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20 February 2010

Australian Gambling, Betting, Sports and Political News; Massive News Week Down Under, by Greg Tingle - 19th February 2010

It's been a massive week for the gambling, igaming, sports betting and political news world.

iGaming powerhouses PartyGaming and Virgin Games at "war"

PartyGaming's PartyCasino continues its mega popularity in the Asia Pacific - Australian region. Richard Branson's Virgin Casino has just released Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (which Party already has). Virgin also advises Thor will be released this. With Party and Virgin offering Call of Action, Thor and soon, King Kong, this is likely to further damage InterCasino which had the games over a year ago however failed to make the most of the lucrative and exciting Asia Pacific region. Aussie punters take note... PartyGaming's brands are available for play in Australia and other Asia Pacific regions, while Virgin Games products are not... Sir Richard Branson, can you fix that up? PartyGaming stays #1 in the Australian iGaming - online casino sector for the time being.


Politics

A massive week in Australian politics... Australian casino king James Packer spotted playing golf with Sen Stephen Conroy two Sundays ago. Their spot of golf at Lord Williams private golf club coincidentally (or not) came on the same day that the government announced a $250 million licence fee reduction for free-to-air television stations. Insiders including those at The Sydney Morning Herald reckon that Mr Packer has been twisting Conroy's arm about a fairer deal for Foxtel. Mr Packer owns a 25% interest in pay television station Foxtel.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has labelled the 250 million as an attempt by the government to bribe the networks in return for favourable coverage in an election year.

Mr Abbott backed off only a little yesterday after the networks expressed their displeasure. "The last thing I would ever do is accuse professional journalists of being bribable but certainly this is a government which is always looking for favours."

Mr Packer's casino business in Australia and Macau continue to power along, however Crown Melco has ceased plans to buy into a third casino in downtown Macau. Aussie insiders reckon Sen Conroy doesn't mind being mentioned in the same vein at "Casino Jack and the United States of Money".

Gamers and igamers are a dangerous lot says Australian police and politicians. South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson this week caused a furore by claiming his family was more at risk from gamers than motorcycle gangs!

Australian bookies and Joe Public on the street reckon that there's at least a reasonable chance that the Labor Party will be thrown out of office at the next election. Prime Minster Rudd has even publicly and privately advised that there's a chance they will loose the election. Media Man says never underestimate the power and repercussions of jackass policy (Australian internet censorship filter). Australian are well known for the passion of gambling and porn, both of which can be addictions of sorts, so if you attack that too much, you might kiss the election goodbye nurse.

Tony "The Bruiser" Abbot VS Kevin "Bloody" Rudd

The election polls suggest a comeback and now the punters are starting to see value in the straight-talking Tony Abbott. Bookies say the 2010 federal election is now shaping up as a contest, with 80 per cent of recent bets backing the new Liberal Leader against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd is still odds-on favourite, returning just $1.20 from Centrebet if he stays in The Lodge. But the Coalition under Mr Abbot has tightened to $3.85 - the first time it has been under $4 in more than a year. The betting market rally follows several polls suggesting a modest turnaround in political fortunes. Centrebet's Neil Evans said the agency had been forced to reassess its prices after several big bets in recent days. One punter wagered $10,000 on Mr Abbott at $4.25, and another invested $5000 at $4. "Of the last 50 bets of any amount that have been laid, nearly 80 per cent is for the Coalition," Mr Evans said. "It's the first crucial sign the Coalition is getting right back into the battle after the Labor government had dominated with punters for two years." He said Centrebet was holding about $160,000 on the election contest, with about 75 per cent on Labor to win. August 28 is firming at the most likely election date, according to Centrebet punters.


Sports and Olympic Fever

Between the Vancouver Games, UFC 110 in Sydney and bits and bobs there's serious betting occurring this week.

Australia's Torah Bright snowboarding champion babe wins Gold!

UFC 110 in Sydney, Australia this Sunday 21st - betting by punters has been hot and heavy with PartyBets, Gamebookers, BetUS.com and others all taking considerable bets, which is not surprising considering UFC's Dana White advised the Sydney live event sold out in less that a day and that Australia is one of the strongest markets for DVD sales.

Real heat exists between Noguiera and Velasquez and things got testy at yesterdays press conference.

George Sotiropoulos is the leading Australian contender at present, a lightweight who is unbeaten in the UFC and facing Joe Stevenson on the UFC 110 main card. Like Sinosic and Haseman before him, he can be this generation’s trailblazer for MMA in Australia. But fight fans won’t soon forget the first two.

“Both of us put in the hard yards,” said Sinosic. “When we started, it wasn’t mixed martial arts, it was no holds barred, and we were really discovering what it was all about. It’s great to get the recognition ourselves, but more importantly to see the sport get the recognition and respect it deserves. To see the mainstream press here treating us like athletes and not like barroom brawlers, I’m just glad to be a part of it all.”

ONE will broadcast the event live in Australia this Sunday.


Casino Legal

The Australian Productivity Commission will finally release the Gambling Report this week, insiders say within days.


PartyGaming delighted with progress in Asia Pacific

PartyGaming CEO and management is very happy with the outfits continued infiltration of Australia and the Asia Pacific region in general. Ryan has given clearance to keep signing up celebs for their poker and casino brands, following up on Aussie Tony G and Pommie Phil "Tuffers" Tufnell.


