The gambler who hasn't made the list - yet; A serious man; When the crowd funds a flop, what next?


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The gambler who hasn't made the list - yet - 24th May 2012

An honorarble mention in this year’s Rich 200 must go to David Walsh. While his estimated wealth falls short of the $210 million cut-off in this year’s ranking, the Taswegian stands out this year for his ability to make Australians feel uneasy.

It’s not just the contents of his Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), perched on the banks of the Derwent River just outside Hobart, with its excrement-producing Cloaca exhibit, display of human ashes and artist Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary depicting the mother of Jesus surrounded by female genitalia and including elephant dung that will discomfort some.

It is the fact that in a year when arguments about gambling reforms have drawn vicious lobbying from the pubs and clubs industry and threatened to bring the machinery of parliament to a halt and when there’s growing concern about gambling generally that Walsh has so overtly used a fortune accrued from wagering to build a temple to art – celebrated by many of the same people who decry gambling.

In fact, the country’s largest private museum, which opened early last year, has contemporary Australian art fans salivating. Its contents include Sidney Nolan’s Snake, a 46-metre-long, nine-metre-high collation of 1620 different painted panels, and works by Brett Whiteley, Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman and Russell Drysdale. Mona also treads solidly into ancient territory with the mummy and coffin of Pausiris and a cast bronze votive figure of Isis and the Infant Horus, from 600-300BC.

The public loves it. Mona drew more than 330,000 visitors last year – almost half from outside Tasmania. The collection is doing great things for tourism to the Apple Isle and for Australia as a whole.

“The only time I can think of in recent history that [we had] something this big, audacious, generous and gifted was probably in America,” Edinburgh Festival director Jonathan Mills gushed last year. “It’s the Getty, the Guggenheim, it’s on that level.”

And yet, revelations that Walsh’s $175 million project was funded in part by his friend and fellow gambler Zeljko Ranogajec, whose gambling syndicate makes money out of the rebates that totalisers give in exchange for placing large bets – reducing the pool of winnings for ordinary punters placing smaller bets – only adds to the unease.

It’s no doubt a contradiction the private Walsh enjoys. If he were a miner or industrialist, his generosity would be unambiguously celebrated. That’s the sort of background Australia has come to expect of its arts patrons. Still, taking from the poor and giving to middle-class causes is something state-owned lotteries have always done. Walsh could argue he is doing the redistribution more directly, by cutting out the need for a lot of grant applications. Or he might not.

“I invent a gambling system,” Walsh writes in the introduction to his book Monanisms. “Make a money mine. Turns out it ain’t so great getting rich using someone else’s idea. Particularly before he had it. What to do? Better build a museum; make myself famous. That will get the chicks.”

The extent of Walsh’s own fortune is unclear. He has a collection of properties in and around Hobart, one of which he co-owns with Ranogajec, along with the premium Moorilla Estate winery and vineyard and Moo Brew brewery.

It remains to be seen how Walsh views his own cash flow. Is Mona, with its stated $100 million worth of artworks, simply vanity spending? Is Walsh a patron in the traditional sense or should this be seen as an initial investment into a new realm of money-making ventures?

Features of the museum, with its iPod-based self-guide system, which explains exhibits while simultaneously collecting useful data for curators on what visitors are viewing and the length of time they spend at each artwork, along with a bar in the museum selling Moo Brew beers and Moorilla wines lend themselves to replication. A side project is the 10-day Mona Foma (Festival of music and art), which this year ran for the fourth time.

It may all be just another investment. The 50-year-old Walsh has already said in interviews he intends to exploit his high-profile attraction.

“I want to use Mona as a marketing tool to drive some products that I hope will make some serious money.” (Fairfax Media)

A serious man - 28th May 2012...

Tom Waterhouse just lost $400,000. It's 2.25pm on a Saturday in Melbourne and Waterhouse is working, with 20 of his staff, in his weekend "office", a gloomy bunker at Moonee Valley Racecourse. The course itself is a ghost town - there are no races here today - but the bunker, a low-ceilinged and exceedingly unglamorous space, is animated by the kind of urgency you see in a termite colony that has just been kicked. There are lots of computers, screens, mobiles, TVs tuned to six race meetings, and young guys with fashionable facial hair - Waterhouse's "wagering officers" - who yell out stuff like "The eight in Sydney to win $5000" or "$4000 each way on Top Fluc One!"

At the centre, meanwhile, is Waterhouse, standing at a high table, sucking on a vitamin C tablet. He is dressed in a dark-blue suit and mint-green tie. His eyes are blue, his skin pale, his teeth ruler straight and pearly white. On the table before him are four computer screens and 10 mobile phones, the numbers of which are known only to VIP clients, 100 "high net worth individuals" whose minimum bet is $1000. He won't tell me their names or, in fact, anything about them, except that all but one are men.

The first thing you notice about Waterhouse is that he is the exact opposite of what you expect. He doesn't drink alcohol or coffee, nor does he smoke or swear. Instead, he says "Oh, gosh". He is distractingly, almost distressingly polite: "When I first met him he was so nice I thought he was taking the piss," his marketing manager, Warren Hebard, tells me. Above all, he does not get ruffled. Getting ruffled would indicate either a lack of control, which he has in spades, or a surfeit of emotion, which he hasn't. And yet, like his mega-risk-taking grandfather, Bill, Waterhouse is known for taking on the biggest punters, for winning and losing bathtubs full of money in the course of an afternoon. In 2008, he lost $1.175 million in 10 minutes, only to make it all back by sundown. Not long after, he lost a further $2 million (for good, this time). When, this afternoon, it becomes apparent that he has just done $400,000 on one race, he issues only the slightest wince, pops another vitamin C and returns to his screens.

Waterhouse, who turns 30 this June, is the managing director of www.tomwaterhouse.com, one of Australia's largest corporate bookmakers. The company, which has offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin, offers odds on not only thoroughbreds, harness racing and greyhounds but also on rugby league and rugby union, cricket, tennis, Australian rules and, as Hebard puts it, "every other sport you can think of, from Swedish handball to two flies crawling up a wall".

Waterhouse makes the most of his family name, which has been intimately associated with bookmaking and horse racing for 112 years. (His father, Robbie, still works as a bookie; his mother, Gai, is a celebrated trainer.) But his real business is in creating as many markets as possible for punters to wager on: Waterhouse now offers odds on everything from who will win Dancing with the Stars and the Miles Franklin Literary Award to the final sale price of painter Edvard Munch's masterpiece, The Scream. "As long as it meets my licensing conditions and it passes the smell test, meaning it's not too weird, I will bet on anything," he says.

Perhaps more than any other bookie, Waterhouse embodies the changes that have recently transformed Australian gaming. Ever since the easing, in 2008, of regulations governing cross-border betting and gambling advertisements, overseas and domestic bookmakers have been battling each other for a piece of the local market, where punters wager more than $20 billion a year. Corporate bookmakers such as the foreign-owned SportingBet and SportsBet barrelled in, going toe to toe with on-course operators, including Waterhouse, who had been working "on the rails" since 2003, building his VIP business under the tutelage of father Robbie and grandfather Bill. By 2008, Tom was Australia's biggest on-track bookie; at the Melbourne Cup that year, he held more than $20 million over four days, more than all the other bookies combined.

But there is only one Melbourne Cup a year. Thanks to the advent of pay TV and online gambling, normal race-day attendances plummeted throughout the 2000s. "I haven't been to the races in three years," Waterhouse says. "It's dead. At the same time, I realised people still want to have a punt, they just wanted to do it from their couch or on their iPhone."

And so, in 2010, Waterhouse launched his online business, which he promoted in a multi-million-dollar campaign of free-to-air, print and online advertisements, including paying $70,000 to have his face plastered on a Melbourne tram. The company now has 80,000 clients, boosted by the purchase last year of the databases of two corporate bookmakers who had recently gone bust. Waterhouse employs 60 staff, and is recruiting overseas for 40 more. Robbie Waterhouse calls the strategy "growing broke", explaining, "The business is expanding at such a rate that it requires every dollar Tom has."

According to Warren Hebard, the marketing spend is now $20 million a year, a mere fraction of company turnover, which he puts in the "hundreds and hundreds of millions".

Recently I had dinner with Waterhouse at Nobu, a Japanese restaurant in Melbourne's Crown complex, where he lives in a $1900-a-night villa apartment on the 31st floor. Waterhouse has a perfectly acceptable home in Sydney - an apartment in Balmoral on Middle Harbour, just around the corner from his parents, that he bought in 2009 for $3.5 million. But Victoria's more favourable gambling laws mean he spends half his life south of the border, necessitating a yoyo-like schedule of at least three business-class flights to Melbourne and back a week. Such an arrangement is fine for now - he and wife Hoda Vakili, whom he married last year, don't have any children, a situation Waterhouse plans to remedy.

"I want to have six kids," he says. "As soon as possible."

"Seriously?" I ask.

"Seriously," he says.

Thanks to his 2006 appearance on Dancing with the Stars (he was knocked out in the third round), and his frequent partying with the likes of Charlotte Dawson and Tim Holmes à Court, Waterhouse has become known as something of a red-carpet junkie. He certainly knows how to spend his money: there are the skiing trips to Aspen, the holidays in Italy and, of course, the yearly pilgrimage to London, where he attends Royal Ascot and picks up a new suit from his father's tailor in Savile Row. His marriage last year was similarly five-star: bucks' and hens' nights in London, ceremony in the Sicilian seaside town of Taormina, followed by, as one newspaper put it, "lunch in Switzerland" and the honeymoon in Monte Carlo.

Not surprisingly, plenty of people don't like Waterhouse. The consensus is that he is too rich, too young and too lucky. Others don't like the fact he's a bookie. "Self promoter, making $ off the misery of others," one tabloid newspaper reader commented after an article on him last year. When news emerged that Vakili had undergone emergency surgery in January after injuring herself in Aspen, readers responded with an outpouring of indifference: "Should wipe the smug smile off their faces for a few weeks at least," one wrote.

I'm as jealous as the next guy, but "smug" isn't the right word for Waterhouse, who, in person at least, is self-effacing to the point of invisibility. He is softly spoken and reflexively formal. "Mum thinks I dress very boringly," he says. "Always in a dark suit and white shirt." When he was nominated for the Cleo Bachelor of the Year Awards in 2005, he was one of only two people out of 50 who opted to keep their shirts on for the photo. (The other was Guy Sebastian.) For now, he says, his life is defined by work: he goes to bed at midnight and rises at 7am, and takes only one day off a week. "Until I was married I worked seven days a week," he says. "Even when I'm on holidays I'm on my computer six or seven hours a day."

He is partial to fast cars: he has owned a Porsche 911 and currently drives a silver Mercedes SLS Gullwing (retail price: $496,000). But to picture him driving it fast, let alone crashing it, is to picture the Pope smoking crack. His optimum mode of relaxation is going to the movies with Vakili, which he does at least once a week. "We'll get the choc tops, a Slurpee," he says. "It's really great."

