Gaming and Gambling News: NZ PM comfortable with more pokies; $1 Million WSOP Event up to 30 Entrants...


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NZ PM comfortable with more pokies...

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says he is comfortable with an increase in the number of pokie machines at SkyCity as part of a possible deal with the casino operator to build and run a $NZ350 million ($A279.25 million) national convention centre in Auckland.

Mr Key told media in Jakarta on Tuesday he believed the increase would be "extremely modest in number and overall the number of pokie machines is reducing across Auckland and New Zealand".

Negotiations were continuing but Mr Key rejected suggestions public opposition to a deal was growing.

Explaining his dealings with SkyCity, Mr Key said he was looking for a deal to build and run the convention centre in which the government did not put up any cash.

SkyCity had presented a credible option but that was subject to negotiation and did not include any dilution of techniques to reduce the harm from gambling.

"They have the room to do it, they have integration with their hotels, they have integration with their other entertainment facilities and they are good operators running what is already a convention centre, but just one that is not big enough."

Accusations of some sort of underhand deal between the government and the company were just "nonsense", Mr Key said.

"I've been extremely upfront the whole way through. I have said I want to build a convention centre as minister of tourism."

Critics have charged the extra pokies will lead to more problem gamblers.

The Labour Party has said SkyCity wants an extra 500 machines and are being offered about 350.

$1 Million WSOP Event up to 30 Entrants...

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Lalibert√©, along with the World Series of Poker (WSOP), announced Thursday that this summer’s $1,000,000 buy-in WSOP event has added eight more entrants, increasing the field to a stout 30 players. The tournament, called the Big One for ONE DROP, is now on pace to feature the largest first prize in poker history.

In December, it was announced that 22 players had been confirmed for the event, just shy of half the 48-player maximum. Joining such poker luminaries as Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Bobby Baldwin, Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius are:

Bob Bright – CEO, Bright Trading
Cary Katz – CEO, College Loan Corporation
Arnaud Mimran – French businessman
Paul Newey – Co-founder, New Wave Ventures, LLP. (UK)
Paul Phua – Asian businessman
Erik Seidel – Poker pro
Justin Smith – Poker pro
Richard Yong – Asian businessman

With $111,111 of the $1,000,000 dollar buy-in going to ONE DROP, the 30-player field brings the total prize pool to $26,666,670. According to a payout structure table provided by the WSOP, the winner of the tournament at its current size will earn $12,266,668.20, or 46 percent of the prize pool. That would break the record for the largest prize ever awarded in a poker tournament, live or online. The current record is $12,000,000, won by Jamie Gold in the 2006 WSOP Main Event.

ONE DROP is a charitable organization which seeks to provide access to clean, drinkable water to people around the world. In a press release, Lalibert√©, who himself is participating in the tournament, said, “It is an exciting moment and it is wonderful to see the poker community’s generosity, where organizations, players and fans are all coming together to support ONE DROP. Whether entering the BIG ONE for ONE DROP, becoming a poker ambassador, making a donation, or simply changing their water consumption habits, everyone can get involved and everyone should be concerned, because a child dies every 20 seconds from a water related disease and that together we can beat the odds.”

As it stands now, over $3.33 million from the tournament is earmarked for ONE DROP. And while 30 players signing up for a $1 million buy-in event is phenomenal, WSOP officials expect the tournament to reach its cap of 48 players. Should that happen, the prize pool will hit $40,000,000, with $17,200,002.15 going to the winner.

The continued growth of the Big One for ONE DROP will be aided by live satellites scheduled to be held at casinos around the country. The next satellite will be at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. The direct buy-in for the “Main Event” satellite is $500 with 40 percent of the prize pool going to the winner. That first prize is guaranteed to include at least the $25,300 buy-in to the Official World Series of Poker the Big One Satellite on Saturday, June 30th in Las Vegas, where at least one $1,000,000 seat in the Big One will be awarded. Also included in the Canterbury Park prize packages is airfare and lodging. Qualifiers for the Canterbury Park $500 satellite will run May 7th through May 12th and will feature both $65 and $125 buy-ins. (Credit: Poker News Daily)

Scott Seiver Wins PartyPoker Premier League V...

Going into the final table of the PartyPoker Premier League V, many in the poker community were hoping the Mathew Frankland’s Cinderella story would continue for one more day. Frankland, one of two players in the field who had to qualify to get into the game, began Tuesday with the largest chip stack, a reward for earning the most points in the preliminary heats. It was not to be for Frankland against an all-star table, though, as he bowed out in 7th place. Emerging triumphant just a few days shy of his 27th birthday was Scott Seiver, who gave himself a sweet early birthday gift of half a million dollars.

Though there were seasoned vets such as Erik Seidel, Phil Laak, and Tony G at the table, it came down to two of the young guns, Seiver and 22-year old online phenom Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, for the championship. The two started heads-up play in almost a dead heat in chips – Cates with 1.295 million and Seiver with 1.245 million. Within minutes, though, Seiver took a 500,000 chip lead, picking up many of those when he moved all-in with pocket Kings, forcing Cates to fold after a three-bet.

