4/18/2011

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Doesn't Like Pokies; FBI Poker Aussie Connection, by Greg Tingle - 18th April 2011

Australian gambling and casino news keeps coming thick and fast. We've got the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard weighing into the pokies debate, pokie lovers vs haters, Burswood Casino attacks, James Packer's boat for sale, and much more. Media Man and Gambling911 with your regular Aussie gambling fix...

Aussie PM Julia Gillard Not A Big Fan Of Pokies, Slots, Gambling Industry...

PM Gillard advised that her choice to attack the poker machines has been further inspired from cases of gambling addiction in her own backyard, so to speak. The PM said her Werribee office had seen a young mum with no financials feed her newborn baby, a family living in a car, a man who lost his entire worker's compensation payout and a family forced to move to the country. "It is just reinforcing in me that there's a considerable problem out there, of people who just can't control their addiction and end up in really miserable circumstances," Gillard told the press. She said her will to take action was not forced upon her by independent MP Andrew Wilkie. That statement is contradictory to previous press reports, stating the anti gambling MP's forces the hand of Labor. There are 1020 poker machines in the PM's electrol seat of Lalor and it is home to the Werribee Plaza Tavern, which is ironically the state's top venue for player losses. The Productivity Commission found 40% of the money lost on pokies came from problem gamblers. Clubs Australia are not convinced of that number and have called on proof. Clubs Australia has have also launched a $20 million campaign against the crackdown, calling PM Gillard "un-Australian". PM Gillard said she did not want to hurt casual players who had "a bit of good fun and no problem at all", but too many could not control their habit. PM Gillard said a pre-commitment scheme would help problem gamblers. "It's about making you think, 'How much can I afford to lose before this stops being a night out and a bit of fun and turns into something more serious'. I'm really aware there is the other side of the coin, too, which is plenty of people who once a fortnight, or once a month or whatever, would go to one of the local clubs in Werribee and have a drink, have a meal, have a spin of the pokies and go home ... no problem at all."

Woolworths Looking For More Pokies Action...

Woolies could tighten its stranglehold on the pokies industry if it moves forward with discussions to get into bed with notable New South Wales gambling king Arthur Laundy. If it proceeds with a JV with Laundy the firm will increase its poker machines from just over 12,100 to 13,300 and it will increase its hotels from 286 nationwide to 326. This would see it further cement its place as Australia's biggest poker machine company and the biggest hotel owner. Believe it or not but Woolworths would then surpass Las Vegas's top 5 casinos in terms of total pokies (slots in US speak) ownership. The top five casinos in central Las Vegas - The Venetian, Wynn Las Vegas, MGM Grand, The Bellagio and The Mirage - together have 12,610 "slot machines". The proposed joining between Woolworths and Laundy's hotels comes at a curious time You can't have missed the $20 million national campaign by clubs and pubs to block mandatory pre-commitment systems. Under the plan, Woolworths would purchase from Laundy the leasehold of 40 gambling-focused hotels in NSW and Queensland. But first Laundy would be expected to buy the freehold of 20 of the hotels from the average performing hotel companies NLG and Redcape for about $365 million. He would effectively become Woolworths' landlord if you follow us. Any deal between Woolworths and Laundy would have to be approved by competition authorities because the deal could further compound Woolworths' dominance in the poker machine market. Laundy is believed to have approached Woolworths subsidiary ALH Group, regarded as the only player with the financial means to make such a big hotel acquisition in the depressed market. Woolies used its right not to comment, although ALH corporate relations boss David Curry said the company would "continue to look at good hotels in good locations". Should the deal goes ahead, Woolworths would become tenant of the 25th highest-grossing pokie pub in NSW, the Belfield Hotel at Belfield. Laundy and ALH Group chief executive Ross Blair-Holt would not comment.

A Media Man staffer joked "Looks like Woolworths are about ready to cement their place further as the company with the slogan - The Fast Cash People".

Aussie Gambling Industry Continues War With Government...

The Australian government is at war with the gambling industry. Australia has more sots per head than any other country in the world. And state governments are heavily dependent on 'pokie' taxes. A report commissioned by the federal government found the risks of problem gambling are much higher with poker machines, with a total social cost of $A4.7 billion per year. The Gillard government holds power partly because of a Green MP whose support depends on Labor passing legislation requiring people to pre-commit to their 'pokie' losses. This has triggered a $A20 million campaign by the industry calling the reform 'unAustralian' and amounting to 'a licence to punt'. It's also put into question revenue forecasts for listed gaming groups like Tabcorp and Crown.