He also likes tennis, though playing him requires a certain kind of patience. "This is the problem with Tom at tennis: he is so formulaic and robotic," friend Jason Dundas says. "He never goes for a winner, because he knows the formula is that whoever can hold the rally longest wins. And so he plays the game to never hit a foul, and just hits these lollipops; he never goes for that Rafael Nadal cross-court winner because he knows that the chance it will go out is higher than it will go in, and he calculates that all in his head and wins the game every time. It's so annoying."

It's impossible to separate Waterhouse from his family, which has, since the First Fleet, shown a Flashman-like knack for controversy. When Governor Arthur Phillip was speared by Aborigines at Manly in 1790, it was Lieutenant Henry Waterhouse who was there to pull out the spear; Henry also brought the first thoroughbred racehorse to the colony, along with the first merino sheep. Later the family operated a Sydney ferry service, ran pubs and a sly-grog operation, even dabbled in opium smuggling.

The first bookmaker in the family was Charles Waterhouse, who got his licence in 1898, but it was his son, Bill, who would take it to another level. Through a combination of brains, balls and ruthlessness, Bill, who had initially practised as a barrister, became arguably the world's biggest gambler, a "leviathan bookie" who in the 1960s took on high-stakes punters like "Filipino Fireball" Felipe Ysmael and "Hong Kong Tiger" Frank Duval in million-dollar betting duels.

With his suit, hat, tote bag and cigarettes - 100 a day at one stage - Bill, who turned 90 this year, epitomised the old-style bookie. In his autobiography What Are the Odds?, he writes about arming himself with a .38 Smith & Wesson in the 1970s, and about his various entanglements with gangster George Freeman, "marijuana salesman" Robert Trimbole and the late Kerry Packer, who apparently died owing him $1 million. ("You can go and get f...ed and whistle for it," Packer reportedly told him. "You'll get nothing from me.")

"I don't pretend to be Simon Pure," Bill Waterhouse writes. "I have sometimes cut corners to get what I needed, but I am certainly no crook." Yet his name has been associated with virtually every scandal in horse racing bar the death of Phar Lap. Chief among these was, of course, the Fine Cotton affair of 1984, in which a handy sprinter named Bold Personality was painted with Clairol hair dye and substituted for a weaker horse called Fine Cotton. Bill and son Robbie, who had put money on the horse, were both charged by the Australian Jockey Club with "prior knowledge" - something they have always denied - and banned from racetracks for 14 years.

Tom insists he can't remember much about it: "I was two years old!" he tells me. Nor did it feature much in conversation. "It's a little bit like religion; I try not to bring it up."

It's tempting to see in the younger Waterhouse a reaction, conscious or otherwise, to the family's picaresque backstory. But it seems Tom has always been serious. Like his father before him, he attended the elite Sydney private school Shore. But where Robbie had gained a name for running a student betting ring, Tom became a senior prefect and house captain. "He is a seriously, like very, very, very ambitious guy," long-time friend David Chambers says. "He controls his emotions, he doesn't let them control him."

Chambers, who grew up around the corner from Waterhouse, says "Tom was always super competitive ... and a little bit bizarre. One day he came to school and said, 'You guys are all taking sick days: that's soft. I am never going to take a sick day.' He just thought it would be fun. And we were all like, 'Yeah, whatever.' But he never did, the whole time we were at school."

Horse racing dominated the Waterhouse home. "It was always discussed around the dinner table," Robbie says. "Every aspect of it." Tom got his first horse, a Shetland pony, for Christmas when he was five. Yet he had no interest in an on-course career. Instead, after school, he started a commerce degree, majoring in finance and marketing, at Sydney University. "I wanted to go into finance," he says. "It seemed like a good industry to be in."

Then one day in 2001, Robbie asked him if he'd come and "help out on the bag" at Rosehill. "Within about 20 minutes I was hooked," he says. Waterhouse was only six months into his course, but he immediately rearranged his timetable, moving his classes to Monday and Tuesday so that he could attend the races for the rest of the week. He got his licence for the dogs, then for thoroughbreds. Coming from racing royalty had its advantages. Gai, daughter of legendary trainer Tommy J. Smith, taught him horses; Robbie taught him analysis. ("Dad still gets up every day at 3am so he can do seven hours studying all the results and times.") And Bill showed him how to gamble. (Bet bigger if you're winning, smaller if you're losing, and always keep an eye on cash flow.)

Yet there were mishaps. In 2007, one of Waterhouse's biggest punters, the CEO of a big listed company in the US, placed a bet with him of $1.2 million. As he had never taken a bet that big, Waterhouse laid off the risk by "betting back" $800,000 with other bookies. When the CEO's horse lost, "I thought, 'Oh gosh, I've won $400,000! I'm going to buy a Ferrari!' But come Monday I had to pay $800,000 to those other bookies while my guy took the knock [refused to pay]."

Waterhouse pursued the debt through the courts, but has never got all of it back. (Courts are a recurring motif with bookies. In 2010, Waterhouse was in the Federal Magistrates Court chasing $2.6 million that he said Sydney businessman Andrew Sigalla owed him. And in January this year he placed a caveat over brothel-owner Eddie Hayson's Parramatta Road business, Stiletto, as security for $1 million in gambling debts.)

The movement of money away from the track and onto the internet has done much to sanitise racing. "In the days of the SPs, if you took the knock they'd come round and cut your toes off," veteran race writer Max Presnell says wistfully.

The perils of 21st-century gambling are more prosaic. Addiction. Bankruptcy. Family break-up. Waterhouse was raised in a religious household. "We went to church every Saturday night," he says. "I still pray occasionally, just to reflect on family and loved ones." But the moral dimension of his business doesn't trouble him. "I always say to people who bet with me, 'Anything in excess is bad for you: shopping, eating, gambling.' "

When in doubt, he invokes what he calls The Toilet Test: "If you feel uneasy about the bet, if you need to duck off to the toilet all the time, then you're betting too much. It's like anything else - if you feel uncomfortable doing it, chances are it's not a great thing to be doing."

The boardroom of Waterhouse's North Sydney office is an impressive space: there's a giant antique table, a cabinet full of trophies and a life-sized portrait of Bill Waterhouse, form guide folded under his arm, standing beneath the Harbour Bridge. Tom is explaining how he prices his odds when I spot, high up in the cabinet, Bill's original white leather tote bag.

"Do you want to see it?" Tom asks excitedly.

"Yes," I reply, imagining it to be full of interesting stuff: betting stubs, track programs, old pencils worn to the nub. But when Tom opens it up, it's empty. "Oh," I say, disappointed.

"It's basically just like a big purse," Tom says. "That's the way it worked." (Fairfax Media)

When the crowd funds a flop, what next? - 29th May 2012

Backers of high-tech video glasses have had enough of waiting for their crowdfunded returns.

Crowdfunding website Kickstarter was used to raise $US340,000 for a project to build a pair of HD-video recording glasses, but almost a year on, people who invested in the project have not received their products and the project creators have seemingly disappeared.

Kickstarter has denied responsibility for a growing number of apparently failed crowdfunding projects, but donors who claim to have been ripped-off are fighting back.

Crowdfunding is a way for individuals to make their dreams a reality, as touted by websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo which provide the social media tools to tap friends, family, and their extended networks for the capital needed to build a product.

In the embryonic stages the quirkier ideas garner media attention and are oversubscribed, often raising more money than initially requested.

While the success stories are well-documented, there is a growing list of stillborn projects where money has been collected by the project owner (95 per cent) and by Kickstarter (five per cent) but donors haven't received their promised returns.

The websites stress the responsibility rests with the project owner and the donor - they shy away from calling them "investors" as this would attract different regulatory compliance - but some frustrated donors are taking action.

The ZionEyez project trajectory is typical other Kickstarter consumer tech product success stories, but so far it doesn't feature the same happy ending.

The four founders asked for $US55,000 to build Eyez, a pair of glasses that could record HD video. After extensive media coverage (including by Engadget, Mashable, Forbes and Rolling Stone) it raised $US343,415 from 2106 backers when the funding round closed on July 31.

Since then the founders have missed the original delivery deadline of the northern "Winter 2011" and donors' growing concerns over product delivery are not being directly addressed.

There are more than 850 comments on the project page, some asking for a class action, and including one donor's correspondence with ZionEyez.

"Thanks for reaching out to us. We will be releasing another engineering update for our KS Backers in the near future. Thanks for your patience and support!"

Bill Walker was one of the donors who committed the $US150 required to secure a pair of the glasses.
In an attempt to claw back the donations he built the site zionkick.com to organise legal action against the founders of the ZionEyez project.

They must provide a reasonable time for the product to be delivered, he said.

"At the present time we (interested backers) are playing the waiting game," Walker wrote via email. "We have to give them a period of time in which to perform before filing fraud charges. When a period of time elapses that would satisfy the legal eagles...then we attack. Until then we bide our time."
"Their attorney CEO knows the heat is on so he might be insisting they produce something, even if it's on the level of the $US59.95 products currently on the market. Produce anything that will satisfy the spirit of what they said they were going to produce.

"In the meantime Kickstarter takes their 5 per cent and insists the backer is totally responsible for vetting the money grubbers."

Kickstarter did not respond to specific questions about whether it would intervene in the ZionEyez project, and pointed to their frequently asked questions (FAQ) page which says the creator is responsible for fulfilling a project's promise.

"Kickstarter doesn't issue refunds since transactions are between backers and creators, but we're prepared to work with backers as well as law enforcement in the prosecution of any fraudulent activity. Scammers are bad news for everyone, and we'll defend the goodwill of our community."
ZionEyez did not respond to requests for comment.

Crowdfunding projects fall outside the general consumer protections afforded by the Australian Consumer Law and NSW Fair Trading's jurisdiction, according to a Fair Trading spokesperson.

This is because the project is not a form of business trading, and a consumer-supplier relationship does not exist. The risk is amplified when dealing with international sites, the spokesperson said.
"Whenever dealing with an entity that is from outside Australia, consumers should be aware that should something go wrong, redress can be much more difficult to achieve than when the trader is domestically-based," the spokesperson said.

Donors do have some avenues for legal recourse but this could be expensive, according to Rouse Lawyers special counsel Kurt Falkenstein, who specialises in start-ups and has helped some raise money via crowdfunding.

The crowdfunding websites should take responsibility, he said.

"The principles of contract law still apply to crowdfunding – and if you misrepresent or falsify information that induces someone to enter a contract, you are liable – so the terms and conditions of the crowdfunding platform are vital," Falkenstein said.

"The hard thing with contract law is enforcement – are you going to go to court over tens or hundreds of dollars?

"Consumer law may apply where goods or services are promised but not delivered – you can't promise to provide something and not do it – but then you are relying on the ACCC.

"For me, if hundreds or thousands of people are ripped off, the platform should help those people band together and enforce their rights."

There is always a risk that these websites can be exploited, according to Alan Crabbe, co-founder of local crowdfunding website Pozible. He did not respond to a question whether the site had any undelivered projects.

