Australian Casino And Gambling News, by Greg Tingle - 9th December 2010

G'day maties. It's another massive report focusing on “down under” Australia. We've got more on the the Aussie pubs, country clubs and gaming industry at war with the government, James Packer's Crown not so keen on Tabcorp, agenda driven MP's out of touch with society, ATM scam used to pay off gambling debts to sharks, police dog attacks pokie bandit, Aristocrat shares taking another dive and much more. Media Man and Gambling911 with the latest, greatest and hardest hitting from Aussie land...

Crown Limited Not So Keen To Get Hands On Tabcorp's Star City In Sin City...

James Packer is cooling down the talk his Crown Limited empire will put in bid for Tabcorp's demerged casino business. The Crown Limited chairman advised shareholders that such a move would "take a lot of work and a lot of money". JP's first very public comments on the Tabcorp business split came as chief executive Rowen Craigie advised that VIP revenues at the firms Melbourne and Perth casinos had slumped 10% thus far this financial year. Speaking in Perth, Craigie admitted that the high-roller business was being hit hard by the opening of 2 competitors casinos in Singapore earlier this year and Crown Ltd was failing to completely capitalise on an expanded pool of VIP gamblers in the region. He went on to say that combined gaming revenue at Crown Melbourne and Burswood was up 6% in the first 21 weeks of the year, while non-gaming revenue, including the Crown Metropol Hotel in downtown Melbourne, had increased by 13%. In a recent note to clients, Goldman Sachs said it expected to downgrade its earnings forecast for Crown by 2 to 3% based on the trading update, but also said any share price slump would represent a "good buying opportunity". Analyst Raymond Tong said the implied valuation of Crown's domestic business remained strong at around 7.4 times earnings for 2011-12. Packer, previously expressing an interest in acquiring the Tabcorp-owned Star City in 'Sin City' Sydney, told shareholders he did not want to speculate on Tabcorp's move to separate its wagering and casino operations. He implied that his main priority was the ongoing $2 billion redevelopment of Crown Melbourne and Burswood, which he said was starting to generate revenue improvements, as well as Crown's interest in the Macau based City of Dreams gaming complex. He would not directly answer a shareholder's question on whether a Crown bid for the Tabcorp assets would face a potential challenge from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. "We are watching what's happening (on Tabcorp) through the demerger process," Packer said. "At the moment, we think there is still a lot of work to be done to make our properties in Perth, Melbourne and Macau as good as they can be. And I think Tabcorp properties will take a lot of work and a lot of money." Packer spoke on on federal and state governments to work more closely with tourism bodies to expand the sector in the face of new challenges, including the emergence of "integrated resorts" in Singapore. Packer did not answer questions after the meeting. The Crown Limited directors Packer,John Horvath, Rowena Danziger and Ashok Jacob were all re-elected.

Tabcorp Casino Chips Seized In Drug Investigation...

Countfeit casino chips are still extremely popular with crims down under, and northern Australia cities appear to have developed networks thick into the action. Roughly 60 thousand dollars worth of cash and casino chips have been seized by law enforcement in a large Sunshine Coast drug trafficking investigation. Coppers have arrested at least 10 people on as many as 30 charges in the joint Criminal Investigation Branch and Tactical Crime Squad operation. There has been $26,000 in cash and $36,000 in casino chips seized from a Warana premises. The casino chips range in value from $100 to $1000 and belong to Tabcorp's Conrad Jupiters and Star City casinos. Yesterday police and the "dog squad" raided a Kunda Park wheel and tyre business this morning over allegations of drug trafficking. A man in his 30s was assisting police with their search at the business. Detectives and the dog squad were at the scene which is the centre of a lengthy drug trafficking and supply investigation. A residence in Buderim was also searched. Neighbouring businesses shared differing opinions about the Kunda Park raid, but all described the man at the centre of the raid as a "very likable person."

How Smart Are Aussie Gambling Smartcards?...