Aussie Gaming And Tech Wunderkind Helps FBI Probe Big 3 U.S Online Poker Firms...

Australian online poker players are panicking to get their money out of some of the world's biggest online poker websites after the "Black Friday" FBI sting that was triggered by Aussie adult and gambling wunderkind an Australian tech tycoon Daniel Tzvetkoff. Front and centre PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. They are now trying to stop people loosing confidence in them, as players take out their money and close their accounts. Their .com have been siezed by the FBI and their founders charged over serious money-laundering allegations. Many American serious poker players reckon online poker in the US is coming to an end. Online gambling has largely been illegal in the US since 2006. Insiders reckon the trigger point and deep throat which saw the house of cards come down was Aussie Mr Big of online transactions for gambling, Mr Tzvetkoff. The online poker companies tipped off the FBI last year. Tzvetkoff, 28, who IN his hey day circa 2008 was estimated to be worth about $80 mil, was arrested in April last year while attending an internet billing gig in Las Vegas, charged with being the mastermind of a $US540 million money-laundering racket.
The legal powers that be were reportedly tipped off by the online poker firms, who had been working with Tzvetkoff but began to unsettle things after he allegedly stole tens of millions of dollars from them. Tzvetkoff, who by then had filed for bankruptcy but was understood by authorities to have a secret stash of $US100 million, was looking at up to 75 years in jail. Come June Tzvetkoff was released from the clink without a bail hearing. A Vegas judge to granted him bail. Then Mr T got sweet revenge and rated on the guys to initially got him arrested. On Friday, now known in the online poker community as "black Friday", the FBI arrested the top execs of the three biggest online poker websites in the world, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. In total 11 people have been charged with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offences; they are looking at up to 30 years in jail and the US websites have all been shut down. The arrests come from the fact that online gambling in the United State is illegal. Tzvetkoff was accused of creating an illegal and complex system that allowed the overseas-based poker sites to accept billions from US gamblers while hiding the fact that it was gambling-related income from US banks using phony shell companies and offshore accounts. "These defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some US banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits," US Attorney Preet Bharara said. "Foreign firms that choose to operate in the United States are not free to flout the laws they don't like simply because they can't bear to be parted from their profits." Tzvetkoff, whose present whereabouts are unknown, was not named in the 52-page US indictment against the poker 3. He is understood to be held in a safe house with fiancee Nicole Crisp. Tzvetkoff was the mastermind behind online payment company Intabill, which hit the world stage in 2007. He bought a $27 million Gold Coast mansion, a Lamborghini, a super-yacht, a Queensland nightclub, a V8 supercar team and god knows what else. 2009 was when things started going bad. Intabill's parent company, BT Projects, closed with debts of $80 million. Bankruptcy followed. Tzvetkoff continued to plus away overseas until his arrest in Vegas. Tzvetkoff was also facing a $100 million lawsuit by a former business partner, lawyer Sam Sciacca, who claimed Tzvetkoff "diverted funds payable to the company to cover personal expenses". But that action was stayed when the internet whiz filed for bankruptcy. Australian poker players are rushing to close their accounts with the big 3. Aussies are still able to play on the big 3 websites but many pros are taking their funds out pronto like. US authorities are looking to get $US3 billion in civil money-laundering penalties from the poker websites and have issued restraining orders for 76 bank accounts in 14 countries. Some insiders think it might be easier to win a game of online poker on those big 3 websites now. Aussie Joe Hachem, sponsored by PokerStars, is quite on what's gone down with the FBI probe. Full Tilt Poker said in a statement that it believed online poker, "a game of skill", was legal in the US, however, it had suspended "real money" play in the United States until the case was resolved. It said it would continue to provide poker services outside the US. PokerStars had similar comments and, in a notice, assured players that their balances were safe. It had moved to a new domain, pokerstars.eu, after pokerstars.com was seized by the FBI. John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said in a statement on YouTube that he believed the FBI action was "a declaration of war against poker and the people who play it". Firms such as PartyGaming, which currently do not accept players in the U.S, other that via their subscriber based World Poker Tour, are watching the space with great interest. PartyPoker and PartyCasino, other brands by PartyGaming, are seeking to return to the U.S, their biggest market since they opened for business in 1987. Recently Party merged with European powerhouse bwin to become bwin.party digital entertainment. For the most party, Party's legal issues are history, after coming to terms with the U.S Department of Justice a few years ago. No such luck for the big 3.