Just minutes later, Seiver stretched his lead to 2-to-1. With blinds at 20,000/40,000, Cates had to make a move quickly. A pocket pair was as good a hand as many with which to make that move, so Cates got it all-in pre-flop with 7-7. Seiver was all-in, as well (having Cates covered, of course), settling for a coin flip with K-Q. Cates had to have been happy with the flop, as it came down T-T-4, which both denied Seiver a pair and severely limited any straight possibilities. The 3 on the turn was fantastic, too, as Seiver now had just six outs. Unless you skipped everything to this point, you already know that the percentages were not with Cates on the river. Seiver spiked a King to give him the title and the $500,000 first prize.

Here is a look at the final table standings and prize payouts:

1. Scott Seiver – $500,000
2. Daniel Cates – $300,000
3. Phil Laak – $175,000
4. Patrik Antonius – $125,000
5. Tony G – $100,000
6. Tom Dwan – $80,000
7. Mathew Frankland – $65,000
8. Sam Trickett – $55,000

But that’s not all. Each player in the PartyPoker Premier League V received $2,000 for each point earned in the preliminary heats. The standings based on total winnings remained almost the same after including the bonus money. The only change was Frankland moving up from 7th to 6th in the money rankings, the result of his winning $80,000 in the preliminary rounds. All 16 players won prize money, though only Seiver, Cates, Laak, Patrik Antonius, Tony G, Frankland, and Tom Dwan made enough to cover the $125,000 buy-in. Because Frankland won his seat, though, his winnings were all profit. The same was true for Ben Wilinofsky, which is fortunate, as he took home just $2,000. (Credit: Poker News Daily)

2012 PartyPoker Premier League V – Final Payouts

Scott Seiver – $560,000
Daniel Cates – $376,000
Phil Laak – $233,000
Patrik Antonius – $189,000
Tony G – $160,000
Mathew Frankland – $145,000
Tom Dwan – $136,000
Sam Trickett – $121,000
Yevgeniy Timoshenko – $58,000
Andy Frankenberger – $56,000
Erik Seidel – $48,000
Vanessa Selbst – $46,000
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier – $36,000
Eugene Katchalov – $18,000
Luke Schwartz – $14,000
Ben Wilinofsky – $4,000

Star investigator dismisses 'Sniffing Sid' rumours...

An investigator at Sydney's Star casino has told an inquiry he does not believe his former boss Sid Vaikunta was using drugs while in charge of the business.

Kevin Houlahan, the casino's investigations manager, is giving evidence this morning at a public hearing by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Gail Furness SC is presiding over the inquiry to examine the sacking of Mr Vaikunta, as well as claims of sexual harassment and a culture of bullying at the Star.

The inquiry heard yesterday from former staff member Elizabeth Ward, who believed Mr Vaikunta used drugs.

Ms Ward said that the casino's general manager came to be known to staff by the nickname "Sniffing Sid".

Mr Houlahan has told the hearing he had heard of the nickname and rumours that Mr Vaikunta used cocaine.

But the former policeman said Mr Vaikunta never showed any signs of being a drug user in his dealings with him.

"Mr Vaikunta made it very clear to me that he was against drug use, that he had been subjected to drug testing whilst he worked previously in the United States and that he was more than happy to introduce drug testing within the workplace here," Mr Houlahan told the inquiry.

Star spokesman Brad Schmidt yesterday condemned the claims of Mr Vaikunta's drug use.

The inquiry heard yesterday that a five centimetre line of fine white powder was found in a bathroom in a high roller section of the casino.

Ms Ward said she believed the powder was cocaine, but that it was switched for cement dust before it was tested.

Security questioned

Mr Houlahan has told the inquiry he was on annual leave when the powder was discovered in December.

He said when he returned to work and was updated on the matter he felt that several steps had been missed.

Mr Houlahan said the powder should have been photographed in situ, and it should have been appropriately bagged.

The inquiry into the casino also heard details of an anonymous report suggesting staff wiped evidence of Mr Vaidunka being drunk on the premises.

Mr Houlahan said he had no reason to believe security staff had deleted video footage showing Mr Vaikunta being removed from the building.

He says he questioned two security workers and he believes their responses.

"I interviewed two other staff members within the surveillance department to which I expressed the concerns about how or why the system works, can footage be deleted, have they ever been requested to delete footage, to which they both returned that no they'd never been asked and there is no way that you can delete footage," he said.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Michael Wigney put an allegation to Mr Houlahan, that he had once told a high roller, "You need to stay off the drugs".

But Mr Houlahan flatly dismissed the suggestion.

"I deny that conversation ever took place," he said.

The casino's chief executive, Larry Mullin, also faced questioning today.

Mr Mullin worked with Mr Vaikunta in the United States before they came to work at the Star.

Mr Wigney asked Mr Mullin about claims he and Mr Vaikunta were once at a bar in the casino where a female colleague was drinking.

