Australian Casino, Gaming And Sports News, by Greg Tingle - 27th August 2010

Australian casino, gaming and sporting news continues a full warp speed. Crown Casino is powering ahead for bean counters, investors and the like. We've got the pro casino and pokies mob vs the anti casino and pokie establishment, scandal, bookies speaking out, F1 ace Mark Webber, more Aussie sports betting scandals and more. Media Man and Gambling911 give you a front row ringside seat to enjoy the no holds barred action once again, blood, guts and caffeine included (most assuredly non filtered and non censored)...

Crown Casino Back To Profit: Red Turns To Black...

The impressive casino, gaming and tourism - lifestyle operator hit paydirt as it swung back to net profit of $292.3 million, delivering a near-$1.5 billion turnaround after a net loss of $1.2bn in 2009-10. Last year's results at Crown were hit by a $1.44bn writedown on the value of the group's North American investments as the impact of the global financial crisis shook up the sector. On a normalised basis, Crown's net profit rose 2.7% to $288.4m, from $280.7m a year before. Financial and gaming industry analysts were expecting normalised earnings of $276.7m, according to a Dow Jones poll of seven brokers - market-watchers typically forecast normalised earnings because it evens out in VIP - high roller gaming. Revenue from operations rose nearly 2% to $2.34bn. Crown declared a final dividend of 19 cents. Shares in Crown were 2.91% higher in the past 24 hours, adding 24 cents to settle at $8.48, after having gained 1.6% immediately after the profit result. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was 0.7% higher. For the first 7 weeks of the current 2010-11 financial year, Crown advised main floor gaming revenue grew by roughly 4% at its Australian casinos. VIP program play volumes have started the year "encouragingly", management said. Crown's gaming venues include Burswood in Western Australia and the flagship Crown Melbourne casino. Their Macau ventures are are also performing strongly, with City of Dreams beating bean counter, public and news media expectations. Seems 'Our James' (Packer) can't put a wrong wrong lately. On ya Packer. You're doing Australia and and family name proud.

Crown Casino Gets Pro And Anti Casino Commentary...

High rolling VIP whales and a mix of dolphins have pumped a record $27 billion through Crown Casino over the past year. Latest numbers demonstrate the casino shrugged off strong competition like Star City in 'Sin City' Sydney, to retain its status as a favoured destination of some of Asia Pacific's most well to do high rollers and big spenders. Well to do whales and dolphins gambled their way through roughly $74 million every day at the Melbourne based casino in the year to June, up from the previous year's figure of "only" $67 million a day. Senator and anti-gambling crusader - campaigner Nick Xenophon aka 'Mr X' Media Man tag) said it was challenging to screen such large amounts of money. "That is a staggering amount of money and we need to ask whether the current rules can guarantee that none of that $27 billion was laundered money or embezzled money," he said. News Limited has previously revealed how Crown offers the use of VIP Lear jets, extravagant hotel rooms and an assortment of gifts on some of its most well to do international guests, who often stay weeks or months. Crown has now embarked on a $440 million program to refurbish and extend the casino with more gaming tables, restaurants and new VIP facilities. Crown chief executive Rowen Craigie advised high rollers spent less in the second half of the financial year after 2 new casinos opened in Singapore. Senator Xenophon advised there was a false perception that high-rollers were not hurt by gambling. "Just because you're a high roller, doesn't mean you are immune to having a gambling problem," he said. Throwing in her 2 cents, Anne Holland, CEO of Relationships Australia, went on record with "Rich people could have families, they could have mental health problems, they could have the same issues around gambling and problem gambling as anyone." The 10% boom in VIP turnover at Crown Melbourne came as regular punters ("tuna" and "average joes") trimmed back their gambling.
Revenue on the main floor of the famous casino jumped 2.5% over the 12 months. This is less than the 3.1 of inflation recorded in Melbourne over the same period. Tatts chief Dick 'Machine' (MM tag) McIlwain has also thrown in his 2 cents...advising the controversy surrounding pokies was making consumers reconsider the machines. The Tatts Group and Tabcorp lost their stranglehold - monopoly of sorts on the poker machine market in May when the State Government sold 10-year gaming machine entitlements to new and existing operators. "The constant controversy that poker machines generate leaves consumers and players wondering what they are doing," 'Machine' McIlwain said. Tatts' after-tax profits tumbled more than 50 per cent to about $120 million in the year to June, with revenue from its (soon to be defunct poker machine division) falling 5% to $1.22 billion. "It's been tough," 'Machine' McIlwain advised. The withdrawal of the spending stimulus, a reduction in the maximum bet per spin and regulatory changes all contributed to the decline in pokie spending, he shared. The exact impact and all round popularity of online gaming in Australia isn't exactly known, but what is known is that the online sector continues to chip away at the traditional land based casinos, hotels and clubs. Switched on traditional gaming operators are adapting to the web, with the business models of PartyGaming including the World Poker Tour, Harrah's Entertainment and Virgin Games being examined. Crown Limited is understood to be moving forward with their online gaming and gambling plans, and insiders think a deal with PartyGaming, NextGen Gaming, Virgin or a combination is on the cards. Media Man and Gambling911 will be following up with more details in the coming days and weeks.