There are safeguards against this, including filtering projects based on national/state investment laws, checking the project creator and holding photo ID, and tracking unusual activity on projects, he said.

Crowdfunding websites are not legally responsible for failed projects, according to StartSomeGood.com co-founder Tom Dawkins, but this does not mean they won't be judged in the court of public opinion.
The key is to curate the projects , he said, so the sites, project creators, and donors are ensured of the greatest chance of success.

"We don't believe we are legally or functionally responsible but, after the project concludes, we know people will hold us responsible anyway."

"We reject a lot of projects because they're too fantastic and unachievable. We try and make sure that we do feel proud of every project on our site, that we feel comfortable and stand by it."

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PartyCasino Wins Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month' Award; Promotions

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Crown Casino To Host World Series of Poker in 2013; Gold Coast high-roller fails to recover millions

Crown Limited gambler case; The Star entertains with musical in Sin City Sydney; World Series of Poker to Melbourne; Marvel Entertainment Online Games...


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Crown Casino To Host World Series of Poker in 2013...

James Packer's Crown Casino has announced an exciting partnership with the worlds largest poker brand, the World Series Of Poker. Set to take place at Crown Casino in Melbourne from April 4-15 2013, the World Series of poker Asia-Pacific (WSOP APAC) is a huge expansion into the world's largest gaming market.

WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said, “Our goal is to establish the worldwide grand slam of poker and use our platform to elevate the game through a series of major championships,”
“With WSOP Las Vegas growing annually and WSOP Europe poised for long-term success after five years, the time is right to turn our attention to the dynamic poker scene in Asia and Australia. Given Crown’s success with the ‘Aussie Millions Poker Championship’, we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Crown to establish the Asia-Pacific’s definitive poker festival.”

Crown Casino in Melbourne already is the home to the world's largest tournament series outside of the World Series Of Poker in Las Vegas with the Aussie Millions series each January attracting the worlds premier players. Crown Melbourne's CEO Greg Hawkins said, “This exciting partnership brings together two industry leaders, and two strong brands, to create a premier poker event in this region”.

“Our agreement firmly aligns with our objective of attracting the very best local and international players, all vying for a coveted WSOP bracelet. We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved with the Aussie Millions and look forward to featuring WSOP Asia Pacific on our poker calendar in April 2013.”

The WSOP brand is one of the worlds most iconic and every poker player in the world dreams of one day being the proud owner of coveted WSOP Bracelet. The WSOP brand is 42-years old and in 2007 it expanded beyond the USA with the launch of the WSOP Europe in London (2007-2010) and subsequently into France (2011). The WSOP APAC is set to tap into the tremendous growth of peer-2-peer gaming in this region.

As part of the agreement with the WSOP, the WSOP APAC events are expected to be televised globally across ESPN. Fox Sports, as seen on Foxtel, already broadcasts games from competitor, World Poker Tour (owned by Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment).

One man who is no stranger to ESPN and the WSOP is Australian local sporting hero, Joe Hachem. Way back in 2005 Joe won the most prestigious poker event in the world, the World Series Of Poker Main Event.

“It’s thrilling to think the World Series of Poker is coming to Australian soil,” said Joe Hachem. “I know first-hand what a life-changing moment winning the WSOP gold bracelet was and how it served as a catalyst for the growth of poker in Australia and Asia. It will be a dream come true to host a worldwide poker event such as this at Crown. I can’t wait.”

The full WSOP APAC schedule is set to be released later this year.

In other gambling and gaming news...

Gold Coast high-roller fails to recover millions...

A Gold Coast businessman who turned over almost $1.5 billion in 14 months at Melbourne's Crown Casino has lost his bid to recover more than $20 million he lost there.

Property developer Harry Kakavas spent $1.479 billion on 30 separate visits to Crown between June 2005 and August 2006, winning and losing vast sums, but ultimately accruing losses of $20.5 million, a Melbourne court has heard.

Mr Kakavas claimed Crown knew he suffered from pathological gambling and lured him back to the casino with the use of a private jet and cash and entertainment gifts.

But on Monday the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier Supreme Court decision that the casino did not take advantage of his gambling habits.

Appeal judge Justice Bernard Bongiorno said Mr Kakavas alleged his pathological gambling condition impaired his ability to make rational decisions about the amount of money he gambled.

Mr Kakavas would gamble six-figure sums on hands of baccarat, which take a matter of seconds to play.

But Justice Bongiorno said the fact Mr Kakavas was able to negotiate favourable terms for himself at Crown demonstrated his ability to make decisions in his best interest.

"When gambling at Crown he had negotiated the terms on which he gambled and had threatened to and in fact had withheld his custom from Crown when he did not get what he wanted," Justice Bongiorno said.

"These are not the characteristics of someone unable to conserve his own interests."

Justice Bongiorno found the allowances Crown offered to Mr Kakavas were not out of step with those typically offered to high-rolling gamblers.

He also rejected a claim by Mr Kakavas that he had lost $30 million in one losing streak at Crown in 2006.

He said on one occasion in March 2006 Mr Kakavas returned home to the Gold Coast with $14 million in winnings.

"That he lost overall is not in any way surprising," he said.

"The longer a person plays, the more certain it is that he will ultimately lose. Were it otherwise casinos would fail."

Mr Kakavas was ordered to pay Crown's legal costs. (AAP)

The Star entertains with musical: An Officer and a Gentleman...

Australian casinos and entertainment do mix!

Last week An Officer and a Gentleman enjoyed its Sydney, Australia premiere at The Star's Lyric Theatre at Ultimo.

The red carpet premiere was well attended by media and celebrities, and its understood the production is likely to match if not well exceed the substantial hype.

Producer John Frost said that more hard-won world premieres were in store.

"Not just Australian stories, but international stories that can be exported to international markets," Frost said.

Producers from Germany, South Korea, Canada, New York and London were at tonight's opening.

Frost said the $6 million budget for An Officer And A Gentleman was about half what it might have been if it was developed in New York or London.

"Things are just easier and cheaper here, and in New York and London, you're so far out of town (doing the set building) trying to get it right and get it fixed," he said.

Frost said the process of developing new musicals, as opposed to simply remounting a successful overseas version, would help build production skills for the creation of new musicals in the future.

"What this is doing is establishing people like (An Officer And A Gentleman) director Simon Phillips, his choreographer and his assistants, to do new stuff they're not used to doing, because they are used to doing stuff that's already been done and what we are trying to do is to broaden that experience so a lot more directors and a lot more writers get that opportunity," Frost added.

Later next year and early 2014 Frost expects to mount world premieres of Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Show and Red Dog. His production of Doctor Zhivago is approaching the end of a six month-long run in Seoul and will then be mounted in New York.

The Media Man and Music News Australia agencies were overheard agreeing "Another world class production put on by The Star and Lyric Theatre".

The pitch:

A new musical based on the Paramount Pictures-Lorimar movie "An Officer and a Gentleman" written by Douglas Day Stewart

Music and lyrics by Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner
Book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen
Director Simon Phillips
Choreographer Andrew Hallsworth
Set and Costume Designer Dale Ferguson
Lighting Designer Matt Scott
Musical Director Dave Skelton
Associate Director Dean Bryant
Producers Sharleen Cooper Cohen and John Frost

In association with Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros Theatre Ventures

Based on the hugely successful Academy Award-winning film, this new production has been adapted for the stage by the original screen writer, Douglas Day Stewart and co-writer Sharleen Cooper Cohen, with music and lyrics by Kenny Hirsch and Robin Lerner. It will be produced by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and John Frost, and directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical).

The talented cast that will bring this timeless story to life includes Ben Mingay (Jersey Boys) as Zack Mayo, the classic angry young man who grew up in a "sewer" and dreams of flying jets and parlaying this skill into a better life; Amanda Harrison (Wicked) as Paula Pokrifki, the young factory worker who dreams of becoming a nurse and finding a better life without selling out for it, like everyone around her; Kate Kendall (Next to Normal) as Lynette Pomeroy, Paula's best friend who is determined to marry a flier to escape her dead end life, no matter what it takes; and Alex Rathgeber (The Phantom of the Opera) as Sid Worley, the likeable Okie son of a Navy Admiral who is the class "superstar" at the Naval Academy.

A hit across the ages, the 1982 film has become a phenomenon in cinema history, recently listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten love stories in cinema history. Featuring the iconic hit song "Up Where We Belong" and a new score by hit song writer Ken Hirsch and Grammy nominee Robin Lerner this timeless tale of struggle, success, friendship and love promises to be the musical blockbuster of 2012.

An Officer and a Gentleman is a triumphant story of working class heroes surviving great tests; a classic modern day love story about a working class boy and girl who must overcome their upbringing and personal weaknesses to accept life and love.

His Story, Her Romance.

The Star's history of celebrities...

Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair (ok, before it was rebranded The Star - back in Star City Casino days), Al Pacino, Bob Geldof, Russell Crowe, Paris Hilton, Afrojack, will.i.am, Snoop Dogg and so the list goes on.

Legally Blonde To Open 4th October 2012...

The Sydney Lyric Theatre is also going to be host to the famous musical 'Legally Blonde'.

Legally Blonde The Musical is the hilarious story of college sweetheart and homecoming queen, Elle Woods - a girl who doesn't take no for an answer. When her boyfriend dumps her for someone "serious", Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books and heads for Harvard Law School! Along the way, she proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.

Legally Blonde The Musical - Winner of Best Musical 2011 Olivier Awards and a smash hit running into its third year on the West End was created by a world-class creative team led by Tony Award-winning director Jerry Mitchell.

The musical opens 4th October 2012.

Marvel Entertainment - The Avengers Boosting Marvel Slots Popularity; Media Agency...

The box office success of Marvel Entertainment comic book based movie 'The Avengers', is boosting the popularity of Marvel slot games across internet networks, the Media Man agency has reported.

A Media Man spokesperson said "Marvel themed games have been popular ever since they were first released, but the success of Marvel Entertainment movies such as Thor, Captain America and The Avengers has at least doubled their popularity according to our data. A new rumoured Hulk movie or TV series, and the upcoming release of The Wolverine movie, staring Australia's own Hugh Jackman, will only further spike online game popularity."

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment has licensed the Marvel deal, and the games can be found at Hitwise top ten website portals such as Media Man, which has a b2b in place with Bwin.Party and PartyCasino.

More Marvel Entertainment games are in the works and the Media Man agency will be providing detailed reviews on the games as more information comes to hand.

Gamers and gamblers, as always - bet with your head, not over it, and have fun.

Marvel Entertainment movie game fans and true believers...there's only one thing to say - Excelsior!


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World's biggest gambling nations


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World's biggest gambling nations...

The world's biggest gambling nations include plenty of unlikely candidates.

Mention gambling and glitzy images of Las Vegas come to mind. But you'll be surprised to know Americans are not the world's biggest gamblers. In fact, the world's biggest gambling nations include plenty of unlikely candidates.

The rankings are based on data from H2 Gambling Capital, a consultancy based in London. They take into account average gaming losses (the amount bet and never recovered) in a year divided by the adult population in over 200 countries. The numbers include money lost on all types of betting including horse racing, poker machines, lotteries and casinos during 2010.