So called "problem gamblers" will not be forced to set limits on how much they plunge on the pokies despite the Federal Government vowing to mandate smartcards designed to cut players' losses. Queensland gamblers have started voluntarily using special swipe cards to limit their poker machine losses four years ahead of the Government making the so-called "pre-commitment" technology compulsory, or at least that's the spin been dished out by Australian government departments. More than 1000 of the state's pokies players are using new technology in-built into poker machine swipe cards to set daily limits on how much they gamble, a problem gambling conference on the Gold Coast has been told. Queensland was one of the first states to introduce the cards ahead of the Gillard Government's plan to make compulsory their use in all Australian gaming venues, except land based casinos, by 2014. The cards were put forward by the Australian Productivity Commission in a report earlier this year, which found Australians gambled $19 billion in 2008-2009 – $12 billion of it on pokies. Despite talking tough on the loss-limiting technology, warning the Commonwealth will override the states if they fail to back its introduction, federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin says pokies players will not be forced to set a limit on how much they spend.
Instead, they could "choose to set no limit at all", Macklin told the National Association of Gambling Studies conference at Jupiters Casino. She said this would give Australia's 10,000s of thousands of problem gamblers "greater control" while allowing others to continue to enjoy playing the machines. Ms Macklin said pre-commitment technology was "a tool" which would allow problem gamblers to "set a limit and help them stick to it". "It's certainly not about the Government controlling people's money. "It's not about taking away people's individual responsibility for their own behaviour." Declan Martschinke, from Max Gaming – which makes the pre-commitment poker machine cards already being used in Queensland venues...said the gambling industry did not favour punters being forced to set spending limits. He said having mandatory pre-commitment cards would make people think about how much they were gambling. "It's a good tool for harm minimisation." he said, adding the cards stopped people from gambling any more once they reached their daily limit – which could be as high as $10,000. The cards could also be used to obtain spending statements. He said 35,000 cashless gaming cards had been issued to pokies players in clubs and pubs, but only about 1000 cardholders had taken up the option to set spending limits. Industry insiders say the government is all spin on this matter, and have a set agenda. Clubs Australia and the clubs, pubs and hotel industry is just now starting to fight back, and is generating strong support with communities and of course, patrons.

Aristocrat Leisure Ltd Shares Suffer 7 Year Low...

Shares in Aristocrat Leisure Ltd slumped to a near seven-year low after the gaming machine maker flagged a fall in full year operating profit as it struggles in North America and Japan.

Ex AFL Coach Convicted Of Fraud, Repaid Gambling Loans Led To Jail...

Former Brisbane Lions' assistant coach Daryn Cresswell, 39, has been jailed for fraud offences. He pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud in the Maroochydore District Court today. He was sentenced to 3 years in jail suspended after 10 months. Cresswell used false documents and a fake name to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars in Queensland in 2005 and 2006 to repay gambling debts. The National Australia Bank (NAB) made an application for bankruptcy against Cresswell in June 2008. He was declared bankrupt in April last year. Court documents showed he owed the bank more than $500,000. Cresswell played 244 games for the Sydney Swans before retiring to take up coaching positions with the Brisbane Lions, the Geelong Cats, the Tasmanian Devils and the New South Wales AFL club, Manly-Warringah. He was also coach of Tasmania's former VFL side.

Gambling Debts Motivated New Australian Visitor Into ATM Card Skimming...

