Australian Casino, Poker and Political News, by Greg Tingle - 14th August 2010

Australian Casino, Poker And Political News

Australia is once again home to some of the world's most interesting and unique casino, gambling, poker and political news this week. Movie stars with 3D presentations at Aussie casinos, casino gang crime, Australian rock legend to release slot game to pubs, poker tours, political election betting, shake ups in Australian gaming and gambling landscape and more. Media Man and Gambling911 continue to bring you the best. The late, great Kerry Packer would love this edition, we're sure... proxy if need be... its worth it punters...

Crown Casino Chinatown Crime Figures Busted...

A Crown Casino VIP high roller and a Chinatown restaurateur personality are accused of heading up a Melbourne crime syndicate targeted by police over the past 48 hours in a series of explosive raids, arrests and record-breaking asset seizures. The alleged crime bosses of the multi-million dollar Melbourne drug ring that spent massive sums on property, gambling and overseas interests are set to appear in court after overnight out-of-sessions hearing. Crown Casino high roller Thi Nho Le and husband Thanh Hai Pham, both 46, spent the night in police cells with 6 other alleged members of the syndicate. Police allege it trafficked more than 30 kilograms of heroin in Melbourne and earned over $20 million in the past 9 months. Named and known as the Le Syndicate after the family that allegedly controls it, Ms Le's younger sister Thi Nho Em Le, her brother and their partners all faced a court hearing at St Kilda Road police complex early yesterday morning. Thi Nho Em Le's partner, businessman and restaurateur Kai Sin Mong, is also alleged to be a key player in the syndicate that police state has built a business empire including a Chinatown restaurant and a western-suburbs based petrol station. The group is accused of manufacturing and distributing large amounts of heroin, from locations including a flat in Napier Street, Fitzroy, laundering money and loaning money to other drug cartels and gamblers. Detective Acting Sergeant James Cole told the court that members did business at James Packers' Crown Casino's high-roller Mahogany Room, purchased a number of properties and businesses to conceal the proceeds of crime and sent money offshore to Vietnam, including a recent whopping $920,000 money transfer. This was allegedly used to create a multi-million dollar property portfolio, which may have been kicked along by plans to purchase a United States $2.5 million hotel. The mob aka triad were among 21 people arrested in a series of raids at properties in Melbourne's western and inner-northern suburbs, including Fitzroy commission flats, after a painstaking 10-month investigation.

Stay tuned to Gambling911 and Media Man for more details.

Jupiters Hotel and Casino: Avatar 3D Celebs Connection...

Film director James Cameron is backing up at the Australian International Movie Convention (AIMC) on the Gold Coast this season showing footage of his 3D underwater epic Sanctum. Cameron impressed delegates away when he showed exclusive footage from his blockbuster Avatar last year, now, 12 months later, he plans to wow the town again. Star of the Sanctum, Rhys Wakefield, and producer Andrew Wight, will attend the happening at Jupiters Hotel and Casino this Wednesday when Universal Studios will present the scenes. The media opp will help combat some mixed media reports on the crime rate at the Tabcorp owned casino. Sanctum, shot (pun intended) at Surfers Paradise - Gold Coast earlier this year, is understood to be in post-production down south in Melbourne (home to 'Underbelly' - real and TV) where the visual effects and the like are being meshed in. Director Alister Grierson says it will be a 'very exciting' event. "It won't be the fully finished version but what you will see will be in 3D. Universal pictures are really excited and pumped up to do the release and it's rare an Australian film gets this amount of positive review and anticipation before it's out. We're doing some pick-up shots and have built a mini set here for visual effects, so we're very close to finishing." He won't be present, nor will exec producer Cameron. "I flew over to LA and screened a version for Jim about a month ago and he really enjoyed that. He had some tips on how to improve it and a few nips and tucks." Sanctum is just one of the dozens of films that will be previewed over the 5 day convention, which commences with the Queensland premiere of Tomorrow When The War Began at Jupiters Hotel and Casino tomorrow night. Hollywooders Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell will walk the red carpet at Event Cinemas, Robina, this Wednesday night for the Australian premiere of The Other Guys. Great to see Jupiter's playing the Aussiewood - Hollywood card.

ANZPT - Australian New Zealand Poker Tour - Jupiters Hotel And Casino, Gold Coast - 14th August...