Read on to find out the countries with the biggest losers and the boldest gamblers.

10. Spain

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $389

Gaming was legalised in Spain in only 1977 and gambling of pure chance (slot machines) was legalised in 1981. Spaniards love to bet on everything from football to cards to the lottery.

Spain's Christmas lottery called "El Gordo", or the Fat One, is the only lottery draw in the world to award more than $1 billion in prizes. Last year, an estimated four in five Spaniards bought this lottery ticket, even at a price tag of 200 euros.

Lottery-crazy Spaniards helped Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, the organiser of the draw, to earn just under 10 billion euros in revenue last year.

Faced with a mounting fiscal deficit, the Spanish government plans to sell 30 percent of the company and raise up to 7.5 billion euros in the second half of 2011.

9. Greece

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $391

Greece boasts of one of the most legendary gamblers of all times - Nicholas "Nick the Greek" Dandolos. He died almost penniless at the age of 83 in 1966, having lost all his winnings, which were estimated to be worth almost US$500 million in 2009 in inflation-adjusted terms.

Lotteries are among Greeks' favorite ways to gamble. In 2010, the "Joker" lottery accumulated a record jackpot of 19 million euros.

The country is also home to Europe's biggest gambling company, OPAP, which has a market cap of about 4.1 billion euros. Its privatisation, to be finalized by 2012, could help the government pay off some of its debts.

8. Norway

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $416

Lotto, scratch cards, slot machines and football bets are Norwegians' favored ways to gamble. In a survey carried out by the government in 2008, 88 percent Norwegians confessed to being lifetime gamblers. It also found that gambling addictions occurred most frequently among young men who had previously played on gaming machines.

That's despite the fact that the country has made efforts to make gambling less accessible - reducing the number of slot machines in the country to 10,000 from 22,700 machines in July 2007.

That hasn't slowed Norwegians love for betting and many gamblers have turned to playing poker online forcing the government to threaten blocking or filtering online gambling operations.

The state-owned gaming company, Norsk Tipping falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs - and posted revenues last year of A$1.9 billion.

7. Hong Kong

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $468

Casinos are outlawed in Hong Kong, but the world's biggest gambling center, Macau is just an hour's boat ride away, and in the first-quarter of 2011, half a million Hong Kongers visited Macau.

Within Hong Kong, horse racing, lotteries and soccer betting are the only forms of gambling allowed. Little wonder, The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a major draw and a cultural fixation in the territory. The club hosts some 700 races a year and earned A$2.5 billion in betting and lottery revenue in 2010.

The people of Hong Kong are famous for their gambling habits. According to a medical research carried out by the University of Calgary, an estimated one in 20 Hong Kongers have a gambling disorder.

Another survey by Hong Kong-based Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counseling Centre found that of the 1,040 students interviewed, more than half were introduced to gaming by their parents. And 41 percent said they started as young as age 6.

6. Italy

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $481

Italians' favorite gambling activity is to play electronic gaming machines such as slots. According to a 2010 study conducted by strategy and business advisory firm MAG Consulenti Associati, electronic gaming machines generated nearly half of Italy's total gaming revenues in the first half of 2010. During just that six-month period, gaming revenues totaled A$20.4 billion in the country.

Italy is also credited with inventing the popular game Baccarat, and for opening the world's first government-sanctioned casino in Europe back in 1638, called "The Ridotto" in Venice.

The Venetian government finally shut the casino's doors in 1774 in an effort to preserve the city's "piety, sound discipline and moderate behavior".

5. Finland

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $514

Forty-one percent of adult Finns gamble every week, according to a study by Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in 2007. The minimum age for playing on a slot machine has just been raised to 18 in July 2011, from just 15 previously.

But that's not the only quirk when it comes to Finland and gambling. The country's national lottery company, Veikkaus is entirely owned by the government and is actually run by the ministry of education. Most of the profits of the company are allocated to education, arts and culture.

The Paf Group of Finland, which runs an Internet gambling company, has an interesting "pay back" scheme for loyal customers. If you have spend at least 120 euros ($159.55) on its site and are certified by a medical professional to be suffering from a gambling addiction, you are entitled to a maximum of 10 therapy sessions, worth up to 2,300 euros ($3,057).

4. Canada

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $528

Over 75 percent of adult Canadians gambled on some form or the other, last year. The biggest gamblers come from the potash-rich province of Saskatchewan, which has an average gambling revenue per person (aged 18 and above) of $783, against a national average of $490.

The most common gambling activities in Canada are lotteries and Scratch and Win cards.

Canadians' love for lotteries runs deep, so much so, that the government has set up a national initiative to raise awareness that lottery tickets are inappropriate gifts for minors. This came after criticism of parents who often included a lottery ticket their children's Christmas stockings.

3. Ireland

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $547

Ireland's casino industry is currently entirely unregulated because the country is governed by an outdated Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956. The law allows only bona fide members' club to provide casino services.

Under the Act bets on a gaming machine cannot exceed 6 pence while prizes are capped at 10 shillings. No wonder, the law cannot be enforced as the Irish pound has not been legal tender since 1999 and the country is now trying to enact new legislation.

The Irish government has just given the green light to build a Las Vegas-style sports and leisure complex in Tipperary at an estimated cost of 460 million euros ($668 million).

To be completed in three years, the venue will house a hotel, a casino, an all-weather racecourse, a greyhound track, a golf course and even a full-size replica of the White House, which will be used as a banquet facility.

2. Singapore

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $1,093

Singapore opened its first casino a little over a year ago but it's already the world's third largest-gaming center after Macau and Las Vegas and it's set to overtake Vegas this year.

The decision to allow casinos to be built in the city-state has created plenty of worries that Singaporeans may end up getting hooked to gambling. The government has tried to discourage local gamblers by imposing an entry fee of S$100 ($80.50) for citizens who want to enter a casino.

Authorities have also implemented a "Family Exclusion Order," that allows a family to ban relatives from visiting casinos.

But the measures have done little to dampen enthusiasm for gambling. Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, has forecast that Singapore's gaming revenue could hit A$5.9 billion in 2011, outpacing Las Vegas, which earned A$5.3 billion in 2010.

1. Australia

Gaming Losses Per Adult: $1,199

You know a nation is crazy about gambling when a gaming company offers people a chance to bet on whether the central bank will raise interest rates or not.

Besides that, Australia is the only place in the world that allows online wagering on sport but prevents gamblers from using the internet to place bets during live games. But that may soon change as the government has agreed to review laws following intensive lobbying from the country's major sports bodies.

Slot machines - known locally as pokies - are by far Australia's favorite game, with an estimated 75-80 percent of problem gamblers hooked on them, according to the country's Productivity Commission.

New South Wales, with 100,000 poker machines accounts for half of the nation's total number of poker machines. According to the state's Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, 935 gamblers registered themselves to be banned from casinos between 2006-2010, but were caught 1,249 times for breaching their own ban.

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PartyCasino Wins Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month' Award; Promotions

PartyCasino.com has been awarded the Media Man and Casino News Media "Online Casino Of The Month" award.

PartyGaming's igaming suite has grown a custom to winning awards since they first opened for business in 1997.

The competition for the coveted award was intense again this month with massive bids from both Virgin Casino, PKR Casino and Captain Cooks Casino however there can only be one winner... ladies and gentlemen, that's PartyCasino.com

The award follows PartyPoker's EGR Poker Operator Of The Year and PartyGaming also made the shortlist for EGR Operator Of The Year. Recently PartyGaming's PartyPoker.com also won the Casino News Media "Online Poker Website Of The Month".

The Media Man - Casino News Media accolade is based on a combination of elements including user experience, innovation, trustworthiness, customer service, gameplay, affiliate program offerings, newsworthiness and company values.

PartyCasino.com is one of a number of Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment brands.

The most popular PartyCasino.com games of late include Heist, Circus, Rambo, Palladium Slot, The Godfather, Sinatra, Slotbox, Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Mission: Impossible, The Terminator, Cleopatra, Sinatra, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, Monopoly, Resident Evil, Melon Madness, Wheel Of Fortune and Mega Fortune Wheel.

The PartyCasino.com jackpot is currently approaching the $6 million mark. Players can also compete for The Big One and Marvel Hero Jackpot, playing the Marvel super hero themed online slot games.

PartyCasino's most recent game releases include Shaaark! SuperBet, Crocodopolis, Alice's Wonderland, Glamour Puss, Super Cubes, Heist, Palladium Slot and Circus Slot.

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Co-CEO Jim Ryan has gone on record advising PartyCasinowill soon feature more Hollywood blockbuster themed slots. A few in the know journalists and media agents have been recently tipped off that an all time classic movie adaption will be showcased in the PartyCasino portfolio within 1 month. PartyCasino has the world's most impressive line up of Hollywood themed games, and more are just around the corner.

PartyCasino.com and PartyPoker.com customers can also benefit from rewards and bonuses via PartyPoints and the Palladium Lounge. Be certain to check out the PartyCasino exclusive "Cash Machine" that is being championed as one of the greatest online casino promos ever.

Media Man, Casino News Media and Global Gaming Directory do have a b2b relationship with Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, as they do with dozens of other companies in the gaming, igaming, media and entertainment industry.

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Vegas casinos gamble on online partners with a past - 14th May 2012


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To prime itself for the U.S. debut of legal online poker, MGM Resorts International, owner of such Las Vegas Strip monuments as the MGM Grand, the Bellagio and the Mirage, wanted a partner that knew the ropes.

So last October it hooked up with Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc, a London-listed, Gibraltar-based specialist that rakes in more from Web betting than any other publicly traded company. MGM Resorts took 25 percent of a new venture 65 percent owned by Bwin.Party, with smaller Las Vegas casino operator Boyd Gaming getting the remaining 10 percent.

"We'll be out of the gate as soon as anybody," MGM Resorts Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren boasted to investors in February.

Online expertise isn't the only thing that distinguishes Bwin.Party. In 2009, an earlier incarnation of the company paid $105 million while admitting to U.S. prosecutors it had run an illegal gambling operation and engaged in bank and wire fraud.

Among its principal backers: a California-born woman who made a fortune in phone sex and Web pornography businesses that, like the pioneering online-gambling company that became Bwin.Party, faced multiple allegations of wrongdoing.

MGM Resorts' choice of Bwin.Party as a partner while applying for online poker licenses in Nevada might seem unusual. It isn't. The alliance reflects the calculated risks that major casino operators, Native American tribes and social-gaming giants Zynga and Facebook are weighing as they angle for a slice of a market valued at billions of dollars a year.

Caesars Entertainment Corp is prepping for online poker by tying up with an Israeli company that in 2007 acknowledged settlement talks with the U.S. Justice Department over alleged breaches of anti-gambling laws.

A group of Native American tribes in California has signed up to use software from another Israeli company, run by a man who served prison time for stock manipulation and bribery. Another tribe last week announced a deal with Bwin.Party.

