Crown Casino News: Police to advise Vic govt on Crown Casino; Australian Gambling News - 24th July 2011


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Asia Pacific gambling is on fire. Much of today's coverage involved Aussie gambling king James Packer from Crown Limited fame being none to impressed with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and Packer is using the media as a war against the "anti business" and "business unfriendly" PM. In addition Crown is rumoured to be interested in Echo Entertainment owned Star City casino in Sydney, understood to be at risk of having a number of brothel's and other vice related enterprises close by to its city location. Up to Asia, Crown may sell it's stake in Crown Macau to help raise funds for the takeover of Star City... Media Man and James Packer dish it out in spades with today's ace update from down under...

Crown Casino Under Microscope...

The Victorian government has asked police to advise if greater regulation of Crown Casino is needed after a series of violent incidents involving security guards there.

It was reported on Sunday that two off-duty police officers are suing the casino, alleging brutality at the hands of guards, who they allege put them in headlocks and wrestled them to the ground.

It comes just weeks after 40-year-old Andrew Dunning died of a heart attack after guards held him to the ground for eight minutes.

Homicide squad detectives are investigating his death and have said surveillance video shows Mr Dunning did not provoke security staff.

The lawyer for the two off-duty officers told News Ltd that since Mr Dunning's death, her firm had launched investigations into 10 cases of alleged assault by Crown bouncers.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said he would not comment on the latest assault claims as Victoria Police was drawing up a report on ways to improve security at the casino.

"Victoria Police has raised some issues with the government and we've invited them to come back to us with any suggestions in terms of additional action or regulation that needs to take place and we'll wait for them to come back to the government on that," Mr Baillieu told reporters.

"It's one of the biggest tourist drawcards in Australia, quite frankly, and we need to recognise it as such, and obviously a lot of people attend (and) from time to time, people attend there and get themselves into some sort of difficulty.

"We don't want to see that happen and we'll do whatever we can to avoid that and await Victoria Police's response."

Comment was being sought from Crown Casino.

Crown Casino Not Impressed With Taxi's...

Councils, the casino and a CBD police officer have delivered a poor assessment of Melbourne’s taxis to an industry inquiry.

In Crown’s submission to the Allan Fels chaired Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry, the casino slammed drivers’ language skills, hygiene, Melbourne street knowledge and short fare refusal.

Crown’s submission, from deputy chief executive Greg Hawkins, said Melbourne’s taxi services fell short of interstate and international standards.

It highlighted safety concerns with cab ranks at night, with patrons experiencing antisocial behaviour.

This was also raised by Sen-Constable Dean Anderson, who has worked for ten years in the CBD.

He said less cabs were needed during the day, and more at night to pick up passengers when trains stop.

“The city is full of alcohol fuelled party goers trying to get home quickly, more taxis on the road… would alleviate some of the assaults that occur in the city on these busy nights,” he said.

Crown Limited May Sell Out Macau Casino Investment To Raise Cash For Echo Entertainment Star City Bid...

JP's Crown could fund a $3.6 billion move on casino rival Echo Entertainment next year by exiting its growing Macau venture, analysts say. Crown this week confirmed a 4.9% interest in Echo and Tabcorp Holdings by way of derivatives, which it acquired before Tabcorp's demerger of the casino group this month. Crown talked down its interested in Echo and Star City et al. Despite Crown saying it has no "current" intention of increasing its interest in either, Merrill Lynch analyst Nathan Gee said it could make a move next year on Echo after the relaunch of its Star City casino in Sydney. Echo is also upgrading its three land based casinos in Queensland in a $1.6bn expansion investment. Gee advised Crown acquired a stake in its Burswood casino in Perth in 2003 before its full takeover in 2004. "The Star relaunch in late 2011 will be a critical time for Echo management, so we think it makes sense for bidders to allow management to concentrate," he said. "We can't discount a Crown takeover of Echo, but we think a deal is unlikely until 2012. A combination of Crown and Echo could create about $600m of net present value synergy benefits." Crown is expected to be weighed down by its holding in Echo and yesterday ended down 1.15%at $8.57. Echo dropped 1.7% to $4.10. Takeover speculation has been rife around Echo Entertainment and Tabcorp since its demerger in a similar vein to beer firm Foster's, which this week attracted a $9.5bn offer from brewing giant SAB Miller after it demerged its wine unit. While some analysts have seriously questioned Crown moving on Echo, particularly given its mixed merger and acquisition record, Gee said Crown could pay up to $5.25 per share, or $3.6bn, for Echo and make the deal "valuation neutral". He said Crown could fund a bid without a large equity raising by selling its $2bn or so stake in its Macau venture, Melco Crown Entertainment (MPEL), plus up to $700m of debt. "We can't rule out Crown looking to divest MPEL, particularly if the Australian market continues to discount the value of Macau relative to the Melco Crown share price," Gee went on record with to the press. Crown currently holds a 33.4% stake in Melco Crown, which has signed a $US360m deal to secure the group's third casino resort in Macau. Citi yesterday initiated coverage of Echo at a buy and a $4.70 target price but said private equity was a more likely near-term buyer than Crown. "The numbers are challenging for Crown . . . private equity may have interest, as the casino cashflows facilitate high leverage, and the ultimate exit strategy is clear, through a sell-down of Star to Crown and Queensland casinos to Sky City," analyst Jenny Owen said. On Macquarie's numbers, predators would struggle to offer more than $5 a share for Echo. On Crown's Tabcorp holding, Gee said it could hold in the hope of Tatts making its mooted move on Tabcorp. A Media Man analyst said "The Star City casino opportunity could go either way. It's too early to tell but James Packer keeps downplaying interest in the opportunity for a buy out. Is he bluffing? Only time will tell, but expect to get a clearer picture in the next 6 to 12 months".

