Australian Gambling And Entertainment News, by Greg Tingle - 20th December 2010

G'day again punters, casino and gambling millionaires, billionaires, entertainment news junkies, insiders, outsiders, politicians, journalists and everyone else. It might be five days before Christmas, by there's no sign of Aussie gambling and entertainment news slowing down. Nope, no Xmas Grinch's here. Australia continues to be home to some of the world's hottest gambling, casino and entertainment news, and this bush tucker bag jam packed news update is no different. There's Australian Casino Wars, Aussie Media Wars, casino lovers vs casino haters, casino and gambling politics and much more. Media Man and Gambling911 beat the Christmas rush with this stocking filled report...

Aussie Casino And Media Tycoon James Packer And Media Boss Kerry Stokes Now Mates!...

Having spent years, if not decades, in a war for news media dominance down under, the families are now sharing luxury ski lodge digs over Xmas. We hear that The Packer's and their two juniors are heading to Beaver Creek in Vail Colorado for Christmas where they will be the guests of Seven Network big cheese Kerry Stokes. Stokes has been buying up properties in the luxury ski resort for years and has a world class penthouse in the region which will suit fellow billionaire Packer to a tee. Earlier in the year JP and Stokes clashed, when Stokes made a hostile raid on 'Our James' Consolidated Media Holdings, but both gents have moved forward. Packer has of course bought a large bite of Ten and insiders reckon there's will be plenty of sport to go around the Aussie media landscape, should it get split up from Ten's digital channel OneHD. Afterwards The Packer's will snatch a lend of a a boat and cruise up to the Bahamas. Packer family matriarch Ros has flown to Paris, France, to catch up with daughter Gretel for Xmas. Ok, that's you first lot of Xmas media celeb goss. Stay tuned.

Aussie Shane Warne May Focus More On Cricket And Poker; Love Life Suffers Blow; Twitter-Gate...

Love him or hate him (we like him lots, but not too much), Warnie is newsworthy. Mate and biz partner or the rich and famous, like James Packer, just to name one, has a thing for poker (and ladies). Warne's romance with British babe Liz Hurley has suffered a blow out. Hurley has apparently distanced Warne the leg-spinner's loose fingers (phone and other... satire) and love for hot women again led distracted him, says Murdoch's News Of The World. The 41-year-old legend reportedly pumped out more than 100 hot texts to a married 44-year-old Melbourne mother of two, Adele Angeleri, while he was courting Hurley. The pair met when Angeleri, who runs a shop across the road from Warne's office, allegedly approached him with a business proposal only to receive a string of propositions herself. The sexy text affair reportedly spun out of control when the woman's husband, lawyer Denis Angeleri, found out and stormed into Warne's office demanding to speak to him. The following day Warne is understood - alleged to have telephoned a not happy Angeleri in an attempt to keep the affair secret. Warne, who had reportedly told friends he wanted to marry Hurley, has not been his usually happy go lucky self on Twitter recently. "Still no sleep… so got up out of bed, now staring at the water here in Perth, sulking and feeling grumpy!! Need cheering up today!" Warne said in the early hours of Friday morning. Not even Australia's comeback in the Perth cricket Test could boost Warne's spirits. He also asked why "some people enjoy being nasty, it's good to be nice to." Media Man will be checking in with Warnie's Twitter for further updates.

National Australia Bank Reduces Gamble On Tabcorp Shares...

Gamiing an gambling giant Tabcorp Holdings advised National Australia Bank has reduced its holding in the firm. Tabcorp advised in a statement on Monday that NAB had decreased its relevant interest in the company to 34,911,845 ordinary shares representing 5.097% of its issued fully paid ordinary capital. On December 6, NAB was listed as holding 45,655, 936 shares in Tabcorp, representing 6.67%. Tabcorp said the shares were sold on December 14.

Tatts Group Dick McIlwain: Insiders Speculate News Or PR Comments On Potential Merger...