Zynga, eager to convert some of its tens of millions of virtual poker enthusiasts into cash gamblers, also has been in talks with Bwin.Party and others that have had brushes with the law, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, offshore gambling outfit PokerStars is considering buying its chief offshore rival, Full Tilt, and making a run at the U.S. market even though founders of both were indicted by the Justice Department last year on charges of illegal gambling, bank fraud and money laundering, according to people familiar with the situation.

All this comes as Nevada prepares to license the first online poker operators and software suppliers late next month -- and as California, New Jersey, Iowa, Massachusetts, Delaware and other states debate similar moves.

Many of the cash-starved states, encouraged by intensive industry lobbying, have felt freer to act since December, when the Justice Department declared that one federal anti-gambling law, the Wire Act, would no longer be enforced beyond sports betting.

But casino operators, Indian tribes and Internet powers bent on offering online poker lack experience delivering it. Online poker is a business that involves processing billions of dollars worth of bets and battling the fraudsters, cheats and robot-player software that can ruin the games. Hence the casinos are cozying up to some tech-savvy offshore partners whose pedigrees might give regulators pause.

Most states have "suitability" rules designed to keep crooks out of the gambling industry. Nevada requires that successful license applicants and their large shareholders possess "good character, honesty and integrity." Nevertheless, the big casino operators and their offshore partners are betting that regulators will look favorably on their license applications for two good reasons: tax money and high-tech jobs.

Early indications are that they are right.

At a hearing on a Caesars deal with the Israeli company last year, Mark Lipparelli, chairman of Nevada's Gaming Control Board, said: "I don't think as we look at companies that we can have perfection as the standard, because I think that would be a disservice to the state in attracting business here." The board unanimously recommended approval of the venture.

Gambling foes warn that states are putting fiscal worries ahead of public safety, exposing a huge and vulnerable population to the potential for compulsive betting. "The governments are so desperate for revenues that they will partner with these lawbreaking outfits," said Les Bernal, executive director of the nonprofit Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation in Washington, D.C. "They will create addiction in order to feed off of it."


Jim Ryan, co-chief executive officer of Bwin.Party, acknowledged in an interview that when the company was looking for U.S. partners, its history was a chief concern of MGM Resorts and other U.S. companies.

"Suitability is the very first question on all of their minds," he told Reuters during a recent business trip to San Francisco.

It's easy to see why.

Bwin.Party grew out of PartyGaming, a brainchild of San Francisco-area native Ruth Parasol, who has a history as colorful as Las Vegas. After earning a law degree, Parasol first prospered in the 1990s through 1-900 phone-sex and other services that were sued by multiple states for aggressive billing and collection practices. In North Carolina's suit, the judge ordered a company she co-founded to pay $270,000 in damages.

Then Parasol put her money behind Internet Entertainment Group, which gained notoriety for releasing an early Pamela Anderson sex video and promising an initial public offering that never happened. Employees accused the company of routinely overbilling customers, and Chief Executive Seth Warshavsky fled to Thailand as authorities investigated. Warshavsky didn't respond to an interview request.

Parasol managed to emerge unscathed, and in 1997 founded Starluck Casino in the Caribbean, providing online gambling to customers in the U.S. and elsewhere. The company had a big hit with its PartyPoker website, which became the dominant force in U.S. online cards, and then renamed itself PartyGaming.

Parasol, who has been living in Gibraltar for most of the past decade, declined requests for an interview.

In 2005, PartyGaming's IPO became the largest London had seen in four years, valuing the company at more than $8 billion. Just then, debate over the U.S. legal status of online gambling flared.

The Justice Department had long argued that Internet poker violated the Wire Act and other federal and state laws. Despite the success of PartyGaming and other offshore companies, no U.S.-based companies offered alternatives for fear of prosecution.

In 2006, Congress clarified the matter by passing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA, explicitly barring processing interstate or international poker transactions where state laws forbade such gambling. PartyGaming responded by pulling out of the U.S., leaving two-thirds of its players behind to be claimed by privately held offshore companies.

The law didn't snuff out online poker in the U.S. as players migrated to other offshore providers. Research firm H2 Gambling Capital estimates the U.S. accounts for about $400 million of global annual online poker revenue of nearly $5 billion, or 8 percent. Depending on how many states ultimately legalize online cards, that share could rise to as high as 28 percent in five years, the company says.

PartyGaming's problems didn't end when it left the United States. In 2008, co-founder Anurag Dikshit pleaded guilty to gambling via the wires in federal district court in New York. He forfeited $300 million and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading PartyGaming itself to settle in 2009. The company paid $105 million to avoid prosecution for pre-UIGEA violations. Dikshit couldn't be reached. His lawyer didn't return calls seeking comment.

In 2010, prosecutor Arlo Devlin-Brown told the court that the probe was continuing and referred to documents under seal. He recently told Reuters he could not comment further, leaving open the possibility that Parasol could be charged if she returns home to the United States.

PartyGaming's fortunes recovered as it began to focus on non-U.S. customers. Last year it bought rival Bwin Interactive of Austria and changed the merged company's name to Bwin.Party, with annual revenue of 691 million euros, or $902 million.

During the merger talks, the regulatory suitability of PartyGaming and Parasol became an issue. Parasol and her husband, Russell DeLeon, agreed that the board could force them to restructure their more than 13 percent stake in the merged company or sell it if "required by any gaming regulatory authority in connection with business opportunities," according to merger documents filed with regulators.

That clause wouldn't apply, however, if the licensing process is "more burdensome to the principal PartyGaming shareholders than the licensing requirements currently imposed by the state of Nevada." That means the couple's stake could, in effect, block deals in states with tougher standards. Bwin.Party's Ryan said he couldn't imagine the couple standing in the way. DeLeon couldn't be reached for comment.

Now partnered with MGM Resorts, Bwin.Party has applied for a Nevada license to offer Internet poker software and services. Co-CEO Ryan said the joint venture will handle all U.S. games where players pay to play and can cash out their winnings.

In the meantime, he said, Bwin.Party will promote its brands through a social game, to be announced soon, without the ability to cash out. Ryan said negotiations with Facebook, a likely game platform, are continuing.

Facebook declined to comment. MGM did not respond to repeated interview requests about its choice of Bwin.Party.


One of Bwin.Party's top rivals is also listed in London but based in Israel. That company is 888 Holdings, founded by a dentist inspired to put poker on the Net after a 1996 trip to Monte Carlo. The late Aharon Shaked and his brother Avi mortgaged their homes to fund the company, and their families and a co-founding family still have majority control.

In 2006, 888 joined PartyGaming in pulling out of the U.S. market. But for a time before that, 888's Casino-on-Net gambling website was among the top 10 buyers of banner ads aimed at U.S. home Internet users, reaching more than 10 percent of them in a single week, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

In 2007 the company acknowledged it was in settlement talks with the Justice Department over suspected breaches of pre-2006 anti gambling laws. No charges were filed.

The 888 deal with Caesars that Nevada regulators approved last year was a trial run of Caesars-branded online poker in the British market, where such games have been legal for years. Caesars, operator of the Strip's Caesars Palace, Harrah's and Rio, has since expanded its relationship with 888, agreeing to use its software in the United States once states approve.

Ambitions are running high at 888. "The most exciting market opportunity for the industry must be that of the States, and we are definitely the prettiest girl in town, with everybody keen to have discussions with us," 888 Chief Executive Officer Brian Mattingley told investors last month. Officials at 888 declined interview requests, as did those at Caesars.

Lipparelli, the Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman, said scrutiny of the initial Caesars venture was lower than what it would have been for a U.S. venture. He said current investigations of Bwin.Party, 888 and more than 20 other license applicants would be far more rigorous than anything the overseas outfits had experienced in their home countries. "Some will probably not make it through," Lipparelli said.

He said confessions of pre-2006 wrongdoing wouldn't automatically prevent licensing, though. Gambling executives say they expect smooth sailing in Nevada because regulators want to add local technology jobs. Concern about past lawbreaking "has all gone away," one casino executive said.

One big test could come in the case of PokerStars, based in the Isle of Man, and Full Tilt Poker, based in the Channel Islands, which together snapped up most of the U.S. market after the 2006 law was passed and PartyGaming ran for the exits.

Last year, on an April day known in online poker circles as Black Friday, federal prosecutors unsealed indictments alleging illegal gambling, bank fraud and money laundering against the founders of PokerStars and Full Tilt. Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Full Tilt had operated as a Ponzi scheme, relying on new players' deposits to cover payouts to older customers while executives and advisers took hundreds of millions of dollars from player accounts.

The indictments prompted Wynn Resorts Ltd to drop a weeks-old "strategic relationship" with PokerStars. The main owner of Station Casinos, which serves Las Vegas locals at 11 casinos off the Strip, abandoned a similar tie-up with Full Tilt. Neither Nevada company returned calls seeking comment.

Full Tilt has shut down while it negotiates with the Justice Department. But PokerStars remains the biggest site worldwide, with what others in the industry believe tops $1 billion in annual revenue. It harbors hopes that a deal with prosecutors could pave the way for a return to the U.S.

People familiar with the situation say that as part of the settlement talks with the Justice Department, PokerStars is considering buying Full Tilt and refunding U.S. players hundreds of millions of dollars missing from their accounts. PokerStars confirmed the settlement talks but declined to comment on Full Tilt or its American aspirations. Full Tilt officials couldn't be reached for comment.


In California, casinos and gambling-software companies already are scurrying for deals with the tribes and others that would be eligible for direct licenses under a bill pending in the state senate. Caesars manages the Rincon tribe's Harrah's casino and is hoping to build on that with software from 888.

A coalition of tribes and card rooms known as the California Online Poker Association has signed up to use software from Playtech Ltd, a London-listed British company. About 40 per cent of Playtech is owned by Teddy Sagi, an Israeli billionaire who pleaded guilty to stock manipulation and bribery in 1996 in a scandal known as the Discount Affair. He was sentenced to nine months in prison. Playtech didn't respond to a request for comment.

The tribes are aware of the risks of choosing partners that won't satisfy the state Justice Department, which the current bill would empower to approve license applications.

"We are very, very concerned about probity," said Joaquin Fletcher, president of the Pechanga Development Corp, owner of the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. "We don't want whoever we pick to just create more nightmares down the road."

Similar concerns are on the minds of social media companies.

Zynga, the dominant provider of recreational games on Facebook, has 36 million monthly average users of its Texas HoldEm Poker, the second most popular game on Facebook after its CityVille, according to market research firm AppData.

The card game doesn't require regulation because players don't receive cash payouts, though they often pay for extra chips to play with. Those virtual chip purchases have made the game one of Zynga's top earners and opened the company's eyes to the potential of the real thing.

Lazard Capital Markets said in March that it expected Zynga to move "aggressively" and capture an extra $100 million in annual profit by offering online poker with cash payouts and prizes.

Zynga has held talks with Bwin.Party, 888, multiple California tribes and card rooms, and the big brick-and-mortar casinos, people familiar with the discussions said. The company might experiment first with poker in well-regulated overseas markets such as the United Kingdom, they said. Zynga declined to comment.