Aussie Gambling And Media King James Packer Not Impressed With PM Gillard...

Pokie machine reforms that considerably threaten earnings for casino owner James Packer have prompted Packer to label Prime Minister Julia Gillard as "anti-business", according to leading newspaper, the Australian Financial Review. Packer has expanded his casino holdings by taking a 4.9% stake in Tabcorp Holdings Ltd, which gives him a small stake in Echo Entertainment, which owns Star City casino in Sydney. Packer has engaged ex ALP national secretary Karl Bitar to raise the pressure of lobbying efforts against the government on gambling reforms, which have been led by Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. In recent weeks, many of Gillard's cabinet ministers have been reportedly meeting one-on-one with Packer to discuss the impact of the proposed reforms, according to the AFR. Packer appears to climb in popularity while Gillard's popularity is well... not. She's extremely unpopular in the polls and in the pubs, clubs and casinos!

Australian Economy Not Good; Packer Says Gillard Is Anti Business...

Casino and media magnate James Packer has publicly attacked prime minister Julia Gillard, claiming the corporate world believes her to be anti-business. In an interview with The Australian Financial Review, Packer was quoted" "I think the problem for the prime minister at the moment is that while she keeps saying she’s pro-business, there is a real perception in the corporate world that she’s not. This perception is a real problem which she needs to address soon.".

Star City Casino In Sin City Sydney Getting Surrounded By Brothels?...

The mean and sometimes seedy streets around 'Sin City Sydney's' Star City casino could be overrun by brothels, pawnbrokers and money-lending businesses if Sydney council's draft city plan is not urgently fixed, the government's casino regulator has warned. The Casino Liquor and Gaming Control Authority has written to the City of Sydney, asking it to amend its new draft city plan to continue a longstanding ban on money-lending businesses near the casino and to impose a new ban on brothels within 150 metres of the site. The letter puts the casino regulator in conflict with the Department of Planning, which refused the bans when council proposed them as part of the city plan. The risk of "illegal or undesirable activity" concentrating around Star City was identified as a problem in a series of reports before it opened in 1995. It resulted in a statutory ban on pawnshops and money-lending operations, and government working with council to actively discourage brothels opening nearby. In its submission on the draft city plan, the regulator told council "it is noted that pawnbrokers and money lending businesses will no longer be prohibited from operating in the Pyrmont area, nor have any reasons for the proposed lifting of this long-standing prohibition been articulated. In the circumstances, this proposed arrangement cannot be supported. "The letter from the acting chief executive, David Greenhouse, also said that the regulator and council had worked together many times to prevent brothels operating in the area. The best solution would be for council's draft plan to create a ban on brothels within 150 metres of the casino, Greenhouse wrote. However, the regulator appeared to be unaware the city had proposed the bans to the Department of Planning and been refused permission. A department spokesman said it did not support the proposed bans because they would have constituted a sub-zone, which is not permitted under the government's new standard template for local environment plans. However, the spokesman said the department "is not formally opposed to the general position on this issue put forward by the CLGCA and is keen to work with Council and the CLGCA on an alternative solution." Any ban would impact at least one legal brothel already operating near the casino in Pyrmont Street. It comes as a development application for a new 14-room brothel across the road from the casino in Union Square was withdrawn by the applicant following a community outcry in May. Elizabeth Elenius from the Pyrmont Action group said residents were alarmed about the consequences of standard zoning in the draft city plan, saying it would open the area to undesirable uses. "We don't know on what grounds council can knock back undesirable things like a brothel in Union Square, where we have our Anzac Day ceremonies and carol services, unless they did have [a ban on brothels close to the casino] in place," she said. Council planners are considering more than 1000 submissions on the draft LEP 2011, the document controlling development in central Sydney in the next decade.