The prospect of consolidation is "often ruined by speculators causing price movements" says Tatts Group chief Dick McIlwain. On Tabcorp he says they are the "elephant in the room". The demerger of Tabcorp's casino operations by July next year will create a wagering, gaming and keno operation similar to Tatts, and McIlwain firmly believes his group's status will most likely be improved in any genuine comparison between the two. "We like the demerger because our wagering licences (in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory) are more secure and deliver better margins than Tabcorp's licences (in Victoria and NSW) Our lotteries business is also more robust than keno." Tabcorp boss Elmer Funke Kupper would like to debate the claim we're sure. McIlwain goes on stating that there's "unfinished business" in wagering and that a combination of Tatts and Tabcorp would be "powerful", given the cost savings from bringing the two back offices together. "But the prospect of consolidation is often ruined by speculators causing price movements, so things don't always unfold the way you might think," the Tatts chief says. "And with Tabcorp and us, it's always about price -- we've never agreed on price; nowhere near it." Since Tatts first listed in 2005, investors who were hoping for a steady harvest of expanding profits from monopoly gambling licences, and relatively few corporate surprises, have been disappointed. The firm beat Tabcorp to a $4 billion merger with UniTab in 2006, but chief executive Duncan Fischer became a casualty as institutional shareholders got behind UniTab's McIlwain to run the enlarged group. In April 2008, the Victorian government announced that Tatts and Tabcorp would lose their duopoly from 2012 over 27,500 gaming machines operated outside Crown casino. This surprised a lot of folks. Both companies lost in excess of 20% of their value, with $1.2bn wiped from Tatts' market capitalisation. McIlwain now says he is "not unhappy" to be getting out of the pokies business because it is "on the nose all around the world". Lotteries and wagering, on the other hand, are "neighbourhood-dependent" businesses, quite different from casinos and pokies that were more about preying on "vulnerable" people. Tabcorp, is highly likely to disagreed, given their almost $1 million upgrade on Star City, with a further half a mill upgrade coming up on their Queensland based hotels and casinos. Tatts partly filled the earnings hole last March with the $850m purchase of NSW Lotteries. Initial concerns that Tatts overpaid were quickly doused when it emerged that the group could keep an estimated $14m a year in unclaimed prize money! Strange business hey. The Tatts Lotteries division, and the wider group, is now looking up having snatched a 65-year licence in Queensland with the 2007 Golden Casket acquisition, a 10-year licence in Victoria in 2008 and the 40-year NSW Lotteries franchise. McIlwain advised the lotteries portfolio can deliver $250m in earnings before interest, tax and amortisation by 2014...more than 10 times the division's $23m in 2006 EBITDA, and more than the entire company's EBITDA in the same year. Tatts has ambitions for its wagering business as well and is shortlisted with Tabcorp for the 12-year Victorian wagering licence, estimated to be worth up to $500m. While the integrity of the licence has been undermined by corporate bookmakers operating out of the Northern Territory, the legal position of the states was recently buttressed by Racing NSW's court victory against Betfair and Sportsbet. A result in the auction between Tatts and Tabcorp is now expected by April next year, following the predicated change of government in last month's Victorian election. McIlwain hedges his bets on the likelihood of a tilt for a demerged Tabcorp if Tatts wins the wagering licence. Yes, it could make Tabcorp less attractive, but it still has the NSW TAB business and there is commercial logic in "putting all or part of (Tabcorp) together (with Tatts)". McIlwain says "In retail markets where we have an exclusive licence, there are almost guerrilla-like attacks from low-fee jurisdictions that don't pay anywhere near the level of taxes we do. It's an opportunity for us and a second way of finishing the consolidation. In wagering, we could create a differentiated product with separate values and go into exclusive markets elsewhere."
Tatt's is keen to get in the thick of the online gambling and gaming sector, be in casinos, mobile and / or other. "Reputation is not just about integrity; when we bid for a business, we only do so within realistic parameters. You can destroy your reputation if you don't execute well or you create controversy." The Tatts balance sheet, he says, remains in good shape, with the company generally prepared to leverage $100m of acquired EBITDA with $250m of debt. In 2005, the group ventured offshore when it bought 10.5 per cent of the British venue and gaming machine operator Talarius. McIlwain, in his first acquisition as Tatts chief, joined with Macquarie Group to privatise the business and subsequently paid pound stg. 28m for the investment bank's share. Last June, after a 30% dive in turnover over 3 years due to the British recession, smoking bans and regulatory changes, Tatts saw the writing on the wall and slashed the book value of Talarius by $140m. The business has been reconfigured with the closure of 48 venues and has finally resumed top-line growth.
New opportunities are emerging in Europe, for example, with debt-laden Spain recently flagging the sale of a 30% in its 200-year-old state lottery. But McIlwain is reluctant to buy into joint ventures, or have Tatts' return diluted by a technology partner. "We'd have to team up with a technology supplier and it will be three years before we're technology independent," he says. It's a challenge to be picked up by his successor, with the Tatts chief due to step down around his 65th birthday in October 2012. Speculation is rife as to who may be new partners for Tatts... Betfair, PartyGaming, Richard Branson's Virgin, Telstra, Optus, Google... anyone's guess, but today's revelations should stop chit chat that Tatt's won't be around for the long haul. This news item along is expected to given Tatt's some much welcome positive buz and consideration from other corporate giants who otherwise might have overlooked them. Tatt's can thank Media Man and Gambling911 later. We'll expect your Xmas card and call!