Crown Casino Bribes 4 Jobs Accusation Raised...

A number of senior staff in Crown's food and beverage arm are accused of demanding sums of $5000 plus to help secure jobs or internal promotions for foreign workers and international students. Some alleged bribes were paid by folks hoping to increase their chance of "winning" (game or skill or chance) permanent Australian residency with a superior job. A leak said the scam had operated for many years and involved primarily Indian and Asian students. "They are employed with 'no questions asked' and no pressure until they gain their permanent residency status," the leaker whispered. Roughly a bakers dozen staff have been caught up in the scam. 2, perhaps 3 staff and a former employee are believed to be behind the evil scheme. A long-serving employee has been sacked. Alarm bells were raised by a foreign student who is understood to have been pressured by those behind the scam to work in excess of the 20 hours allowed under his student visa. "Some of them wanted a higher grading on their job or a better job description which would help them in applying for permanent residency," another leak said. Crown spokesman Gary 'Overloaded' (Media Man tag) O'Neill confirmed police had been called in to investigate. "A few months ago we became aware there were allegations that some of our staff were being exploited. "Crown spends a huge amount of money and time recruiting and training its staff who come from a very broad section of the Melbourne community, both culturally and ethnically, and we will not stand for even one of them being exploited and we are treating the matter very, very seriously." O'Neill confirmed a staff member had been dismissed as the result of an internal investigation. He said Crown was assisting staff caught in the scam. The sacked worker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denied accepting bribes and said the matter was in the hands of his lawyer. He confirmed he had been questioned by Crown management but said he had no idea why he had been accused. "I refuted (the allegations) with my solicitor when I went there," he said. The man advised he had already decided to leave Crown over an earlier matter. Police overnight said they were investigating the allegations of fraud at Crown. Crown Limited are taking a very pro active role in the investigation and embrace a fair go for all, but it for punters or employees.

NRL Investigates Betting Surge On Penalty Goal Sector...

The NRL is now investigating an extremely unusual betting plunge on what is normally a low-interest option in last Saturday's no big deal game between North Queensland and Canterbury at Dairy Farmers Stadium. The plunge on the first scoring play...in which a Cowboys penalty goal was heavily backed...convinced various bookmakers, including TAB Sportsbet, to cease betting on the option hours before the game officially kicked off. NRL media and communications director John Betman' (MM tag) Brady overnight confirmed an investigation was in progress..."We're looking into some betting activity and seeking information on any trends surrounding that. We're talking to some people about it, and we're open to receiving any further information that is around on it." The plunge did not come off however North Queensland did have the option of taking an easy shot at penalty goal to open the scoring after the Bulldogs were penalised in the 2nd minute for not getting off the tackled player (Cowboys halfback Grant Rovelli) quickly enough, following the rule book type of thing. The penalty was awarded only 9 metres out, and right in front of the posts to book, but the Cowboys elected to take a quick tap and scored a try out wide! A change of plans perhaps to cover other plans? We might never know. The NRL was first alerted to the plunge by TAB Sportsbet's Glenn Munsie, who told the News Limited "It was unusual to see the bets that went on that option. It was an inordinate amount of money to be placed on a (North Queensland) penalty goal as the first scoring play, in what was a nothing match. "The money started coming for it on the Thursday, and kept coming until Saturday. It had been backed from $13 to $7 by the time we turned it off a few hours before the game. I contacted the league on Saturday afternoon, and handed the information to them." Gerard 'Duck' (MM tag) Daffy, understood to be the most experienced man in sports betting in Australia, said he turned the first scoring play option off at his agency...Sports Alive - shortly after a punter tried to place a bet to win $8000 on a Cowboys penalty goal. "It's extremely rare for anyone to seriously back an option like that unless it's bad weather. We took some bets, and then someone tried to have $1000 on at $8, which obviously rang alarm bells. I let him on for a reduced amount. It was still Saturday morning, so I checked around the other bookies, and could only find one still betting on it, and they had a Cowboys penalty goal at $5.50. I turned it off after that." Michael Sullivan, of Sporting Bet advised his agency had also stopped betting on the option. "Increased interest would be the best way to describe it. No doubt we did turn it off, but I don't want to make any further comment because people just think bookmakers are whingeing." Centrebet's Neil 'Even Odds' (MM tag) Evans advised the odds on a Cowboys penalty goal was cut "from $13 to $3". He went on record with "It was certainly hot property. It was an inordinate go that you would normally never get." There were allegations of a betting rort in the final round of last season. The Cowboys were heavily backed to win by 13-plus against Sydney Roosters (Eastern Suburbs), and came from well behind to win 32-16. There were suggestions the Roosters had thrown the game, but the league investigated the match and announced that it could find no evidence of anything untoward. Quizzed if this was a time of the year when the NRL was particularly alert to the possibility of something untoward happening in games, Brady went with "We're alert at all times. This can be a time of the year when results are naturally hard to pick, because we're getting to the end of a long season, and some teams are heading for the finals and others are just trying to finish the season off well." Sports betting follows are understood to be finding these times very interesting to follow or participate, and the news media business is generating more colourful stories from the fun and games, on and off the field.