The gambling majors have seen the promise of social networking as well. MGM Resorts, like Bwin.Party, is planning its own game without cash payouts but with social networking built in. Caesars recently bought game application developer Playtika, which has a popular free slot machine app on Facebook called Slotomania, and it launched a Caesars-branded casino game suite there, too.

Despite the enthusiasm, the risks of a regulatory, legal or public-relations setback for Zynga and Facebook are substantial, even if they partner well.

With millions of free players, "it's very likely these people can be converted" to playing for real money, said one longtime offshore poker executive. "But do they want a headline saying some kid lost $10,000 playing poker on Facebook?" (Reuters)

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The Avengers video game in the works; Marvel Slots; Marvel Games

Hollywood and Australian News: The Avengers, Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Games, Spider-Man, WWE, John Cena, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Paramount Pictures, Celebrity Gaming and casino news, Arcade And Slot games, Hollywood gossip, UFC...


Movies Hollywood Marvel Entertainment Marvel Studios Marvel Comics Disney Paramount Pictures The Avengers Entertainment Marvel Games WWE UFC Wrestling

The Avengers video game in the works...

Now that they've saved the world on film, The Avengers are teaming up for a motion-control video game.

Ubisoft Entertainment have announced a partnership with Marvel Entertainment to create a game based on the popular Marvel superhero posse. The game will be titled Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth and will be released for both the upcoming Wii U console from Nintendo Co. and the camera-based Kinect system for the Xbox 360 from Microsoft.

"The idea that we're making a motion-control version of The Avengers is a unique proposition if you compare that to superhero games of the past," said Tony Key, Ubisoft's vice president of sales and marketing.

"This is the perfect type of game for that because these characters are very action oriented. They're always fighting and throwing things."

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth will focus on such characters as Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk fending off an invasion of genetically altered Skrull aliens. The title will feature more than 20 characters from the Marvel universe and would be based on the Secret Invasion comic series, not the recent film.

No release date was announced, but Key said the disc-based title is expected to launch after Nintendo debuts the Wii U later this year. The successor to Nintendo's Wii will feature high-definition graphics, increased online capabilities and a touch-pad controller. He said more details about the game would be unveiled at next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The game will be the latest addition to Ubisoft's motion-control arsenal. Previous titles released by the Canadian publisher that rely on gesture-based devices include the artsy shooter Child of Eden, street brawler Fighters Uncaged, superhero dueler PowerUp Heroes, the Your Shape fitness franchise and top-selling Just Dance series.

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth will mark the first time that the Assassin's Creed publisher has developed a game based on a franchise from Marvel, which was purchased in 2009 by The Walt Disney. The developers previously worked with Avatar director James Cameron to craft a third-person 3D action-adventure game set on the planet Pandora.

Sega created each of the games pegged to the films of The Avengers forerunners, including last year's Thor: God of Thunder and Captain America: Super Soldier, but there was no console game released this year alongside director Joss Whedon's blockbuster The Avengers, just the mobile game Marvel's The Avengers and Facebook title "Marvel: Avengers Alliance."

Fans freaked out last year over unofficial footage and concept art posted online of a first-person Avengers game that was reportedly in development by THQ. The footage of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor battling the infamous Skrull was yanked by Marvel from YouTube. A representative for Marvel declined to be interviewed for this story.

Traditionally, games based on Marvel movies have been released around the same time as their super-powered counterparts to benefit from parallel buzz. The open-world action-adventure title The Amazing Spider-Man from Activision. is set for release June 26, ahead of director Marc Webb's film of the same name on July 3.

The big-screen adaptation of The Avengers starring Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye has smashed box office records, earning $US207.4 million in the US in its opening weekend.

"For us, that obviously raises the brand itself to an even higher level, and that's good for our video game because we have an opportunity to reach a broader audience than just the guys who love comic book characters," said Key, who added that Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth would be family friendly despite the game's focus on fighting.

Marvel's superheroes have been a dominant presence throughout the history of games. They most recently assembled for the Capcom brawler "Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3" and the Activision role-playing sequel Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. Gazillion Entertainment is currently developing a free-to-play online game featuring them called Marvel Heroes. Website: www.AvengersBattleForEarth.com

The Avengers enjoys worldwide box office success; Breaking records...

Marvel superhero fans in Australia and around the world. We've got tons of news for you today. There's Avengers news, gaming and slot games, interviews, quotes, numbers, A WWE connection and more...

The Avengers proved that five superheroes are better than one by bursting into Hollywood's record books with a massive $197 million in ticket sales over its opening weekend in US and Canadian theatres, kicking off Hollywood's summer movie season with a bang.

The film now easily holds the record for greatest box office takings on its first weekend of cinema release, speeding past last summer's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - Part 2, which opened with $166 million, and Batman franchise film The Dark Knight, according to Box Office Mojo.

In March, The Hunger Games opened with $150 million, the fourth largest opening in box office history.

The Avengers, which reunites Marvel comic heroes Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Black Widow, has collected $630 million since it opened in international markets on April 25.

"We keep thinking we have a sense of what this movie can do, or will do, and every time we get a report it does even better," said Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice-president of distribution.

"This is very satisfying, to say the least."

Disney's aggressive marketing, which included promotions aimed at women that included sending stars to The View daytime talk show, resulted in women making up 40 per cent of the audience for the action film, according to Disney's survey. Half the audience was also over 25 years of age, the studio said.

Winner of the past two weekends, Sony's romantic comedy Think Like a Man, slipped to second place with $7.8 million at North American theatres, according to Hollywood.com.

Hunger Games, from Lions Gate Entertainment, took the No 3 spot in its seventh week in theatres, with $5.6 million, and has collected $374 million in US and Canadian theatres during its run.

Warner Brothers' The Lucky One landed in fourth place with $5.4 million, and the animated film The Pirates! Band of Misfits from Sony finished in fifth place with $5.3 million.

The undisputed success of Avengers brought Disney the type of redemption that Hollywood loves to put on screen. In March, Disney released the expensive sci-fi adventure film John Carter, one of the biggest flops in box office history. The company said it expects to lose up to $196 million on that film.

Avengers is the first Marvel film released by Disney since the media and theme park giant purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $3.9 billion, a move to expand its appeal to boys with a stable of superheroes.

Disney would not say whether it plans to make a sequel. Sequels to films based on the Thor and Iron Man characters are scheduled for next year and Captain America in 2014.

About 52 per cent of The Avengers ticket sales came from higher-priced 3D tickets, Disney said.

The first weekend in May kicks off Hollywood's summer movie-going season, a four-month period typically filled with big-budget action movies and sequels. Coming movies include Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Men in Black 3, and Battleship. (Reuters)

Scarlett Johansson: comic book movie superhero...

Scarlett Johansson first enrolled in the Marvel comic book superhero universe when she was introduced as the mysterious Black Widow opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the 2010 blockbuster Iron Man 2.

The action-filled movie role marked a massive change of direction for the actress, who's known more for low-key performances in films like Sofia Coppola's drama Lost in Translation or Woody Allen's sly comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

But Johansson is in fighting form to reprise her role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in Marvel Studios' The Avengers. With her bright red hair and sexy latex suit, the Black Widow teams up with Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye and Thor to stop the evil Loki from conquering Earth with his army.

Johansson sat down with media to talk about the film, the fighting style she learned for her role and what it was like to master her character's native Russian language.

Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man 2 but gets far more exposure in The Avengers. How did you expand the character?

At the end of Iron Man 2, we know she's a part of S.H.I.E.L.D., but we don't know what S.H.I.E.L.D. is. In this film, (director) Joss Whedon and I talked about her past. Who is she? How does she get to be a mercenary? What path do you follow in order to get to that place? We both wanted to see the darker side of her - not just that she's someone who is highly skilled, but why did she have to learn those skills?

You're in top form physically on screen. What new fighting skills did you learn?

We incorporated this Wushu style (of fighting) when the Widow wields a huge alien gun. That was new and really challenging. I had to learn how to spin it and move it. It was hard because I'd hit myself with it all the time. And it's heavy.

You learn (by using) a broom handle so you're like, 'Ah, I got it down, I've mastered it.' Then all of a sudden they're like, 'Here's the prop' and you're like, 'What? This thing is 20 pounds!' I was so terribly battered. I'd wake up every day in agony but it was a continuous thing, so it became normal (laughs).

Black Widow also speaks in her native Russian language, which you seemed to nail. Was it difficult to learn?

I had two days, so I had to learn it phonetically. I knew what I was saying but I had to be able to pronounce it and breathe some life into the lines so that it didn't sound like I was repeating some Berlitz tape.

We hired this great Russian translator, and she worked with the dialogue coach. She was really expressive, which helped, so my mouth found the words in a way that didn't just sound like I was a parrot.

You often play with hair color in your movie roles. Did you enjoy being a redhead for the duration of the shoot?

It's nice because it allows me to go a bit under the radar - people don't expect me to have that color of hair. I'm always happy when I do it because it's the first step of the process of finding the character again.

To me more than anything, the hair color represents a huge piece of work that we dive head first into. And I'm really happy when I can wash it out because then I'm like, 'Yes, It's finished, we actually did it!' Out it goes and you know you've accomplished something.

You're the only female Avenger in the cast. Did your male co-stars treat you any differently because of that?

If anything, the guys weren't as delicate with me as I thought they would be. They like to play hard and always dragged me along for the ride. I'd always come back with battle wounds. But they're a great group of guys. All of us got on so well.

Who did you spend most of your time with on location in New Mexico?

Jeremy (Renner, Hawkeye) because (we share scenes) together a lot. We fight together, so we had to do a lot of our stunt training together. We had the same battle wounds! Tom (Hiddleston, Loki), Jeremy and I spent a lot of time in the stunt gym because we fight so much hand to hand, so we ended up hanging out together. But we all equally had a closeness.

What was the dynamic like with all of you?

We're all fans of each other's work. Some of us have worked together in the past. Chris Evans and I have made three movies together. Sam Jackson and I made three movies together. Mark Ruffalo I've known for quite some time. Every time Robert (Downey Jr.) was on set, it was like, so alive.

We're just lucky that there was no diva on set. It was everybody trying to support one another. It was really nice to have that.

The Avengers is screening now (to packed and very enthusiastic audiences).

Disney's "The Avengers" a winner for Paramount Pictures also: source...

Walt Disney's blockbuster "The Avengers" has five superheroes and record ticket sales. It also has a silent partner in Viacom's Paramount Pictures, which is in line to to get a massive payday even though the studio didn't spend a cent to produce or market the film.

Paramount Pictures already snatched $57.5 million in April, when the film was released internationally. And it stands to collect 8 percent of the millions that the film will earn in theaters, on DVD, and when it is watched on the Internet, according to two people with knowledge of the business deal.

Under a 2005 distribution agreement between Paramount Pictures and Marvel, Paramount receives a distribution fee for the theatrical distribution of "The Avengers" as well as its distribution of its home video, Internet and TV rights. That agreement transferred to Disney, when Disney acquired Marvel for a cool $4 billion in 2009.