A Romanian national used an automatic teller machine skimmer to steal more than $80,000 from the bank accounts of 130 Queenslander banana benders in an attempt to pay off his gambling debts to organised crime "loan sharks", a court has been told. Brisbane Supreme Court heard Christian Iftimia, 42, travelled to Australia with an "ATM skimmer" packed in his bag in May 2009 and set out to steal the bank details and funds of people in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales over a 7-month duration.
The court was told Iftimia and a co-accused, yet to face trial, would most likely have continued their illegal activities had it not been for a member of the public who reported their suspicious activities at an ATM outside a Morayfield shopping centre, on Brisbane's northern outskirts, on December 24 (the day before Christmas)last year. Iftimia, from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, was jailed Tuesday for 4 years after pleading guilty to 14 charges...including money laundering.
Iftimia, who may be released on parole within 8 months, also pleaded guilty to 5 counts of dishonestly obtaining or dealing in financial information, 3 of stealing property of more than $5000 and possessing a thing to dishonestly obtain or deal in personal financial information. Barrister Tony Entriken, for Iftimia, advised his client travelled down under to conduct his illegal operation after he and his family were threatened by "loan sharks" over a gambling debt. Entriken said Iftimia, a construction developer, had led an otherwise blameless life, but amassed a gambling debt in excess of 100,000 Euros after becoming "enamoured" with the Bucharest casino scene. The court was told Iftimia and his accomplice electronically transferred, or laundered, the vast majority of the funds they stole to the personal bank accounts of Iftimia's wife, his son and two neighbours and that none of the cash had been recovered. Commonwealth prosecutor Penny Floyd said Iftimia's operation targeted Commonwealth and Suncorp Metway Bank ATMs at Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast; Runaway Bay, on the Gold Coast; Capalaba, in Brisbane's southeast; and Morayfield.
Floyd said when police searched the base of Iftimia's operation they found more than 90 ATM-style cards with magnetic strips, taken from a well known electrical and music retailer, used to store details skimmed from ATMs. She said Iftimia initially avoided arrested by fleeing the Morayfield shopping centre, catching a cab to Bribie Island, but was caught in transit as he then attempted to travel by taxi to the Gold Coast.
Entriken said Iftimia, who could still face charges in other Australian states, is alleged to have also targeted ATMs in NSW and Victoria. He said Iftimia could face arrest when released from custody in Queensland and faces an uncertain future and fate in Romania as he still owes the "loan sharks" their money...which was lent to him at exorbitant and accumulating interest rates. Justice David Boddice, in sentencing Iftimia, said: "You preyed on the unsuspecting (public) ... to extract their money from their accounts ... at ATMs.'' "(Your actions) compromise the financial affairs of innocent (Australian bank) account holders." Justice Boddice also ordered Iftimia pay reparations of $46,850 to Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and $34,520 to Suncorp Metway. It's not know how soon the victims - the public and the banks may get their funds back.

Northern Queensland Pokie Bandit Fights By Police Dog, Dog - 1; Bandit - Nill...

An alleged bandit was tasered and two others fled from police after they were caught trying to crack open poker machines at a tavern in Queensland's southeast. The three men, armed with heavy tools, broke into the Highfields Tavern, in Toowoomba's north, just after midnight on Monday, police said. They gained entry to the tavern's gaming room and began to hack into poker machines, Sergeant Jamie Deacon told the press. "They damaged six poker machines with a sledge hammer and/or crowbar," he said. "They removed cash boxes from each machine." The gang set off the alarm during the raid and police, including the dog squad, arrived a short time later. Two of the men fled. The third, armed with a screwdriver, approached a police dog and his handler in a threatening manner. When the man failed to follow police instructions the dog was released, police said in a statement. The man suffered minor injuries to his right thigh. Police will allege the man continued to struggle with the dog and in fear of the dog's safety his handler fired a taser at the man. The man dropped the weapon and grabbed at the snout of the dog before being taken into custody. The 33-year-old, from the nearby town of Drayton, was arrested and charged with possession of implements, assaulting police, and break-and-enter. He is due to appear in the Toowoomba Magistrate's Court on Monday. Police investigations are continuing and officers are examining possible links to other offences in the area. "He's a well-known Toowoomba person," Sgt Deacon said. The other two men remain on the run. Crime does not pay.

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If you have a bet, bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a Special Contributor to the Gambling911.com website and proprietor of Media Man International

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They also offer political analysis.

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