Party PR man, Warren Lush, expects to be heading back to the Asian Poker Tour in August. The event is likely to be held again in gaming hotspot Macau.

The group finance director Martin Weigold told media on a conference call following the quarter results that casino revenue was boosted by a customer who won $5 million in one of the group's large jackpots and recycled $2 million of that win back into PartyGaming's casino website.

Party also announced the appointment of Per Widerstrom, previously CEO of Mangas Gaming, to the newly created role of COO, effectively freeing up CEO Jim Ryan to focus on M&A and new business opportunities.


Poker

Rennie Carnevale won the Adelaide heat of the Australia New Zealand Poker Tournament held this past weekend. The 21 year old picked up a cool $165,900. PokerStars remains the poker brand behind the well established and respected poker event.


Horse Racing

Veteran bookmaker Con Kafataris will hang up his satchel after 34 years on Sydney racetracks to concentrate on his online betting agency, Centrebet. The managing director of Centrebet said he would close CK Racing, the on-track bookmaking operation, after the Easter racing carnival because of regulatory reforms around corporate rivals and the changing composition of traditional punters. The announcement came as Centrebet recorded a first-half net profit of $6.3 million, up 19 per cent on the same time last year, and declared a 5.5c unfranked dividend which represented a 77 per cent payout ratio. "It's a combination of factors; the global financial crisis which started a year ago has impacted the high-end recreational punter that would come to the track," Mr Kafataris said. "They stopped coming to the track or they reduced their activity". Just maybe Con or his spies noticed that Media Man just joined dozens of others who are in the online racing and betting sector with the launch of http://www.racingnewsmedia.com The worst kept secret in Australian racing is that betting giant Betfair has significantly hurt the bottom line of the traditional TAB and bookie on track takings.


Aussie Female Gamblers - University Of Queensland Report

Typical Australian gamblers are no longer just men playing poker, with more women becoming addicted, isolated and even suicidal, a researcher from The University of Queensland has warned. UQ School of Tourism researcher and hospitality management lecturer, Dr Timothy Lee, says gambling in Australia is becoming more and more ``feminised''. Dr Lee says a third of problem gamblers are women at a time when Australia leads the world in the number of poker machines and $6 million a day is pushed through their slots!


Court orders gambler to pay up US$1m

An Australian gambler who lost more than US$1 million at a Bahamas casino while on his honeymoon in 2006 has been ordered to pay up by a Melbourne court. Former high-flying property developer Harry Kakavas had argued unsuccessfully that Paradise Island Casino in Nassau had taken advantage of his addiction to gambling. It was a second legal setback for Kakavas, who in December last year was ordered to pay Melbourne's Crown Casino the AU$1 million he owed.


Meet Australia's biggest punter

Meet Australia's most mysterious gambling figure: Zeljko Ranogajec, the man acknowledged by sources close to the TAB to be, by some margin, its most prolific gambler.

The size of Mr Ranogajec's betting is extraordinary. It is believed he accounts for 6-8 per cent of Tabcorp's $10 billion Australian betting turnover – or $600-800 million – and bets tens of millions more with local bookmakers.

Once the overseas betting turnover of his 24-hour, seven-day operation is taken into account, his total annual betting spend globally is believed to be well over $1 billion.


Crown Casino Gets Tough On Trouble Makers: Security Beefed Up

Crown casino staff are being trained to use plastic handcuffs under a new push to control violent patrons. The move - which has angered civil libertarians - is aimed at allowing staff to more safely eject patrons who are a threat to themselves, staff and others. The lightweight cuffs would also allow chosen security officers to more easily hold troublemakers while they wait for police to arrive with their force-issued handcuffs. Senior managers have been instructed by former Victoria Police officers working in private industry in how to use the handcuffs. Crown spokesman Gary O'Neill said any move to introduce the handcuffs was at a preliminary stage and, if adopted, would only be used by the senior security staff and managers in "exceptional circumstances". He said such patrons were a risk to many in a busy environment like Crown. "That is a very dangerous situation," he said. "The thought behind it is to provide a safer regime both for our staff who are engaged in these removals, Crown customers and the people involved themselves." Mr O'Neill said Crown management would work with Victoria Police on how best to develop procedures and policies for use of the handcuffs. He said he expected they would be used rarely, if adopted, and the number of "assisted removals" was declining. Mr O'Neill said they would be in use by the end of the year, if approved. "It's at a very, very preliminary stage at the moment. It's not something we're committed to," he said. "We are very conscious that we need to develop a regime that has the approval of Victoria Police." Handcuffs are used at the Burswood Casino in Perth. Australian Council of Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman said such a move would be unacceptable. "The only people using handcuffs should be trained police. You invite misuse. Crown can expect a flood of civil lawsuits," Mr O'Gorman said. "Next, they'll want capsicum spray or Tasers." Victoria Police said it was "not in a position to provide comment on whether the carriage or use of equipment by security staff is appropriate without further information".


Events

Gaming, Racing & Wagering Australia - 22nd - 23rd March, Star City Casino

iGB Down Under in Sydney, Australia - 23rd to 25th March, Star City Casino

Do politics, sports and gambling mix? You be the judge! As per usual, punters, bet with your head, not over it, and for Christ's sake, keep it fun. If it stops being fun its likely time to top. Good punting till next time.

*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911.com

*The writer owns shares in Crown Holdings

*The writer is the director and founder of Media Man, primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company http://www.mediamanint.com