42 players are in the ANZPT on the Gold Coast for day 3. 32 players are going to at least break even. Mainly short stacks and a couple of big stacks. Hong Kong shark, er player, Nick Wong has the largest stack at time to press. Chip leading at 376,500. The top 5 players at this time are Nauv Kashyap, Darko Balaban, Liam O'Rourke and PokerStars branded Aaron Benton. Hello PartyPoker... pick up your game Tyron Krost and what's the story with your name Stewart Scott... you guys don't get paid the big bucks for nothing. You're only as good as your last game. Benton is on a roll winning at the season-ending APPT Grand Final in Sydney last December. Benton cashed at the ANZPT in Perth, before reaching the final table at the ANZPT Canberra for win of $12 grand. Journeyed to the WSOP and returned to get runner up spoils at ANZPT in Queenstown.

ANZPT - 12th August Update...

PartyPoker sponsored 2010 Aussie Millions Champ Tyron Krost joined the field Thursday, as did PokerStars Team Australia Professional Tony Hachem, ANZPT Canberra champ and high-stakes cash game pro Jason Gray and 2009 Aussie Millions $100k winner David Steicke. PokerStars Qualifier Darko Balaban finished at the top of the list of 63 survivors from the day. Go Aussies Go!

Pokie Rock N Roller With Rose Tatto; Some Angry, Some Not!...

Aristocrat Leisure has done a smart move to kill concerns that its pokie have been largely responsible for murdering the live music scene around Australia. The company has invented a new contraption that will allow pub rock bands and gambling machines to co-exist... get this...a pokie machine based on one of the country's iconic pub rock bands, the Angry Anderson-headed Rose Tattoo. "We are confident that our Rose Tattoo game will be a hit in pubs across Australia, said Aristocrat's MD for Australia, Trevor Croker, at the Australasian Gaming Expo in Darling Harbour, Sydney."The striking red and black colour scheme will make a statement on the gaming floor and patrons will enjoy the experience of playing along with some Rose Tattoo classics," he said. The Aristocrat website describes the game as "Reel Rock 'n' Roll''. "Rose Tattoo multi-game is guaranteed to rock your venue," the company claims. Next an 'Underbelly', 'Madame Lash', 'Mr Sin' or 'Kerry Packer' themed game? Stranger things have happened.

Australian Federal Election Betting Update...

Aussie betting markets moved firmly to Gillard's Labor by about 4.5% on the aggregate implied probability of victory, with all agencies moving in the same direction. Centrebet moved strongest with an 8.5% ALP boost while Sportingbet moved the least with a 3.5% boost to Labor. Betting odds and people putting their money where their mouth is has traditionally been more accurate to pick the winner than other types of political polling. You can still jab ahead Tony "The Bruiser" Abbott... go son...fight to the finish.

Tabcorp VIP Casino Upgrades...

Tabcorp’s casino expansion plans are not much exiting the market. One source said "deep dark money pit"! The press announcement brought a downgrade of the company’s rating and outlook. The Tabcorp plans to capture the Australasian VIP market, one that Crown Limited largely dominates. Ratings agency Standard & Poors (S&P) reduced the Australian-facing company’s A$1.99m debt outlook from “stable” to “negative” over concerns on the further A$285m investment in its Star City casino in Sydney announced as part of full year results last week. This came with the warning that Tabcorp’s capital expenditure plans could further risk its new rating as the company faces the possible loss of its Victorian wagering licence later this year. Gambling industry analyst Andrew Hills (Wilson HTM) said "The capital expenditure required to operate a competitive casino is oppressive and we question whether Tabcorp is throwing good money after bad. The New South Wales and Queensland casinos are attractive for the respective state governments but not for shareholders, in our view." Nathan Gee (Merrill Lynch) advised Tabcorp will either have to protect their new credit rating by an equity raising, or bite the bullet and incur higher debt costs from a further ratings downgrade, which he suggests may be the better option. Last week, Tabcorp chief Elmer Funke Kupper advised the aim of Star City was to create a destination for VIP’s and said the investment was a "no-brainer addition" to the company’s plans. In the full-year results, the Australian casino and gaming operator reported a 9.4% drop in its casino division’s EBITDA, however predicted that it would see an estimated A$130m-140m EBITDA uplift from its Star City investment by 2014. A concern for Tabcorp will be the expiration of its Victorian wagering licence, due to end in 2012. Aussie rival Tatts Group and the UK's Ladbrokes, no stranger to Media Man and Gambling911, have indicated their intentions to compete with Tabcorp for the next 12-year licence which will grant the winner a virtual monopoly on wagering and sports betting in that state of Victoria. Earlier this week the Victorian Government tabled legislation that would give valuable premium wagering tax concessions to the licence holder, but while analysts believe the license to be worth A$4bn, they also reckon renewing it could cost Tabcorp anywhere between A$300m and A$600m! "Tabcorp winning the Victorian wagering licence might put pressure on its S&P credit rating depending on the eventual price paid" said an insider. "Interestingly Tabcorp missing out on the Victoria wagering licence would ease the pressure around a credit rating downgrade or an equity raising," but over-paying for the licence may be better in the long haul than missing out full stop. Tabcorp has a war on its hands for the bid, as Australia’s Productivity Commission specifically recommended at the start of the year that it was against the renewal of wagering monopolies in New South Wales and Victoria. Tabcorp’s main investment program, the Star City Casino, is expected to now cost A$860m in addition to a A$100m payment to the New South Wales government for the pleasure, but Funke Kupper last week argued that the high price of investments would pay off by pulling in the big spending VIPs. That's his vision, but not that of the whole markets. The company reported that Star City’s 10% year-on-year EBITDA growth was offset by a 29% drop year-on-year in the company’s 3 "banana bender" Queensland casinos. Tabcorp is in negotiations with the government over increasing investment in its Queensland properties, where sliding trade is being caused by weak economic conditions in the region. A no-brainer? Readers, you be the judge.