Aussie Pub And Land Based Pokie Players Loose $2m Per Day!..

One armed bandit punters are set to lose a record $800 million this year. Nearly $2.2 million a day ($200.4 million) was lost between July and September, the third-highest quarterly loss in South Australian history. If punters continue at this rate, they will lose more than the record $792.6 million they fed poker machines in the 2006-07 financial year. The last occurrence that ore than $200 million was lost in a three-month period was leading up to smoking bans in November 2007. Since then, losses steadily have decreased, with pokes recording a 7-year low $729.4 million profit in 2009-10. Last September, the state and federal governments released the findings of two pre-commitment technology trials in SA. They showed the technology, which allows people to determine the amount of money they want to spend before gambling, may be effective in reducing the amount of money problem gamblers lose. South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon said the latest poker machine figures highlighted the urgency of implementing a national mandatory pre-commitment scheme. "Voluntary pre-commitment is a joke," he said. "What it does show is the technology can work, but the only way to do it properly is there has to be a mandatory all-in pre-commitment scheme." State Gambling Minister Tom Koutsantonis said South Australia was leading the nation with pre-commitment technologies. "This can empower individuals to take control over their own spending behaviour," he said. Yep, its man VS machine, citizens VS "big brother".

WikiLeaks Further Embarrasses Australian Government; Aussie PM Has Some Explaining To Do...

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is under massive pressure over her initial knee jerk reaction to the WikiLeaks controversy. At one point called the actions of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange "illegal". It was later downgraded to "grossly irresponsible". But at a press conference in Sydney there was a tune being played after an investigation by the Australian Federal Police. "The Government believed it was appropriate to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police. We've done that now. We've received the advice and the advice is that there have been no breaches of Australian law," Gillard said. Gillard says she only meant it was against the law to steal classified cables, not release them as the whistleblower website has done in recent weeks. But Acting Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says Gillard should admit she went beyond that. "There is no room here for the Prime Minister to weasel out of it," she said. Bishop says Ms Gillard's comments were irresponsible. "She is a lawyer. She well knows about the presumption of innocence," she said. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says Gillard must formally retract her comments. "There's just some really important principles, not just fundamental legal principles, but obviously this gentleman has legal rights that should respected. I think it's very, very awkward for the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to be rushing to judgment before any charges have even been brought in relation to these matters." Assange, who is wanted for questioning on sex assault charges in Sweden, was freed on bail by the High Court in London overnight. He is now at a friend's country home in Suffolk, where he must live until the start of his extradition hearing on February 7. Assange has denied the Swedish charges against him and his legal team have said they are worried about the possibility of him being extradited to face possible espionage charges in the US. He thanked his supporters and said the release of classified US cables would continue. More poker to WikiLeaks.

Crown Casino Continue To Rake Up Fines...

Crown Casino was fined about $45,000 by Victoria's gaming watchdog, over the past financial year. In one breech of the state's gaming rules, a baby in a pram was allowed onto the casino's gaming floor. The Commission for Gambling Regulation also detected instances of card games being played with incomplete decks!

Aussie Elle 'The Body' Macpherson To Team Up With Sarah Murdoch As Foxtel Host; On-Air Ambassador...

'The Body' been signed up for an exclusive promotional campaign for 2011 and will also appear on the first season of Britain's Next Top Model, which begins on FOX8 next month. Macpherson was one linked with British casino entrepreneur, Damian Aspinall. Murdoch will play host and executive produce Australia's Next Top Model, after she famously dumped Granada Media, the production firm responsible for the TV year's biggest blunder in which Murdoch announced the wrong winner! Just imagine if you have money riding on it. Foxtel will compete with 16 free-to-air channels next year.

Aussie Pokie Venues Giving Too Much To Charity!...

Clubs ACT says Canberra's licensed clubs are continually giving more to community groups than they are required to by law. An ACT Government report found in the last fin year Canberra's top earning pokies venues donated only 13% of net gambling revenue compared to the 44% by lower earning clubs. The total contribution to charitable and social welfare causes fell by 25% to about $840,000. Clubs ACT chief executive Geoff House says clubs are contributing more than legally required. "The report looks at designated community contributions and it doesn't actually cover those things which fall outside the legislated definition of community contributions so there's a lot more clubs do that aren't reflected in the report. Clubs are continuing to provide between 2 and 7 x what they are required to provide in the legislation and they have consistently done that over the years despite falling gaming revenue, despite increase in taxes and other pressures in terms of their trading environment." Yep, its the club pokies lovers VS the club pokies haters. Insiders tip the powerful club sector will eventually win via knock out blow to the Australian government, as ambitious as it sounds. Stranger things have happened, and continue to.

