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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Australian Casino News: The Star, Crown Casino; New Zealand Casino News: SkyCity

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Star casino has 'extreme' party culture...

A former Star employee says the Sydney casino is plagued by a culture of parties, irresponsible gambling and sexual harassment.

The claims come just days after the NSW Gaming Authority announced an inquiry into the casino, following the sacking of its CEO Sid Vaikunta over sexual harassment allegations two weeks ago.
In an interview with Channel 7, former manager Elizabeth Ward said in her 24 years working in casinos she had never witnessed a culture as extreme as that at the Star.

"It's a permanent party," she told Seven.

Another employee who wasn't identified told Seven there was 'chronic drug abuse' within senior management.

He also claimed senior managers were encouraged not to report breaches within the casino.
"There's financial incentives not to report any breaches," he said.

Ms Ward, who worked at The Star for 16 years, claimed in one incident a senior minister from a foreign government was ejected from the casino for gross and obscene behaviour but was allowed to return after complaining to executive staff.

"No matter what you do or what you report or what you see, nothing gets done," she said.
The employees claim high-rollers are protected by senior management, and encouraged to stay at tables for up to 48 hours.

Ms Ward said her investigation of a suspected drug scandal involving a high-roller cost her and her husband their jobs.

She claimed the high-roller was good friends with three casino executives.

"The more I investigated it the uglier things seemed to be getting for me," she said.

The employees said they were willing to testify as part of the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority inquiry.

Echo Entertainment says the allegations made on Seven News are inconsistent with the findings of the Casino Liquor Gaming Control Authority's recent review of The Star casino licence.

The company says The Star's intolerance of breaches of its Code of Conduct is evidenced by the sacking of its former managing director after allegations were made against him.

It rejected Ms Ward's claim that the jobs of she and her husband were terminated after they investigated a high-roller over a suspected drug scandal.

"Ms Ward was unable to return to work after an eight-month absence and so her employment was ended," Echo Entertainment said in a statement.

"Six months before a restructure of table games Ms Ward's husband asked for a voluntary redundancy and The Star granted his request."

Echo Entertainment did not deny that reporting breaches was entwined with performance indicators.

It said reporting breaches was taken seriously but that a recent report by Ms Gail Furness SC to the Casino Liquor & Gaming Licence Authority did recommend a review of performance indicators for senior staff.

"She observed that The Star had already taken action to substitute a more appropriate KPI (Key Performance Indicators) in place of zero breaches," the company said.

The company also did not deny claims a foreign minister had been readmitted to the casino after being ejected for bad behaviour.

It said: "The Responsible Service of Alcohol is treated seriously and applied uniformly regardless of the status of the client visiting the casino."


Inquiry launched into sacking of casino boss Sid Vaikunta...

AN inquiry has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the sacking of The Star casino's CEO, Sid Vaikunta.

The NSW Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority said today it was establishing the inquiry, with powers conferred by the Royal Commissions Act.

Mr Vaikunta left the Sydney casino amid allegations of sexual harassment.

The casino's owner Echo Entertainment Group announced his departure a fortnight ago, citing his behaviour "in a social work setting".

Barrister Gail Furness SC will run the inquiry.


Melco interested in $1 bln Manila casino project

(Reuters) - A casino operator run by Australian billionaire James Packer and the son of Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho has expressed interest in investing in a $1 billion Manila casino project, the Philippine gambling regulator said on Tuesday.

Macau-based Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd MPEL.0 was "very interested" in the project, Cristino Naguiat, chairman of the state-owned Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp (Pagcor), told Reuters after meeting with Melco officials last week in Manila.

He said Hong Kong-listed Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd (0027.HK) was also interested in a project in the more than 100-hectare Entertainment City near Manila Bay, construction of which is to begin late next year.

Pagcor, the country's largest casino operator, awarded four licenses in 2008 and 2009 to operate casino resorts in the Manila Bay area. Pagcor expects the resorts to generate annual gambling revenue of as much as $11 billion after five years of operation, overtaking Las Vegas.

Pagcor requires a minimum investment of $1 billion from any firm awarded a gaming license, Naguiat said.

CASINO RESORTS

Naguiat did not know if Melco was looking for local partners, but said Galaxy was in talks with local groups and "could be" in discussions with local property and leisure firm Belle Corp (BEL.PS) for a partnership.

Belle, controlled by the country's richest man Henry Sy, was looking to lease at least 10 hectares of land from Pagcor for its second casino project in Entertainment City. The project could also cost $1 billion.

Belle is building an integrated entertainment resort complex called Belle Grande Manila Bay, which features a 30,000-square-metre casino, within the Entertainment City.

Three other groups are pursuing developments in Entertainment City, the biggest being the $2 billion casino-hotel project being built by a unit of Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp (6425.OS) set for completion in 2014.

The other developers are Bloomsbury Investments and the joint venture between Genting Hong Kong Ltd (0678.HK) and Alliance Global Group (AGI.PS).

Naguiat said Universal Entertainment remained interested in pursuing its Philippine project despite a much-publicised fight between Japanese gaming mogul Kazuo Okada and his former business partner, Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn.

