gaming floor. In exchange, Crown will pay about 10.5 per cent extra in poker machine taxes, bringing it into line with other pokie machine operators across Victoria. The increase will be implemented in 1.7 per cent increments over six years.

"This is bringing the tax that they pay on their poker machines up to the level that is paid by other entities across the state, so it's a good deal for taxpayers," Mr Robinson said.

He said allowing the expansion would ensure Crown remained the first choice casino destination in Australia.

"If people ultimately want to have the boiled sweets experience of casinos, let them go to Sydney. If they want the rolled gold dark chocolate experience they're going to keep coming to Melbourne and we're going to ensure that."

Gary O'Neill, from Crown Casino, said the deal meant Crown would be able to keep up with growing rivals in Macau and Singapore. "The new mega complexes are very big. They will be very competitive and they will compete for the tourist dollar in this part of the world."

Mr O'Neill said the gaming floor at Crown would expand but final approval for an expansion rests with the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.

Mark Zirnsak, from the Interfaith Gambling Taskforce described the expansion as appalling. "This, coming at a time when there's a global financial crisis, it's going to push more Victorians into being in hardship and vulnerable," he said.

Dr Zirnsak said the deal pointed to the "very cosy relationship between the Government and Crown".

"There's been no consultation on this expansion, which we believe there should have been, and the timing is indeed appalling," he said.

He said Crown did not need an expansion to remain competitive. "They've got a monopoly [in Victoria] and most of their patrons aren't millionaires flying in from overseas. They are locals," he said.

But he said he supported the increase in pokies taxes.

The Opposition's gaming spokesman, Michael O'Brien, said Mr Robinson had waited until budget day to announce the deal in an attempt to bury a bad decision. "Labor is clearly embarrassed by this gambling boost and tax grab, as it should be." (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

International Game Technology - AP - 6th May 2009

New York - Improving gaming trends and new management led a Goldman Sachs analyst to add International Game Technology to his Conviction Buy list.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

PartyGaming to Buy Everest Poker?

Analysts claim PartyGaming may acquire Everest, as well as its owner GigaMedia

May 7, 2009 (CAP Newswire) -- Reports are circulating that PartyGaming is in talks to acquire Everest Poker, a leading online poker website owned by U.S.-listed GigaMedia Limited. Such a merger could bring PartyPoker in direct competition with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the world's largest online poker sites in terms of players and traffic.

PartyGaming is riding high lately. After the successful settlement of its long-standing dispute with the U.S. Department of Justice, the company seems to be securely in a positive growth mode, seeking out opportunities to expand. And, perhaps thanks to yesterday’s unveiling of new online gambling regulation legislation in the U.S., the company’s stock prices have soared this week, making its position for a possible takeover even stronger.

More positive news for the company, although not for the industry at large: The U.K.’s Guardian news source is reporting that analysts are speculating that U.S. authorities may soon be cracking down on PartyGaming rivals PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. That could leave PartyGaming in an even more advantageous position regarding market share.

There’s also speculation that PartyGaming may implement some sort of partnership with Harrah’s, the huge U.S. land-based casino chain that’s reportedly about to get into the online game. The Guardian quoted a broker at Daniel Stewart as saying “Also, the appointment of ex-PartyGaming chief executive, Mitch Garber, as head of Harrah's US online division, [is] driving rumours of a tie-up with/acquisition of PartyGaming now that PartyGaming has settled with the Department of Justice.”

The Guardian’s article can be found here. (Credit: CAP Newswire)

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Party Poker Releases Dates for Sports Stars Challenge IV, by Brett Collson - Poker News Daily - 7th May 2009

Party Poker has released the dates for its PartyPoker.com Sports Stars Challenge IV, one of the most popular televised poker tournaments in Europe. The event will run from May 29-June 1 and will feature some of the world’s biggest sports stars, both past and present, taking their seats at the table in hopes of becoming a poker champion.

The Sports Stars Challenge IV will include some of the world’s best in motorsports, golf, boxing, rugby and darts. There will also be an online qualifier added to the field for the first time ever. The number of heats will increase from six to seven, with the winner of each of the seven heats advancing to the final table to battle it out until one of them walks away with the title. The overall winner receives £20,000 with second getting £10,000 and third receiving £5,000.

The motorsport table will feature Italian F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella, while the golf heat will include both 2008 European Ryder Cup team member Graeme McDowell and Jean Van Der Velde. European football’s list of legends includes former Holland captain Frank De Boer, French World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf, Germany’s European Championship winner Thomas Helmer, Romania’s Florin Radiciou and Denmark and Liverpool legend Jan Molby.

Germany’s former unbeaten World Champion Sven Ottke will headline the boxing heat. He will be joined by Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth heavyweight and Prizefighter champion Martin Rogan and Poland’s female boxing champ Agnieska Rylik. The rugby heat will feature union’s former France and Wasps captain Raphael Ibanez and Australian league star Brad Drew, while the darts heat will pit legend Phil Taylor against Russia’s ladies champ Anastasia Dobromyslova.

PartyPoker.com players also had the chance to win a seat through a freeroll in the sports heat of their choice. The sports are European football (two heats), rugby (union and league combined), motorsport, boxing, darts and golf. Two online qualifiers will join each heat.

“We offered freerolls to win a seat in the event on the site”, a spokesperson for Party Poker said, “but the places were snapped up so quickly that we were loath to promote it too much to save the disappointment of players. This is a once in a lifetime experience for a select group to take to the felt with their sporting heroes. The overall lineup is the most diverse and international in the event’s history and more star participant names will be released in the near future.”

For the fourth consecutive year the event will be run by Matchroom Sport, a promotions company founded by English entrepreneur Barry Hearn. Matchroom Sport is typically involved in snooker and boxing events for the most part, but Hearn is thrilled to be involved in the Sports Stars challenge again.

“This is the poker event that the sporting world looks forward to and we have some great international names and great poker players competing for the trophy, big prize money and the ultimate bragging rights”, Hearn said. “We’re particularly excited to introduce the online element and the motorsport and golf heats this year.”

Past winners of Sports Stars Challenge are rugby union star Austin Healey, Irish snooker champion Ken Doherty, and television presenter Kara Scott, who won £20,000 last year after defeating Manchester United football legend Norman Whiteside heads-up. There is no presenter heat in the new format this year.

Coverage of the event will be aired in the UK later this year on Sky Sports and then distributed internationally. (Credit: Poker News Daily)

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Investors bet on PartyGaming, by Robert Lindsay and Dominic Walsh - The Times - 7th May 2009

PartyGaming’s winning streak continued yesterday amid talk of favourable regulatory moves in the United States. It is said that an American state will legalise online poker, in a possible tie-up with PartyGaming.

James Hollins, of Daniel Stewart, the broker, played down rumours that Harrah’s, the casino operator, would bid for PartyGaming, up 23p to 283p, since it does not have the cash, but he said that a more immediate prospect would be a crackdown on PokerStars and Full Tilt, rival online sites that continue to operate in America in defiance of the online ban. The broker also believes that a lifting of the ban will trigger a round of consolidation.

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