Telstra-NBN Broadband Update; What Happens To Gaming?...

The federal government is today expected to unveil an $11 billion deal that will provide the National Broadband Network access to Telstra’s fixed-line network. The deal will involve the NBN renting Telstra’s underground network and taking over its fixed-line customers. The federal opposition has criticised the move, saying it will prove expensive and wipe out any competition to the NBN. What may happen to gaming on the Australian internet remains to be seen, but if PM Gillard is anti business as James Packer says, that's not a great sign of things to come.

Lucky Tasmanian Devils; Thanks James Packer...

Solid efforts to save the Tasmanian Devil have received a boost, with the first joeys arriving in an insurance population of the species at a Hunter Valley property. A year ago 50 devils were released in a free-range enclosure at a property owned by media mogul James Packer, as part of a plan to produce a thousand disease-free little devils by 2021. The Devil Ark program is run by the Australian Reptile Park and spokeswoman Liz Vella says the ambitious plan is paying off. "We have got several mums with babies," she said. "We can't really confirm numbers because the babies are so small. "We try not to interfere with them too much, until they are at a safe size. "So we won't really know numbers until spring time." The Reptile Park says the enormity of the fight to save the Tasmanian Devil population cannot be under-estimated, despite success with the local breeding program. Ms Vella says the situation in Tasmania is dire, with devils across more than 60 per cent of the state affected by a deadly facial tumour. "It's really been a rapid decrease in numbers," she said. "It's horrific the way that they go as well, so the best chance they've got is this insurance population to make sure the species doesn't die out. "So the more work and time that we can put into this program the better." Ms Vella says she could not have hoped for a better start to the program. "The devils arrived in January and they started breeding in February," she said. "We weren't sure if they had enough time to settle in prior to breeding and how they would go in these yards, it's all so new, so to have success in this first year is really amazing. "It just shows how the program is going to go."

Packer's Crown Cools On Echo Entertainment...

Casino operator Crown says it has no current plan to increase its 4.9% stake in Echo Entertainment, a casino owner seen as a ripe takeover target. Echo, the owner of Sydney's Star City casino and three casinos in Queensland, is seen as a potential fit for billionaire James Packer's Crown, but analysts said international casinos group or private equity firms may also have their eye the firm. Crown confirmed today it has a 4.9 per cent in both Echo and gaming firm Tabcorp, acquired before Tabcorp offloaded Echo and the casino assets earlier this month. "Crown has no current intention of increasing its interest in either company," the firm said in a statement today. The statement followed a report in the Australian Financial Review which said Packer had confirmed taking the stake in Tabcorp before the demerger, which automatically gave Crown an equivalent stake in Echo. Analysts are divided on whether a takeover is more likely to happen before or after Echo completes a $960 million renovation at Star City, designed to help it attract Asian high-rollers away from Crown's Melbourne casino. Tabcorp spun Echo off to shareholders after being hit by smoking bans, equine influenza, competition from new casinos in Singapore and Macau. The remaining Tabcorp is seen as ripe for a merger with rival Tatts , but not before the state of Victoria decides later in June whether to award Tabcorp a new wagering license from 2012. Crown shares are currently sitting on $8.570. Echo Entertainment is on $4.10.

Man Charged Over Legendary Lloyd Williams' Robbery...

A man has been charged over a burglary at a property owned by the high-profile business identity, Lloyd Williams. Police say thieves broke into Macedon Lodge, north of Melbourne, earlier this month and stole two vehicles and veterinary equipment, including an X-ray machine worth $40,000. A 21-year-old man from Coburg was arrested yesterday and charged. He will face the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court next week. Detectives say they believe more people were involved and investigations are continuing. Williams is a prominent horse owner and former boss of Melbourne's Crown Casino, the Australian showcase casino of James Packer.

Constuction Worker Not Getting Ahead At Crown Casino; Banged In Head...

A Melbourne man is in a very serious condition in hospital after an a lift plummeted three storeys and struck him in the head. The 38-year-old was working on a construction site at Crown Casino at Southbank when the lift dropped on him at 8:30am (AEST). Paramedic Christine Edney states the punter suffered serious cuts to his neck and his jaw was fractured. "The man lost blood from injuries to his neck, face and parts of his head," she said. "Our priority was to control the bleeding." She says he was incredibly lucky that he did not sever any major arteries in his neck. "If he had been a few centimetres either way, he may not be with us today," she said.

Casino And Gaming Share Prices...

Symbol Company $AUD

CWN Crown Limited 9.15
EGP Echo Entertainment Group 4.07
RCT Reef Casino Trust 1.70
TAH Tabcorp Holdings Limited 3.28

PLS Paddy Power plc 34.73 EUR

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

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

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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