Okada owns Universal Entertainment and Wynn is chief executive at Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O). Both claim the other made improper payments to win favour in their respective Macau and Philippines markets.

"I don't know what's going on between Mr. Okada and Mr. Wynn. We have to be outside that fight," Naguiat said. "From the way I look at it, there was nothing wrong with our transactions with Mr. Okada."

Naguiat said he had discussed the issue with Okada, who promised to pursue his Philippine project. "No change in plans, everything will push through."

Pagcor grew its total revenues by 16.5 percent to a record 36.7 billion pesos last year. It expects revenues to grow at least 16 percent this year.


The season for auction fever about to set in...

THE commercial auction year in Melbourne will start in earnest when Burgess Rawson offers 10 properties, including shopping centres, service stations, and liquor outlets, next week.

The auction will be on Wednesday, February 29, in the River Room at Crown Casino at 11am. Up for sale are a Coles Express at Rye, an office in Cheltenham, a car wash in Springvale, a BP service station in Ballarat and an IGA in Seymour. The interstate properties include a supermarket and warehouse in Queensland, a Woolworths in Launceston and two Dan Murphy's liquor stores in New South Wales.

In Echuca, Fitzroys and Charles L. King & Co will offer four commercial/residential development sites for auction this Saturday from 1.30pm. The property at 557-561 High Street, one of the last development sites in the Port precinct, is expected to fetch more than $2 million. The other sales prices should be between $1 million-$1.8 million.

In Southbank, Savills Australia is marketing a warehouse with development potential close to Southgate and Crown Casino. The property will be auctioned on Thursday, March 8, at 1pm on site, and is expected to fetch more than $950,000. Located at 11-13 Hancock Street, the level warehouse on a 168-square-metre site is zoned Mixed Use (allowing residential and commercial development).

Receivers and managers have been appointed to sell The Avenue, a prominent shopping centre in Sunshine West. Colliers International, under instructions from PPB Advisory, has listed the centre at 136 The Avenue for sale by tender.

The anchor tenant at the shopping centre was a Coles supermarket and was complemented by a strong tenancy mix incorporating a Cellarbrations liquor outlet and other specialty stores.

Knight Frank is to sell an industrial property at Tullamarine. Located at 9 Fellowes Court, the property comprises a clear-span warehouse with a two-level office and loading docks. The expressions of interest campaign closes on March 15 at 5pm. The expected selling price is more than $4 million.


Adelaide Casino earns $19m in first half - 16th February 2012...

SkyCity Entertainment Group is continuing talks with the State Government on the redevelopment of the Adelaide casino.

New Zealand-based SkyCity has casinos in Auckland, Hamilton, Queenstown, Adelaide and Darwin.

Adelaide Casino was the group's best performing Australian asset, lifting earnings 13 per cent to $19.1 million in the six months to December 31 on a 7 per cent rise in revenue of $82.6 million.

SkyCity on Wednesday reported a 17.4 per cent increase in net profit for the first half of the 2011/12 financial year to a record $NZ78.8 million ($A61.81 million).

The group said that since December SkyCity had been working closely with the South Australian casino taskforce regarding the future regulatory framework for the Adelaide casino.

``The outcome of these discussions will allow us to determine whether to proceed or not with progressing our plans for the transformation of the Adelaide casino,'' SkyCity said.

``While we are excited about the outstanding growth opportunity this transformational project potentially represents for SkyCity, shareholders should be assured that this project will only proceed if we can be confident of achieving an acceptable return on the potential investment.''

SkyCity says it could transform the Adelaide casino into a world-class entertainment facility, featuring a five-star hotel, expanded gaming facilities, restaurants and bars, a spa and a roof-top pool lounge.

SkyCity said that since 2010, the Darwin casino had experienced some challenging times caused by a soft tourism market, the high Australian dollar and the ban on live cattle exports.

However, gaming revenues were now returning to growth.

Construction of SkyCity's new Lagoon Resort in Darwin was on budget and scheduled to open in July.

The Lagoon Resort would include special facilities for international gamblers, enabling SkyCity's Darwin property to compete in the international VIP market.

``This, together with the recently announced business class flights direct from Singapore, Darwin's proximity to Asia and the recently announced $32 billion Inpex Ichthys LNG project, gives us confidence that our Darwin property has a very bright future,'' SkyCity said.

Overall, the group said strong first half earnings were driven by the revitalised flagship Auckland casino and hotel complex, the Rugby World Cup finals in New Zealand in October, and continued success in attracting more international gamblers.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said the group had enjoyed strong momentum in the six months to December 31, and it had continued into January and February 2012.

SkyCity expected its normalised net profit for the full year to be at the top end of its previous guidance range in the high $NZ140 millions, up from $NZ130.9 million ($A102.68 million) last year.

SkyCity spent $NZ50 million ($A39.22 million) rejuvenating its Auckland operations, including new VIP gaming facilities.

SkyCity said talks were continuing with the New Zealand government over the construction of an international convention centre, which could result in the SkyCity investing $NZ350 million ($A274.54 million) in the project.

Shares in SkyCity were two cents lower at $2.78 on Wednesday.

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