Disney and Paramount agreed in 2010 to amend that agreement, giving Disney the rights to distribute Marvel-produced "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3," the second sequel to the 2008 film that Paramount distributes. That agreement stipulated that Disney would pay Paramount a $115 million advance against future fees that Paramount would have earned.

Half of that fee was paid when Disney released "The Avengers" in international markets.

Spokesmen for Disney and Paramount declined to comment on the matter.

Paramount does not have rights to merchandise from the Marvel movies, and Iger told investors after the deal closed that he signed the getting the movie rights allows he to rev up Disney's marketing machine.

"Not only will we distribute it and market it, but we know that Marvel is working really hard with the cooperation of a number of entities at Disney to turn The Avengers into a true franchise," he said on the earnings call.

Studios and theater owners generally split ticket sales 50-50, meaning that Disney has collected $320.9 million based on "The Avengers" $641.8 million in worldwide ticket sales. Paramount's $25.7 million take would be applied against the pre-paid fee from Disney.

The two parties also agreed that "The Avengers" would appear on the Epix online and premium TV service that Paramount owns with Lions Gate Entertainment and the famous MGM studio. That's a big boost for the nearly three-year-old channel. Disney is legally obligated to show most of its movies on the Starz pay channel.

What size Paramount's take will be depends on how big a hit "The Avengers" becomes. The deal gets even sweeter for Paramount Pictures in 2013, when Disney is scheduled to release the third Iron Man. Paramount will get 9 percent of the money that film will generate.

It's going to be tough to match the hulking numbers of 'The Avengers', but the studios and business partners in on the action should be looking at plenty more green stuff generated from the ultra successful and cool Marvel franchise. Movies, games, fashion...what's next? Stay tuned true believers.

The Amazing Spider-Man Games Let's You Play Stan Lee...

True Believers, get ready for spectacular news — Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) and Spider-Man Merchandising L.P., a subsidiary of Marvel today announced some amazing pre-order exclusives for fans that reserve an early copy of The Amazing Spider-Man™ video game in North America.

Planned to launch June 26th, the game brings Spidey back to the thrill of free-roaming through Manhattan in an original epilogue story to Sony Picture Entertainment's upcoming feature film. The pre-order exclusives for The Amazing Spider-Man video game are available today and include the Rhino Challenge from GameStop and a special mission featuring a fully playable Stan Lee from Amazon.com.

Take control of the massive, genetically engineered villain RHINO and rampage around Manhattan in an exclusive gameplay challenge of pure destruction! As Rhino, players will be able to unleash his formidable powers to destroy anything and everything that gets in his way in a timed event full of speed, combo streaks, and of course, a ton of things to break! Unlockable for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 system ONLY.

All the rumors can officially be put to rest — for the first time ever, fans will be able to play…STAN…LEE as himself in The Amazing Spider-Man. Players will take on the role of Stan "The Man" Lee in his own special mission across Manhattan, borrowing abilities from his old pal Spider-Man as they help Stan collect pages of his latest script in a spectacular race around Manhattan. Stan's mission is punctuated with his witty banter that fans have come to know and love, and a special surprise waits for them at the end of the mission — after all, it is Spider-Man's 50th anniversary this year! Unlockable for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 system ONLY.

Go beyond the feature film and find out what happens next in The Amazing Spider-Man™ video game, which brings Spider-Man's free-roaming, web-slinging action back to New York City. Players take on the role of a young Peter Parker discovering his new Spider-Man powers and added Super Hero responsibilities, using the game's innovative Web Rush mechanic to swing freely around Manhattan, combat a variety of criminal activities and take on classic Marvel Super Villains. Set against an original story crafted by Hollywood writer Seamus Kevin Fahey (episodes of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica) that takes place entirely after the events of the upcoming feature film, The Amazing Spider-Man video game delivers a brand-new, immersive and cinematic adventure allowing players to truly harness the power of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

For more information on The Amazing Spider-Man video game, please check out http://www.TheAmazingSpiderManGame.com and

Robert Downey Jr. learns to be a team player...

Billionaire genius Tony Stark had to learn to play well with others in "The Avengers" after he was the main attraction in two "Iron Man" films.

So did Robert Downey Jr., though his path to superhero team player came without the fisticuffs and rivalries that Stark stumbles into with his fellow Avengers, who beat up on one another a bit before they figure out how to work as a group.

Downey has had a long time to get ready for something beyond his close-up in the solo outings as Stark, the Marvel Comics superhero in a metal suit. The idea that Downey would become part of an ensemble of heroes was teased at the end of the first "Iron Man," with "Avengers" producer and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige steering such follow-ups as "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" toward that aim.

"I had five years to prepare myself, because Kevin Feige and the Marvel team had been saying that it was kind of heading toward this," Downey said.

The film debuted this past weekend in the United States with $200.3million at the box office, a record opening that surpasses last year's "Harry Potter" finale. The film casts Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, head of peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D., which rounds up a dream team of good guys (Downey's Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth's Thor, Chris Evans' Captain America, Mark Ruffalo's Incredible Hulk and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye) to battle Thor's evil brother (Tom Hiddleston), who plots to subjugate humanity.

While it's an all-star cast, Downey's the mega-star. But unlike the diva moments among Stark and some of the other alpha dogs of the Avengers, there was no big-footing among the performers, according to the actors and director Joss Whedon.

Adjusting to ensemble life simply continued the path on which Stark and his healthy ego have been all along, Downey said.

"Personally, the 'Iron Man' series so far has always been about making space for others and collaborating," Downey said. "It's Tony's quote-unquote story, but it's always about all the folks we get around him who are kind of what make him interesting or give him someone or something to fight."

Stitching together so many characters and storylines could have turned into herding cats, but the communal structure meant no single actor had to carry the action all of the time.

Everyone took turns at center stage, and each got to take welcome breathers during the long shoot, Downey said.

"It was like a complicated pregnancy," Downey said. "What was fun, this bit of WWE superhero tag-team wrestling, is where Hemsworth's all beat up and he's been shooting nights, and my character's got the helmet closed, so I'm not there. Then he's flying home to be with the missus, and I'm coming in to do a bunch of scenes with Ruffalo. I think everybody really bought into the spirit of the thing."

Downey, 47, is preparing to shoot "Iron Man 3" in Wilmington, which is due in theaters in May 2013. The film reunites Downey with his "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" director Shane Black.

He won't disclose details, but Downey said the next installment is a "sort of storytelling that's really in Shane's wheelhouse, which is it doesn't need to be quite as linear, and Tony definitely is brought out of his comfort zone. So there's a lot of travel in this."

A third "Sherlock Holmes" movie also is in the works, with Downey's great detective expected to travel to North America this time.

Amid his two film franchises, Downey's busy with a newborn son with his wife, producer Susan Downey, with whom he has formed a film production company.

It's uncertain whether Downey will be back as Stark after "Iron Man 3," either in another solo film or a second "Avengers" tale. With his fourth Marvel flick getting under way, though, Downey said he feels he has a vested interest in the superhero business.

"It's dumb not to be open to possibilities, you know?" Downey said. "I kind of almost feel like a shareholder in the company, even sometimes more than an actor in the movies."

No small roles for megastar Downey...

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who sat through the credits of The Avengers, or who simply looked at the film’s record-breaking box office sales this past weekend. Still, fans (and investors) will be glad to hear that Disney CEO Bob Iger just announced that the company is developing a sequel. The film’s success “is a great illustration of why we like Marvel so much.” Demand for Avengers merchandise has been strong, he added.

Note Of The Rock Making Comment About John Cena And Divorce...

During the build to the WrestleMania 28 main event, The Rock held a "Rock Concert" on the March 12, 2012 edition of WWE RAW.

Not having learned about the news of John Cena filing to divorce his wife this week, one verse of The Rock's song stands out.

"Rock saw Cena makin' out with Eve, Grabbin' on her thigh, tuggin' on her weave. Cena was havin' the time of his life, I guess he didn't tell her that he's got a wife. Let's rock. Everybody let's rock. Divorce lawyer's right up the block, but we're dancing because Cleveland Rocks."

There have been no reports of Cena being romantically involved with Eve but it was known The Rock and John Cena were legitimately taking personal shots at each other during their promos building to their match.

TMZ.com did report that John Cena was open about his marital problems with his co-workers in the WWE locker room. It seems The Rock's remarks about Cena's wife and a "divorce lawyer right up the block" hit closer to home than we realized at the time.

Celebrity Gambling List...

Nothing is more entertaining than watching gambling celebs in action. Celebrity gamblers consist of the biggest VIPs you would find in Las Vegas. Just being stars they are pampered with the luxurious lifestyle that is offered to them at the numerous Las Vegas casinos and hotels.

Though most celebrities enter games and tournaments for fun, there are some who enter into special tournaments to help raise money for an orphanage and other causes. Some actually played to win money like you and I. Most of these casino gambling celebs play in poker tournaments, like Ben Affleck. Read more below about the top 10 USA Celebrity Gamblers.

Top 10 USA Celebrity Gamblers...

Ben Affleck – star of great Hollywood pictures like Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and Armageddon is one of the most serious gamblers and perhaps the most accomplished poker player. In 2004, the star outsmarted professional poker star Stan Goldstein and 90 other players winning $356,400. He also won a $25,000 seat in the WPT 2005 Championship.

Hugh Hefner – Hefner owns the Playboy Club & Fantasy Tower in Las Vegas. Playboy now operates as a land-based casino and as an online casino in USA. The Fantasy Tower includes casino games such as blackjack, roulette, and playboy themed slot machines. Mr. Hefner plays many casino games, but you can bet he has played strip poker with a couple of his bunnies.

Matt Damon – the star of The Talented Mr. Ripley, Bourne identity, Dogma, and star of one of the best poker movies ever, Rounders, was tutored to play poker by the legend Johnny Chan. The actor is quite passionate about gambling and considers himself as an excellent poker player.

Matthew Perry - "Could this flush be any more royal?" Best known as Chandler Bing from the award winning televisions series ‘Friends’ is yet another good poker player. He regularly plays at tournaments and other charity events including Celebrity Poker Showdown TV show. Matthew is indeed a VIP at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas.

Frank Sinatra – the biggest and best singer ever known in the history of music had performed several shows in Las Vegas. After all the time he spent in Las Vegas, Sinatra started to share his love for gambling. Known to play with his mob friends and other celebs.

The Queen – yes Her Royal Highness herself rarely misses out on gambling lifestyle. The Queen has a passion for making sports bets and loves slots machines.

George Clooney – inspired by his motion picture Oceans 11, 12 and 13, George Clooney has invested $3 billion in a Vegas casino complex along with co-star Brad Pitt.

Macy Gray – very famous singer and songwriter and not forgetting a celeb poker star made her appearance in Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown and completed the contest in third place.

Brad Pitt – and his gambling friend George Clooney have both invested around $3 billion in luxury Vegas casinos like the Vegas Casino Complex.

