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30 April 2010

New Zealand And Australian Casinos Expect Changes, by Greg Tingle - 30th April 2010

Australian and New Zealand casino bosses, top brass and insiders expect significant changes to the Asia pacific casino, club and gaming sector.

The gaming sector down under in the land of Kiwi's, New Zealand, points out the substantial financial and other contributions they make in the community, while anti gaming campaigners say casinos, clubs and the like overstate their contribution. We cross over to the Tasman as Media Man and Gambling911 continue their probe for truth, justice and the American, Kiwi and Australian way...

It's time the true contribution of gaming machines to the New Zealand economy was recognised and acknowledged...that's part of the key message from conference participants at the 2010 New Zealand Gaming Expo.

The venue...the beautiful SKYCITY in Auckland, New Zealand.

Chief Executive Officer Gaming Technologies Association (GTA), Ross Ferrar, advised revenue from gaming machines benefited many...charities, schools, community bodies and sporting groups, to name but a few. The machines also returned a large proportion of their earnings back to the government in the form of compliance costs and taxes.

"Gaming machines are designed to entertain and the casino, and gaming rooms in pubs and clubs exist so people can do this in a safe, controlled and regulated environment. There are just under 20,000 gaming machines throughout New Zealand which contribute over $300 million to deserving groups around the country. The government earns around $242 million annually from the machines," points out Mr Ferrar.

SKYCITY CEO, Nigel Morrison, echoed the message in his opening address to the conference that the 2003 Gambling Act focused on harm minimisation and ignored the economic contribution gaming made to the economy.

Mr Morrison advised the gaming industry was struggling to grow within a tightly regulated framework and there continued to be uncertainty about the operating environment.

"We still don't know what the New Zealand reaction is going to be to the Australian Productivity Commission's report into gambling. There seems to be a focus on pre-commitment and we are concerned about the recommendations to limit player expenditure on gaming machines.

"We anticipate change within the industry and it's unlikely that the three main casino players in Australasia, SKYCITY, Crown and Tabcorp will remain as they are in the next two years."

Change was also the message from Chief Executive Pub Charity Mr Martin Cheer who told delegates the anti-gaming lobby had switched from its position of highlighting harm to challenging the integrity of the Trusts.

"Accusations of harm from gaming machines have run their course, largely because the claims can't be substantiated. The move now is to attack the gaming machine Trusts. This makes it important that everything they do is above board. The debate needs to come back to the centre because it's been one-side for too long. The gaming industry needs to participate and become more involved in taking charge of its own future."

The CEO of Hospitality Association Of NZ, Mr Bruce Robertson who told conference delegates gaming machines were a significant fundraising business which was slowly being strangled.

"The Department of Internal Affairs unfortunately has a single minded focus on optimising returns through cost minimisation. If the Trusts don't present a cohesive face to the industry the Department of Internal Affairs will be able to pick them off one by one. This will continue to weaken the industry."

Mr Robertson added that the current rules being applied to the sector were not sustainable. "The result will be a reduction in the money that goes to the community.

Minister of Revenue and Associate Minister of Health, Hon Peter Dunne told delegates that gaming machine operators needed to continue to find new and better ways to work with communities.

"The whole premise of charity gaming in New Zealand is that the proceeds are returned to the local community. The implicit partnership has always been that gaming machine proceeds were available for distribution for the betterment of local communities.

The call from the CEO of the Community Gaming Association, Mr Francis Wevers was the need for the industry to work together to protect its interests.

"The benefits of gaming to the local community are often overlooked in the welter of criticism but steps are being taken to bridge the gap between the anti-gambling sector and the Class 4 venues. We work in a market that has a unique set of parameters and we need to stop apologising for it."

Mr Ferrar reiterated that the gaming industry sector should be proud of the economic contribution it made.

"Gaming is good for the community because it can make a positive difference."

Should the Aussies follow the Kiwi ways and follow like sheep, or should the sheep follow the Aussie Kangaroos, or should both animals look further afield to the American eagles?

We think sustainable solutions and answers are likely to be found by looking globally, not just in our own backyards. Certainly there's many success stories in America with the Native American Indians being able to nurture and support communities thanks to gaming and casino tourism. Many tribes also have plans to suitable incorporate online poker and online casino ventures, rather than see it as a threat to their enterprise. If Las Vegas and Atlantic City was able to better embrace the online world perhaps they wouldn't be in the mess they are in, but that's another story. The late Charles Darwin famously pointed out that adapting to change was vital for the species who are to survive.

Media Man is currently in liaison with Australian based GenerationOne and other government bodies as to how best go about employing a couple more Australians (qualified and trained up Indigenous Aussies), whilst minimizing red tape. Australian mining magnate, Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest and Aussie casino king, James Packer (Crown Limited) are driving forces behind the GenerationOne initiative.

Media Man and many of their business partners, associates and friends in the media, new media and interactive entertainment space are concerned that some of the online (internet filter) and offline censorship initiatives from Australia's Rudd government are going to cost Australian's jobs and international trade opportunities. In addition newspapers and magazines are forecast to become further censored. Companies set to be adversely effected in their trade with Australia and New Zealand include Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Sony, Sega, Playboy, AussieBum, Marvel Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Virgin Enterprises Limited, UFC, Hasbro, EA, MTV and News Corporation. Media Man recently documented some of their concerns to the United Nations, Virgin Unite, Reporters Without Borders and MP Tony Abbott's office, as was thanked for their contribution... no, not a 'Casino Jack' monetary contribution! No, we didn't have to play golf with any of the top brass concerned either.

Tell us what you think in the forum, and as our friends at New Corp - Fox say, keep it fair and balanced... can we trust you with that. Know the odds, and keep it fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a bakers dozen of industry sectors they cover.

*The writer is a shareholder in Crown Limited, Virgin and a pro active member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and Richard Branson's Virgin Unite

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