South Australian Govt Missing Millions Thanks To Online Gambling; Could Be National Trend...

Online gambling is clearly understood to be diverting tax money from state coffers as punters go colder on poker machines and give online pokies from the likes of PartyGaming, Centrebet, PKR, Virgin, Roxy Palace, Captain Cooks Casino and Media Man white label type deals a go. The most recent figures show a significant dip in the amount gamblers pour into the state's pokies and a $10 million annual fall in tax revenue. State Government analysis shows punters put $729 million into pokies in the past financial year, compared with $750 million in the 12 months to June 30, 2009. The result is the lowest annual outlay on poker machines for 6 years and has resulted in a Government gaming tax revenue drop from $292 million to $282 million in the past year. Experts say mass-media advertising campaigns have driven a dramatic rise in the popularity of internet gambling, which sidesteps traditional tax regulations. South Australian pubs and clubs have also suffered an $11 million revenue hit, which comes as smoking bans look to further harm the sector. Australian Hotels Association general manager Ian Horne said competition from both sports betting and online gambling outlets was placing major pressure on the industry. "The sports betting market is expanding enormously," he said. "Just look at the betting options for the federal election. The promotion of betting odds was unprecedented. It's becoming the normal way of life to bet on anything and everything." Horne said poker machines had been unfairly "demonised" while other gambling options were considered socially acceptable. A spokeswoman for Gambling Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the decline could be attributed to reduced household expenditure for recreational activities. "This expenditure is also affected by the Reserve Bank's increasing of interest rates over the past 12 months," she said. The spokeswoman also said the Government was working to reduce the number of pokies, despite figures showing 7 more in use now than last year. "There is always some variation in the number of live machines, as gaming venues may not use all of their entitlements, for example during renovations," she said.
"The Rann Government is committed to reducing pokie machine entitlements by 3000. "So far the Government has removed more than 2200 gaming machine entitlements from SA venues." Treasurer Kevin Foley has warned the state to brace for a tough September 14 Budget, saying the lingering impact of the global financial crisis has diminished revenue. Media Man and Gambling911 have strong reason to believe that online gaming and gambling will continue to grow in the Australian - Asia Pacific region, and many land based venues will continue to be hit hard.

Tasmania: $8 Million Jump With Betfair Deal...

A taxation cut offered to James Packer 50% owned betting agency Betfair will cost Tasmania about $8 million more than first promised over the next two years, the Liberal Party claim. The deal Labor offered Betfair just before the state election is now up in the air with the Liberals holding off on giving their support to the legislation. With the Greens Party already declaring they are opposed to the deal to cut Betfair's tax rate, the legislation's success now depends on the support from the Liberals. The tax break has created a split between Labor and the Greens' Cabinet representatives, leader Nick McKim and Cassy 'O God' (MM tag) O'Connor. As part of the power-sharing arrangement between the two parties, the Greens can choose to remove themselves from a Cabinet vote if they disagree with the legislation being discussed. When the tax break was announced in February Bartlett claimed the deal would reduce state revenues by about $2 million over two years. However, in the State Budget in June that figure had jumped to about $5 million a year, reducing revenue from Betfair from $7.3 million to just $2.4 million. The Liberals and the Greens sought a clarification this week on the exact costing. Treasury yesterday confirmed the cost would be more than first thought. The tax cut, already budgeted, will put a $5.3 million dent in state coffers this year, $5.1 million in the next financial year, increasing to $6.7 million in 2012-13 and $7 million in 2013-14. Treasurer Michael Aird said the Budget clearly outlined the reduced tax revenue from Betfair. He advised the Government had been transparent about the revenue dip. "The level of fees, licences and taxes relating to that arrangement with Betfair would incur loss of revenue to the state. The figures in the Budget are a very clear indication of our estimate of the revenue we expect from Betfair," Aird said. A spokesman for the Liberals said the party would vote on whether or not to accept the legislation. The key component of the deal is Betfair's tax rate, which is to drop from between 10 and 15% of gross earnings to 5%. Labor offered Betfair tax cuts to keep the company and its 130 employees in Tasmania. Betfair continues to enjoy boom times, getting a huge urge thanks to the Australian political election and the betting feeding frenzy.