Ex CEO Resigns From National Leisure and Gaming...

Former National Leisure and Gaming (NLG) CEO Andrew Jolliffe has resigned from his dual role of non-executive director and corporate advisor to the pub group. In late June Jolliffe quit his post as NLG CEO and MD citing a desire to explore other opportunities in the liquor and gaming sector. It now appears that these journeys into other ventures have created a potential conflict of interests with the company announcing that Jolliffe will depart his remaining posts from December 31, 2010. It is unknown if NLG has a non-executive director successor in mind. In a statement, the company’s chairman, Peter Dransfield thanked Jolliffe for his "outstanding contribution to the company".

Aristocrat Leisure Gets Much Needed New Blood...

Gaming giant Aristocrat Leisure has announced that David Banks has been nominated by its board as a non-executive director, subject to regulatory approvals. The appointment became effective from November 15. Banks has more than 25 years experience in the industrial, entertainment and gaming industries in financial, operating and strategic planning roles. Previously the CEO (Casinos Division) of Tabcorp Holdings and CEO of Star City Holdings, Banks was most recently the group chief operating officer of Galaxy Entertainment Group based in Macau. He is a former president of the Australian Casinos Association and a former director of the Australian Gambling Council. Shareholders will be asked to appoint Banks as a director of the company at the 2011 AGM. His appointment will not to take effect until the receipt of all relevant regulatory pre-approvals. "I am delighted to welcome a director of David’s calibre to the Board," said Aristocrat’s chairman (elect) Dr Ian Blackburne. "His deep industry knowledge and insights, in particular in the Australian and Macau markets, will be a valuable addition to the Board and the Company as a whole. I congratulate David on his nomination and look forward to his contribution." Aristocrat will need all the good fortune they can get, with their share price having been hammered as of late, not to mention a legal challenge from U.S poker machine giant International Game Technology aka I.G.T.

Australia's Privacy Act Needs To Be Updated For Biometrics Pokie Tech...

Australia's Privacy Act will need to be toughened and guidelines created if the federal government wants to use "biometric" technology in its plans to slow down the use of pokies, according to a peak technology group. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned the states that the government will impose regulation if a mandatory "pre-commitment technology" to curb poker machine use is not in place by May. The Biometrics Institute general manager Isabelle Moeller said that strict national laws restricting the use of captured data would be required to ensure clubs, pubs and casinos adequately protect and do not abuse sensitive customer information.

Victorian Community Wary That Pokies Club May Hurt Community...

The Mount Alexander Shire says a new policy means gaming developments in the municipality will need to show they will not hurt the community. The shire has adopted a new gaming policy that details current levels of poker machine use in the Mount Alexander Shire, and is designed to limit problem gambling. The Maryborough Highland Society wants to build a community club in Castlemaine that would feature 65 pokies but a vocal community campaign is opposing the plans. Mayor Janet Cropley says the proposed club's close proximity to Castlemaine's central business district has the shire worried and the policy aims to protect townships. "It'll certainly mean that the applicant needs to do some work to reassure us that that location fits those issues about avoiding making it more difficult for people," she said.

Canberra - ACT: Claims Of $1.4m Betting Agency ACTTAB Scam...

The ACT Supreme Court has stopped the sale of a home part-owned by a long-time employee of the regions betting agency alleged to be at the centre of a $1.4 million betting swindle. The Director of Public Prosecutions applied for the order to restrain the sale of the home, and a white Ford Falcon, owned by 56-year-old Pamela Susan Close. An affidavit tendered in court reveals the Macgregor woman is expected to be charged in relation to a series of alleged betting rorts. Prosecutors will allege Ms Close dishonestly appropriated more than $1.4 million from ACTTAB between November 2001 and April 2010. Ms Close had worked for the betting agency for about 2 decades, according to the affidavit, and was the manager of account betting earlier this year. Master David Harper granted the order under the Confiscation of Criminal Assets Act, which prohibits the sale of the car or Ms Close's share of the Macgregor home. The home is worth about $450,000; the car $7500. The affidavit reveals a loophole through which it will be alleged Ms Close managed to place trifecta bets on races after they finished. It says ACTTAB's betting system allowed an authorised person to reopen race betting after a false start, so customers could place bets as the race was reorganised. Crime doesn't pay again.

