Casino Cash Rolls In To Australia Political Parties, by Greg Tingle - 8th April 2010

Australian political parties and land based casino operators remain under the spotlight as more revelations about substantial donations from casinos to politics goes public.

Media Man and Gambling911 investigate 'Casino Jack' style, as we explore a new patch of Australia's 'Underbelly'.

From the get go, let it be said that it is not illegal (yet anyway) to make donations to Aussie political parties. Cash and cheques hit their coffers from any number of business sectors, certainly not restricted to the casino, hotel, club and resort sector et al. It's almost part of Australia business culture to cough up dollars to the majority of the political parties.

However, just because something is legal, or illegal for that matter, doesn't mean it is just.

In recent months Labor and Liberal have been inundated with buckets of cash from corporate Australia, and it doesn't get much more corporate that Tabcorp's Star City Casino and Crown Limited's Crown Casino.

Numbers obtained by the NSW Election Funding Authority show state Labor accepted $2.5 million in donations and union affiliation fees between July and December, while the Liberals and Nationals took in $1.9 million. Ah, Jack Abramoff from 'Casino Jack' fame would be proud.

The massive donations are a sign that big business aims win favour and positive history with an incoming Coalition government, the Liberals and Nationals have raised $19.5 million since the 2007 election from the hotels (inc casinos), clubs (pokie heaven), finance, pharmaceutical, lobbyist and property (more casinos) sector.

We've learned that in the same window, Labor snatched $16.5 million to its coffers, some of which is used for television commercials promoting NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally. We alert readers to the fact that Australian TV stations have been extremely quite on the internet censorship debate, while newspapers and radio, and internet forums, have been very vocal, but more on that non - coincidence later, if we're not busy playing a spot of golf with the 'Minister Of Silly Lists' and Censorship... if he's not busy being summoned to a "Please Explain" meeting with Prime Minster Kevin Rudd... (if he's not busy getting an "ear bashing" from U.S President Barack Obama about censorship). Readers, are you following this trail?

The political donations are putting intense pressure on the Australian government to implement recommendations handed down by a parliamentary committee last week, including a cap on donations at just $2000 per political party, group or independent candidate each financial year.

It's no secret that Labor received $115,000 from Star City Casino in the second half of last year, around the same times as the laws regulating the casino were being loosened and its exclusive licence was extended in Parliament. In 2008 Star donated $110,000 just two months before it was granted approval for a $575 million redevelopment, and readers will recall that their budget has just been increased by $100 million or so, which helps build more entertainment rooms, and may even go towards learjets for high rolling VIP's, as they go to "war" with Packer's Crown.

A spokeswoman for Ms Keneally said any suggestion that political donations had influenced concessions that allowed gambling controls and surveillance to be watered down was not correct. "Donations have no impact on the timing of bills going through Parliament.".

Political donations are keenly watched as an indication of which companies and wealthy individuals may be lobbying government. The Australian and international gaming community is watching closely to see what moves PartyGaming and Betfair may make in this space.

PartyGaming famously came to financial terms with the United States Department Of Justice last year to the tune of $100 million or thereabouts. It wasn't a pure donation, however the U.S knew Party had the money, and it was an opportunity for PartyGaming to move forward. PartyGaming and its brands such as PartyCasino and PartyPoker are making strategic moves to return to the U.S market and regulation changes are afoot, just its World Poker Tour is making pro active steps to boost things along with a pending play in the North American - Canadian region, which may see much of the U.S change its stance on igaming, poker tournaments and the like. Last fortnight PartyGaming inked an impressive business deal with France horse racing operator PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain). PartyGaming also enjoys b2b dealings with such mainstream brands as Marvel Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Frank Sinatra Enterprises, StudioCanal, Blizard Entertainment, Infinity Ward, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hasbro, MGM and FremantleMedia. PartyGaming are understood to be in the "good books" of internet giants Google, Yahoo! and Bing!... something that has also served Gambling911 and Media Man International well over the years. Google is currently developing its own advanced web hosting and ISP services in a move that has has generated massive interest from mainstream media, new media and gaming operators.

Back to the pure political news...Figures Gambling911 and Media Man sourced via Fairfax Media and News Limited state the following...

In the second half of last year the biggest donors included: Clubs NSW, which gave $59,000 to Labor and $101,555 to the Coalition; Manildra Group, $40,850 (Labor) and $19,050 (Coalition); property developer Memo Corporation, $36,850 (Labor) and $22,200 (Liberal); and the Independent Retailers Association, $77,820 (Labor) and $9000 (Liberal). The Liberals accepted $57,926 from the Australian Hotels Association and $49,750 from British American Tobacco.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, personally raised $174,650 at 10 fund-raisers held in his name and in his electorate, including raising some $108,100 at the Ku-ring-gai Business Breakfast last September.

Not to be outdone Labor collected in excess of $1 million in "affiliation fees" paid by unions between July and December.

In the coming weeks and months we will continue our probe into the relationships between Australian political parties and casinos, igaming operator, SP bookmakers and the like. Firms on our radar include but are not limited to Betfair, Centrebet, Full Tilt Poker (Easts Roosters NRL team connection), 888 (Warnie's the face of them for Australia), and a few others that will remain nameless for the moment.

Aussie's, anyone taking bets on what Australian land based casino operators are interested to enjoy a spot of golf with Senator Stephen Conroy (Minster of Communications, Censorship and "Silly Lists") Last time a casino exec played golf with our friend cash registers hit the jackpot. Ah, life is full of coincidences, just ask 'Casino Jack', coming soon to a movie theater near you if your an Aussie, Yankee or Kanok, but if your behind "The Great Internet Firewall" Of China, good luck, you will need it.

Tony "The Bruiser" Abbott, stay on Kevin "Bloody" Rudd, we sense Rudd's corner man Conroy is going down for the count as we approach the 12th round of action, broadcast from Sydney to Las Vegas, Macau, Florida and beyond via the internet channel (that no one owns, Australian government included). Special referee Jesse "The Body" Ventura and his 'Conspiracy Theory' actuality TV show remain pro actively interested in the connection between Australian casinos, political parties and proposed internet filter and blacklist initiatives.

Media Man and Gambling911 offer this public service announcement: Bet with your head, not over it, and keep it fun (and that messages is also applicable to Australian political parties).

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. The network attracts approximately 6 million hits per month and has portals in Australia, Canada, Europe, Asia and the United States

*The writer owns shares in Crown Casino

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