NSW Government Keno Jackpot...

24 months after permitting Keno into hotels, the NSW state government has approved the installation into pubs and clubs of an expected 800 electronic Keno gambling machines which knockers say are a "gateway" to pokies. WSW will be #1 state to provide 'Touch Keno' after the government reviewed the results of a 3 month trial of 30 terminals at 15 venues including Star City Casino and Souths Juniors Rugby League Club. The devices are due to be installed in clubs from the coming month. Unlike the existing version, in which punters mark numbers with a pencil and paper and place bets at the bar, Touch Keno allows players to feed cold hard cash directly into the mouth of the machine, but payouts must still be collected from an human operator. Tabcorp, co-owner of the NSW Keno licence with ClubsNSW, is kindly offering to pay the cost of installing the machines if venues sign up for at least 24 months. Long enough to get the gambling bug. The government advised the terminals must be placed in a restricted area that cannot be accessed by minors". This may be a venue's lounge, bar area or gaming area. The government has recently introduced a $250 bet limit and said machines must carry information about gambling counselling and self-exclusion services. "The terminals were subject to a comprehensive trial to assess technology and harm minimisation issues," the Minister for Gaming and Racing, Kevin Greene, told press. There's no proposal to phase out the old form of Keno in favour of the new terminals. The "traditional" Keno game must be retained when a terminal is installed. The ClubsNSW chief executive, Anthony Ball, said the terminals would remove the need for punters to wait for a bartender to finish serving drinks before placing a bet. "This new technology means customers will instead be able to walk up to a screen and play Keno with, in most cases, no delay or waiting line. Self-service technology has existed at the TAB for a number of years and has proved very successful in reducing player waiting times." The anti-gambling campaigner, Senator Nick Xenophon aka "Mr X", advised the introduction of Touch Keno was worrying. "My concern is that Touch Keno will serve as a kind of gateway for casual gamblers to become poker machine gamblers. And as the Productivity Commission reported earlier this year, poker machines are far and away the biggest source of problem gambling." World Vision chief executive, Tim Costello, said he was concerned about the removal of an attendant from the betting process. "Human intervention is a natural restraint on access for problem gamblers." Last week, Tabcorp reported annual revenue of $157.2 million from its Keno operations in NSW, Queensland and Victoria. NSW down for $32 million, an annual increase of 5.4 per cent. Last month, the government said it would allow a Tabcorp-owned virtual racing game, Trackside, into pubs and clubs to pay for the refurbishment of Randwick Racecourse.

Both punters and insiders continue to enjoy the weekly Australian Casino Wars, largely dominated by Tabcorp and Crown Limited, but always watch out for an X Factor, be it PartyGaming, Ladbrokes, Genting or other.

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

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Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, what's your view on online poker, online casinos, censorship, internet censorship and freedom of the press? Who will win the Aussie Casino Wars? Could you live without online poker? Do you enjoy adult content (that is legal)? Who are your betting on, and why? Make your voice heard. Tell us in the forum. The big wigs of Australian politics and business read and hang on every word at your beloved Gambling911. From Australia's answer to 'Casino Jack' to 'Outback Jack', they're all her folks. Keep checking daily for updates, Yes Minister, and have another cup of Full Strength Coffee (no caffeine or web filter thanks).

The Late News...

If your going to have a bet, please bet 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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