Teddy Sheringham – Also a poker fan and former soccer player in the UK for Manchester United is the longest serving playboy. He is quite regular on the celeb poker circuit. Retired from football he was recently made the Ambassador for online giants VC poker, where he will provide support for tournament players.

Bill Goldberg Talks WWE, Pro Wrestling And 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin Dream Match...

On his and Brock Lesnar's initial departure from WWE: "Obviously it was kind of unfinished business. We both left there under circumstances that weren't the most favorable for anybody, let alone the fans who are the most important at the end of the day."

On Lesnar in general: "Brock, as a young kid, he succeeded in every single thing that he did. To venture out and try to play professional football without having college experience — LaVar will tell you how hard that is. Big pat on the back to him for that. And then going to MMA and succeeding and becoming the World Heavyweight Champion. Whatever Brock wants to do, I'm in his corner. He's a good buddy of mine and we talk frequently. I just hope at the end of the day whatever he chooses his health is in a positive note. We all know he's had some issues over the past number of years."

On having a final match: "It's really tough for a guy like myself. Look at a guy like Animal. Look at Road Warrior. Look at guys who are big power guys. . . the older you get the harder it is to be that guy."

He added his ideal final match would be against Steve Austin: "That'd be a dream come true… that'd be killer. I think at the end of the day they probably don't trust me enough to put me in there with guys, considering I'm 'a dangerous guy to work with' and 'I haphazardly ended Bret Hart's career.' At the end of the day these people have to understand it's a violent deal, number one. Number two, accidents happen. And number three, that's why I work in Japan — they don't cry if you hit them …That's a joke."

CMT, Steve Austin Team for Redneck Island; Former Pro Wrestler Signs Development Deal...

CMT has inked a development deal with actor and former WWE superstar Steve Austin, tapping him as host of a new 10-episode series, Redneck Island.

Produced by 51 Minds Entertainment, Redneck Island takes 12 red, white and blue-collared Americans out of the South, far away from cold beer, and drops them in a tropical paradise where they will compete for $100,000. The series will debut in June, paired with a second season of CMT's hit series, My Big Redneck Vacation.

As part of his development deal, Austin will look to produce additional series for CMT with his production company, Broken Skull Ranch Productions.

"I am thrilled to join the CMT family and for the opportunity to work with them on future projects," Austin said. "I'm also excited to work with the great folks at 51 Minds Entertainment on Redneck Island. If there's one thing I know, it's how to keep a bunch of rednecks in line. And that's the bottom line!"

Redneck Island begins with 12 men and women competing as teams in a fight for $100,000 cash. From a remote location, Austin will guide the contestants through a number of hilarious mental and physical challenges designed to celebrate the group's strengths and limitations. At the end of each episode, teammates will send one competitor packing.

One of the most popular pro wrestling superstars of all time, Austin has been reinventing himself since retiring from the ring in 2003. The WWE Hall of Fame inductee hit the big screen in 2010 in Sylvester Stallone's action thriller, The Expendables, co-starring alongside a who's who in action films. He followed that project with the lead role in Damage, one of Fox Home Video's best-selling releases.

In 2011, he starred in The Stranger and Hunt to Kill, both released by Anchor Bay. Austin also served as host for the USA Network's hit reality series, Tough Enough. Future projects include The Package with Dolph Lungdren and Maximum Conviction with Steven Seagal.

WWE® CFO George Barrios to Participate in the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference on May 16th...

STAMFORD, Conn. -- WWE (NYSE:WWE) announced today that its Chief Financial Officer, George A. Barrios, will participate in the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, on May 16, 2012, in Boston, MA.

Mr. Barrios’ remarks are expected to begin at approximately 4:10 p.m. ET. A live audio webcast will be available online at corporate.wwe.com/investors. Also, a replay of the presentation will begin shortly after the actual presentation time and will be available until August 14, 2012.

WWE, a publicly traded company (NYSE: WWE), is an integrated media organization and recognized leader in global entertainment. The company consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. WWE is committed to family friendly entertainment on its television programming, pay-per-view, digital media and publishing platforms. WWE programming is broadcast in more than 145 countries and 30 languages and reaches more than 600 million homes worldwide. The company is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, Istanbul and Tokyo.

Additional information on WWE (NYSE: WWE) can be found at wwe.com and corporate.wwe.com. For information on our global activities, go to http://www.wwe.com/worldwide/.

If you have additional questions, please contact WWE Investor Relations via e-mail at investor.relations@wwecorp.com.

Trademarks: All WWE programming, talent names, images, likenesses, slogans, wrestling moves, trademarks, logos and copyrights are the exclusive property of WWE and its subsidiaries. All other trademarks, logos and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.
Forward-Looking Statements: This press release contains forward-looking statements pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which are subject to various risks and uncertainties. These risks and uncertainties include, without limitation, risks relating to maintaining and renewing key agreements, including television and pay-per-view programming distribution agreements; the need for continually developing creative and entertaining programming; the continued importance of key performers and the services of Vincent McMahon; the conditions of the markets in which we compete and acceptance of the Company's brands, media and merchandise within those markets; our exposure to bad debt risk; uncertainties relating to regulatory and litigation matters; risks resulting from the highly competitive nature of our markets; uncertainties associated with international markets; the importance of protecting our intellectual property and complying with the intellectual property rights of others; risks associated with producing and travelling to and from our large live events, both domestically and internationally; the risk of accidents or injuries during our physically demanding events; risks relating to our film business; risks relating to increasing content production for distribution on various platforms, including the potential creation of a WWE Network; risks relating to our computer systems and online operations; risks relating to the large number of shares of common stock controlled by members of the McMahon family and the possibility of the sale of their stock by the McMahons or the perception of the possibility of such sales; the relatively small public float of our stock; and other risks and factors set forth from time to time in Company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Actual results could differ materially from those currently expected or anticipated. In addition, our dividend is dependent on a number of factors, including, among other things, our liquidity and historical and projected cash flow, strategic plan (including alternative uses of capital), our financial results and condition, contractual and legal restrictions on the payment of dividends, general economic and competitive conditions and such other factors as our Board of Directors may consider relevant.

Videogame Classic Space Invaders launched as online slot game...

FremantleMedia Enterprises has signed a two-year agreement with Square Enix to develop the arcade videogame classic Space Invaders as an online slot game.

Launched in 1978, the original Space Invaders game ignited an entertainment medium and founded a gaming generation. The new online slot game will target UK and European players and be available to customers via the OpenBet and GTS platforms later in the year.

Simon Murphy, head of gambling EMEA, said: “The deal with Square Enix further demonstrates our goal to become one of the leading developers and distributors of premium branded gaming content.”

FME’s gambling division has previously licensed, developed and distributed branded games for online, mobile and land-based slots across a number of brands including The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Price Is Right and Family Fortunes.

Casino King James Packer really aiming for Echo Entertainment...

Gaming analysts believe billionaire James Packer would consider offloading some of Queensland's casinos if he is successful in acquiring the Echo Entertainment Group.

Greg Fraser, a senior analyst at Fat Prophets, said yesterday that Mr Packer's real goal in his expected takeover tilt for Echo was to snare the scandal-plagued Star Casino in Sydney and merge it into his Crown group.

Apology after monks caught gambling, smoking...

The head of South Korea's largest Buddhist order has made a public apology after video footage was released showing monks gambling, drinking and smoking.

The Jogye order represents most of South Korea's 12 million or so Buddhists.

The head of the order called a news conference to make a personal apology for the latest scandal to hit his organisation.

It has been plagued by vicious internal feuds that at one time used to erupt in mass brawls at the main temple.

Footage shown on national television this week showed a group of eight senior monks and abbots engaged in an all-night, high stakes poker game.

Some were drinking and smoking during the session, which was secretly filmed at a resort hotel where monks had gathered for a memorial service.

Members of the Jogye order's head office have offered to resign en masse.

Luke Evans In Talks To Join Vin Disel and Dwayne Johnson In Fast And Furious 6...

The last Fast franchise movie exceeded financial and critical expectations, and Universal is reteaming with director Justin Lin for the next film in the franchise. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and other cast members are set to reprise their roles, and a new addition has now been revealed.

Luke Evans (Immortals, The Three Musketeers) has now entered into negotiations to join the large ensemble cast. According to Variety.com, "plot details are being kept under wraps, but sources say it would involve the crew heading overseas to work on a heist job. Evans would play the leader of another crew trying to pull off the same job." He can next be seen in Peter Jackson's highly anticipated film The Hobbit which hits theaters this December.

The Fast and the Furious franchise follows former police detective Brian Connor and street racer Dominic Toretto as they attempt to evade law enforcement while participating in high stakes races and heists around the country. Dwayne Johnson was the latest addition to the franchise in the role of federal agent Luke Hobbs. Fast and Furious 6 is currently slated for theatrical release on May 24, 2013.

UFC Announces ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs. U.K.’...

The Ultimate Fighting Championship's expansion of its biggest sub-brand will continue.

The promotion on Thursday night announced an international edition of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series for this fall. UFC president Dana White tweeted news of the series, and an official release from the UFC followed.

"The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs. U.K. – The Smashes" will film later this year, likely in late summer for a fall airing. The series will pit fighters from Australia against fighters from the United Kingdom. "The Smashes" in the title, according to the UFC, is "a play on the 130-year-old cricket rivalry" between Australia and the U.K.

The last international edition of TUF was Season 9 of the original U.S.-based series, which featured fighters from the United States against fighters from the United Kingdom. That season was coached by Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping, one of the most successful UFC fighters to come out of the TUF program – he won Season 3 of the show. The UFC also currently has "The Ultimate Fighter Brazil," which taped earlier this spring and is airing in that country, as well as on TUF.tv on Sunday nights.

Just like with the U.S. version of the reality show, as well as the one in Brazil, the winner or winners will receive a contract with the UFC. Past winners have included future UFC champions like Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans, as well as title contenders and stars like Bisping, Nate Diaz and Ryan Bader. Other alums of the groundbreaking show, which aired in the U.S. for seven years and 14 seasons on Spike TV, and now airs in a new live format Friday nights on FX, include Stephan Bonnar, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez, Chris Leben, Joe Lauzon, Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione.

"Australia and the U.K. have a fierce, long-standing rivalry, and where better to settle the score than in the UFC's Octagon?" said Marshall Zelaznik, the UFC's managing director of international development. "The popularity of MMA has exploded in Australia and the U.K., with gyms opening all over the respective countries. There is an athlete in one of those gyms who hasn’t had the chance to show the world what he can do. 'The Ultimate Fighter' is going give to him that opportunity. We’re going to discover the UFC's future stars – you can bet on it."

Coaches for the series have not yet been named, nor has an exact broadcast plan been announced.

Prospective fighters from bantamweight to welterweight – 61-77 kilograms – should visit special sites set up for registration forms, rules and criteria for qualification. Tryouts are planned for June 12 in Sydney, Australia, and June 15 in London. For fighters from Australia, visit au.ufc.com/TUFForm; for fighters in the U.K, visit uk.ufc.com/TUFForm.


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