Mr Vaikunta allegedly told bar staff to keep serving the woman shots, despite the fact she was drunk.

Mr Mullin told the inquiry he had no memory of the alleged incident.

Mr Wigney also asked if the casino put its business interests ahead of rules, but Mr Mullin said that was not the case.

"(We) keep them happy within the framework of what's legal," he said.

Mr Mullin said the media has misrepresented the casino.

Asian operators give Vegas casino titans run for their money...

MACAU/LAS VEGAS - Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who became one of the world's richest men by creating a casino empire in Las Vegas and Macau, is doubling down on his bets in Asia, the hottest gambling market on the planet where his Singapore operation made $1 billion the first year it was opened.

The 78-year chairman of Las Vegas Sands, the world's biggest gambling company by market capitalisation, looked supremely confident when he opened his new $4.4 billion casino last week in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, the world's largest gambling destination where bettors spent $33.5 billion last year compared to Las Vegas, which took in $6 billion.

Speaking at the opening of his Sands Cotai Central on April 11, Adelson outlined plans to spend billions more developing casinos in Vietnam, Korea and Japan, in addition to the $35 billion he plans to spend on a Spanish casino-resort complex.

Rivals Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts are also staking their own claims throughout Asia for growth.

It's not all an American story however. Asian players like Malaysia's Genting, Hong Kong-listed Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Crown, are aggressively raising the ante as they expand on their home turf.

Rise of the Asian titan

The race to conquer the Asian casino world is already heating up in the Philippines where Asian brokerage CLSA forecasts gambling revenue to grow from US$1.3 billion in 2011 to US$3 billion in 2015 once three new resorts are completed.

Genting, controlled by Malaysian businessman Lim Kok Thay, controls and is developing casinos in the Philippines through its Genting Hong Kong unit, while parent Genting Group is developing a casino in Vietnam with local asset management group VinaCapital, according to Vietnamese media.

Galaxy and Melco, which both sit on prime real estate on Macau's coveted casino strip, are also interested in investing in the Philippines, Cristino Naguiat, chairman of the state-owned Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp, told Reuters in February.

The firms currently developing or operating casinos in the Philippines include Belle Corp, Bloomberry Resorts, Universal Entertainment and Travellers, a joint venture between Genting and Alliance Global.

"Countries like Singapore have provided a very good template for emerging jurisdictions looking to liberalize gaming entertainment," said Steven Tight, president of international development for U.S. giant Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Caesars does not operate a casino in Macau, but is itself expanding in Asia and is building a luxury resort in China's southern tourist destination, Hainan, where gambling is illegal.

Genting Singapore, armed with a hefty cash reserve of some S$3.9 billion ($3.1 billion) as of March 2012, has in the past two months raised around S$2.3 billion in debt, suggesting it is likely to push ahead with expansion plans and global acquisitions in the near term, analysts said.

Loss of face

The Asian expansion by U.S. operators has not been without controversy. Government officials in several potential Asian gambling jurisdictions considering which operators will be awarded a license are growing weary of the negative headline risk that Las Vegas operators bring with them, executives said.

Sands and Wynn are both embroiled in legal battles in the United States and Macau. Sands is fighting lawsuits filed against it by its former Macau chief executive and a former Taiwanese business partner while Wynn is being investigated for a HK$1 billion ($130 million) donation to the University of Macau.

Alleged bribes for Philippine regulators became the centerpiece of litigation in the United States between Wynn and its largest shareholder, Kazuo Okada. The case is now before a federal court in Nevada.

Okada, one of Japan's richest men whose Universal Entertainment manufactures pachinko machines, is building a casino resort in the Philippines and is reported to be investing in South Korea.

"Since entering Macau, all three Las Vegas-based operators have had international headlines that have caused humiliation and 'loss of face' for their Chinese partners and government officials," said Matthew Ossolinski, chairman of Ossolinski Holdings, a global emerging markets fund that invests in casinos and other gambling-related companies. "Some government officials in Asia are now wondering: is it worth it?"

Leaving Las Vegas?

Meanwhile, U.S. operators committed to a future in Asia could make a bold move to leave Las Vegas by delisting and selling their U.S. properties, which could free them from various U.S. legal constraints.

"It would be creating a sort of international hybrid gaming company: an established, world-class operator without the American legal baggage," said fund manager Ossolinski, who predicts the next five years will determine who dominates Asian gambling for the next 20 years.

U.S. operators are also on guard against Asian companies muscling in on their territory in the United States. Genting has been buying waterfront real estate in downtown Miami over the past year, including buying the Miami Herald building, in the hopes the state will legalise gambling.

As Asian firms look to dominate in Asia by relying on their local networks and knowledge, they are also tapping the intellectual resources of Las Vegas by hiring Las Vegas-based lawyers, architects, live entertainment producers and information technology companies.

"It won't be long before Asian firms start acquiring and developing properties in Las Vegas as a part of creating a global footprint," said Jonathan Galaviz, managing director and chief economist at Galaviz and Company LLC, an economic research and government strategies firm.

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