A Media Man spokesperson said "Packer's 50% owned Befair is now well and truly part of Australian culture. Having a punt is in our blood. It goes back to the convict ships, Captain Cooks crew and the like. We all used to have our favorite SP bookie, back in the good old days. Betfair identified market and gave the public a chance to get much better odds than the Government TAB, and they lapped is up. NRL and Australian political betting is powering along. It's what people discuss at home, work, cafes. I guess we all like to know who the smart money is on. Packer always wins, but in the information age, the web and all, we can all win. A lot of it gets down to where you get your information from. Not sure? Just ask horse jockeys and footy players. Hey, they were going to give them training for what constitutes insider trading. That's got to tell you a story punters".

F1 Ace Aussie Mark Webber Has World Championship In Mind This Weekend...

With only 7 races remaining, Australian Mark Webber has admitted that he will be driving with the world championship title in mind at this Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix. The 33-year-old Red Bull driver believes that the most consistent driver will win the championship and admitted that he will not be taking as many risks as he would have earlier in the season. "Finishing is certainly something that you think of," said the Aussie. "With this points system, you need to finish so consistency is important. "That's something you sign up for straight away because you don't want to win races but have non-finishes. You have to capitalise on the days when you are not potentially going to win to get the next best thing, whatever that may be. That comes down to reliability, the decisions made - when you roll the dice as a midfield team you take a gamble but for us, McLaren and Ferrari there are obviously bigger things at stake. You have to be mindful of the fact that you might not get anything out of it so you need to realise that four points is better than none and gambling." Webber denied that this weekend's race in Spa and the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix will be a case of damage limitation, despite the tracks' potentially highlighting his car's weakness at high speeds. He went on record with "Always when you are running medium downforce on these cars, it's for a reason. And that reason is long straights. We know that it's not a strength of the car and hasn't been for quite a few years and we know why. "But we work incredibly hard to make the car strong in other areas and when we go to those venues obviously we are strong. "We can still keep up at these tracks, but whether we have an advantage remains to be seen. We still weren't uncompetitive in Montreal, but we weren't the pacesetters as we were in some other venues. "I think if we had to have 17 races in a championship, we wouldn't choose Spa and Monza to have races at, but it's part of the calendar and we have to make the car quick everywhere." However, Webber added that many had assumed that his team would struggle in Valencia, but his team-mate Sebastian Vettel won the race. He said "We were worried about Valencia, and Sebastian won. "Last year were very poor in Valencia and got blown away, but this year we were quick. Let's see how the top speeds are tomorrow in sector one and sector three and see where people are pitched." Webber reclaimed the championship lead from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton when he won in Hungary four weeks ago, but his advantage is just four points. Webber is credited with helping make F1 fun and exciting again, and needless to say interest in the sport down under in Australia is running sky high. Richard Branson's Virgin Racing also created some buzz, with Branson a fave in Australia, but they have lacked the results to date that Aussies crave for sports stars and teams. Webber is now thought of as a living legend by many, but he downplays the suggestion.

A Media Man insider was overhead with "If Mark wins the world championship many close think he will then be more than happy to have the tag 'legend' but until that time, champ or just mate, will do him fine."

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Readers, is it time for Crown and Burswood to get their own branded online casino games like 'Underbelly' and 'Kerry Packer'? Has Crown now got its security levels to the right level? Is Mark Webber going to win the world championship? What's your favorite casino games and why? Tell us in the forum.

Crown Limited Shares...


Readers, know the odds, bet with your head, not over it, and have fun. Want more good Aussie fodder... check out Media Man and the 'Australian Casino Wars' portfolio at Gambling911 of course. Good punting.

*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.

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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