Burswood Casino Attacks Commence; Mainly Young Punks...

Burswood entertainment complex sees more crime and its almost doubled in 5 years and police state that gangs of teenagers are "hunting in packs" to rob patrons near the venue. Western Australia Police numbers show the number of reported offences at the casino and its surrounds jumped from 351 incidents in 2005 to 643 last year. That's about 2 attacks or incidents per day. It has triggered coppers to ramp up special operations to cut crime in the precinct, with officers focusing on offenders on trains and those who loiter around Burswood and in nearby car parks. Drug offences, property damage and threatening behaviour have also risen since 2000, but car thefts and graffiti offences have dropped. Kensington Detective Senior Sergent Chris Adams said gangs of juveniles, some as young as 12, were targetting patrons around Burswood, including at the nearby train station and car parks.
"They ride the trains and get off at Burswood because it is great pickings out there," he said. "You have got the car park, you have got the Dome and the casino to potentially target those who are vulnerable and susceptible. They hunt in packs because it yields them a great result, for example a wallet with good money, potentially." Burswood spokeswoman Denise Cheir said the complex had 24-hour security and management was working with police to cut crime. "Burswood has a zero-tolerance policy to anti-social behaviour and, in conjunction with police, we have introduced numerous measures supporting our strong stance," Ms Cheir said. Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron said the rise in crime was in line with increased patronage, with the venue now attracting about 20,000 visitors a day. "However, any increase in crime is of concern to me and I'd expect that Burswood management is giving this issue strong consideration," he said. Police transport division Inspector Jo McCabe said an ongoing police sting codenamed Operation Beverstone had been successful in reducing crime over recent weeks. The Public Transport Authority was also planting guards at Burswood train station from 4pm and throughout the night to try to stop criminal activity around the railway and troublemakers from flowing into the casino complex, she said.

Sin City Casino Gunman Who Shot Casino Model Heard Aliens!...

A bloke who shot his ex-girlfriend inside Sin Sydney's Star City casino believed aliens told him to use a lower calibre bullet, his psychiatrist has told a court. Todd William Devaney has pleaded guilty to shooting fitness instructor and "casino babe", 'Happy' Holly Graham while she taught yoga at the gambling complex's gym in May 2008. She suffered serious wounds but survived. Giving evidence at a sentencing hearing in Sydney today, psychiatrist Dr Rosalie Wilcox said Devaney was suffering from untreated paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the incident. It manifested itself partly by Devaney hearing voices and taps on the wall that he interpreted as coming from aliens, Dr Wilcox told Downing Centre Local Court on today. "He's talked about that before... he's talked about aliens," she said. "It's certainly something he talks about when he's unwell." Quized about the build-up to the shooting, Dr Wilcox continued "He was getting these messages, these taps." Dr Wilcox agreed that Devaney had interpreted the messages as having come from aliens and decided to use a lower calibre bullet as a result. She said Devaney's illness was now being treated and his prospects of rehabilitation had improved. The former kickboxing champion had showed genuine remorse for what he'd done, she added. "I don't believe Ms Graham is still at risk from Mr Devaney," Dr Wilcox said. In a victim impact statement read to the court by her father John, Ms Graham said she still lived in fear of Devaney. Devaney had pleaded guilty in July 2010 to intending to murder the fitness instructor, as well as three firearms offences. Devaney sat impassively in the dock as the statement was read out. Previous court hearings were told that Devaney burst into Star City and shot Ms Graham twice below the hip and ribs. He fled the scene but was arrested a short time later wearing a fake moustache and beard, a latex mask, carrying three pistols, a folding knife and two apples. Sentencing submissions are continuing.

A Media Man spokesperson said "The Sin City Sydney Star City casino babe story with happy Holly is likely Sydney's most famous casino crime of the current era. Star City has since beefed up security and spent about $900,000 on the casino revamp. The image has improved, but the spirit of 'Happy' Holly Graham also lives on".

The Aussies continue to love to try their luck. Sure, spin to win, but know the odds, and have fun.

Punters, er readers, stay glued to Media Man reports via Gambling911 for more "can't miss" information on Australian pokies and gaming wars.

*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.

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