Crown Casino Snaps Up World Class Chef Neil Perry...

In a coup, Packer's Crown has secured the world famous chef. He heads up the Waiting Room, at Melbourne's Crown Casino. Perry doesn't gamble he hold our friends at Fairfaix Media. "No, although I played blackjack in Vegas in 2005. Restaurants are my roulette wheel." It seems quite likely he expected to be probed on gambling, given that his latest bar, as well as one of his restaurants, Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne, plus his latest Melbourne venture, Spice Temple, are all on casino premises. We think they must pay well, in fact, being a shareholder, we know they do. Perry once refused to dish up a well done streak to the late media and gambling mogul, Kerry Packer, at the Palm Beach (Sydney) based Barrenjoey House. The Sydney Morning Herald was able to get this from Perry..."I probably should have given Kerry Packer the steak. I would have, these days. I got on my high horse. Ideals are important, but as you get older and a bit more mature, you realise you can't force your vision on customers. You give them what they want. Even though I still hate it when someone wants a well-done steak."

Real Life Underbelly Policewoman Wins Defamation Case...

Wendy Hatfield, the ex Kings Cross policewoman featured in Network Nine's Underbelly, The Golden Mile, has emerged victorious with a defamation payout over a report that suggested she was corrupt. News Limited will pay an secret sum to Ms Hatfield for the online report. Ms Hatfield has separate actions pending against Channel Nine and the publishers of the book on which the show was based. Hatfield..."Wendy Jones" in the series...is played by Jessica Tovey and portrayed as having a raunchy sexual relationship with night club owner, the flamboyant John Ibrahim. She denies the affair and the Wood royal commission into police corruption found it to be untrue. Underbelly (the TV show) returned to Network Nine early into the new year.

Media Man Monthly Awards

Media Man 'Christmas Themed Game Of The Month': Festive Fortunes by PartyGaming
'Online Casino Of The Month': PartyCasino, Virgin Casino runner up
'Casino Babe Of The Month' Paris Hilton
'Poker Babes Of The Month' Jenny Woo
'Australian Casino Tycoon Of The Month' James Packer
'Australian Media Player Of The Month' David Gyngell, Lachlan Murdoch runner up
'Social And Community Entrepreneur Of The Month' Shane Warne
'Australian Land Based Casino Of The Month': Star City; Crown Casino runner up

Media Man Yearly Awards

'Online Gaming Operator Of The Year': PartyGaming, Virgin Games runner up
'Online Casino Of The Year' PartyCasino.com
'Online Slot Game Of The Year' Sinatra, 2nd Circus Slot, 3rd Rambo
'Sports Betting Website Of The Year': Betfair, Centrebet runner up
'Poker Website Of The Year': PartyPoker, World Poker Tour runner up
'Australian Land Based Casino' Crown Casino, Star City runner up
'Global Land Based Casino Of The Year': Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
'Casino Babe Of The Year' Paris Hilton; Elle Macpherson runner up
'Poker Babes Of The Year' Kara Scott, Jenny Woo runner up
'Australian Casino Tycoon Of The Year' James Packer
'Australian Media Player Of The Month' David Gyngell, Lachlan Murdoch runner up
'Social And Community Entrepreneur Of The Month' Shane Warne
'Global Casino Tycoon' Richard Branson, runner up Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta
'New Online Venture Of The Year': Steve Hand - Casino Executive Network
'Virtual World Of The Year' PKR, Poker 3 runner up
'Australian Media Company Most Likely To Make An Impact In 2011' Nine Entertainment Co
'Best And Fairest 2010' James Packer
'Website Portal Of The Year' Gambling911, Poker News Daily runner up


Last month was a big month for casino awards also. Let's have a look...

PartyGaming's PartyCasino has also come back with seconds, picking up another Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month Award' for November, and also the parent company, PartyGaming, picked up the prestigious EGR Slots Operator Of The Year Award ...Some other top picks of ours who picked up awards at the EGR night of nights were:
Virgin Games (Affiliate Programme)
Betfair (Innovation, Mobile Operator and UK Sports Betting Operator)
Bwin (European Sports Betting Operator
PKR (Poker Operator)

Oh, we almost forgot...Media Man and Casino News Media 'Casino Babe Of The Month': Jenny Woo, 'Poker Babe': Kara Scott, 'Gambling Babe Personality': Pamela Anderson.

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Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, how did you like our report? Have you been naughty or nice, and what sort of Xmas present are you gambling on? Tell us in the forum.

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

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.

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