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19 September 2010

Australian And Asia Pacific Casino News, by Greg Tingle - 19th September 2010

The Australian and Asia Pacific gambling and gaming sector remains red hot. Today we've got casino tycoon James Packer ramping up Crown Casino and City of Dreams Macau, reaping the benefits, Star City Casino management changes, Australian online casino wars, the pro casino VS the anti casino establishment and more. Media Man and Gambling911 load up the sniffer dogs and navigate the compass encountering kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, whales, and even a few Asia dragons...

City Of Dreams Powering Ahead In Orient; James Packer And Friends Delighted And Dancing On Water...

Packers' Macau JV has opened its highly anticipated HKD$2 billion ($267 million) stage show at its Oriental flagship City of Dreams casino. The first performance of the big-budget water-themed show is an important breakthrough for the casino, and comes at a critical time for the Melco Crown Entertainment gods and powers that be. Stage shows like The House of Dancing Water are used as draws or "bait" to lure tourists and the business folks into the casino. Media Man breaks down the categories as whales, dolphins, tuna and algae. The late, great, Kerry Packer was in the super whale category. VIP's who land of hard times after big looses are known in some circles as beached whales. News media types including journalists are understood to be called "marks" buy some sector, however Packer casino types are understood to respect fair and balanced news media outlets, and even do business with them from time to time, via third party promotions, deals and the like. COD's (City of Dreams)... not cod is relying on the show and glitz to boost gambling revenues in the midst of a casino customer price war that has been speculated as perhaps even bigger than the one it encountered when it opened its more modest Altira casino just two years ago. The opening is less than a month after a management reshuffle in which the gaming company lost its long-serving and loyal president of City of Dreams, and its chief financial officer. The company is aiming to demonstrate that the management cleanout was the smart chess move to make and also that it is more than capable of stealing yet more market share from its competitors - like Steve Wynn (not a favorite of the online casino crowd either). This 'Art Of War' attack has already begun, with Melco Crown besting its rival Wynn Macau last month to enter the top 3 ranking casinos in terms of gross gambling revenue, according to official figures. Melco Crown had a market share of 16%, just 1% more than in July, but a significant jump from the 13% it had 3 months back. It has achieved this by offering attractive enticements to gamblers - free money to gamble with for whales and high rollers, or free buffets and raffles for those with less money to bet with.
Historically these types of bait are not particularly good for the casino's bottom line because the profit margins are squeezed. Despite its aggressive marketing, Melco Crown still sits behind the market leaders, Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau and Sands China, with 29% and 20% respectively of the overall market. The competitors will argue that Melco Crown has been "buying" these new customers with free gambling credits, a risky strategy that is not sustainable in the long term. Money does talk the gamblers language, and if they can keep their customer and build loyalty, smart money says the tactical bet from the casino would have won. Yep, the casino is betting on itself also. Ticket sales for the first weekend of the water-themed 'House Of Dancing Water' attraction are officially sold out but it remains to be seen whether it will boost the company's bottom line. A somewhat similar show at the rival Venetian casino failed to attract sufficient numbers willing to fork out p to $160 a ticket. There are high aspirations for the show, with the co-chairman of Melco Crown Entertainment, Lawrence Ho, describing it as 'destined to be the most extravagant and thrilling live production ever seen in the world'. Tickets to the Melco Crown show will sell at $HK380 to $HK1280 each, certainly a lot more than visiting a pokie palace or RSL Club show. The creator and mastermind of the show at the City of Dreams is the Belgian Franco Dragone, who directed nearly all of Cirque du Soleil's shows until 1998. The show is showcased in a gigantic swimming pool and involves 77 performers, many of whom perform impressive acrobatics and other moves difficult to describe, and even harder to pull of, we're sure Those lucky enough to be invited to the opening of City of Dream's sister casino the Altira in 2008 were given a preview of Dragone's work. Media Man spies tell us that roughly half left well before it finished, but that may be because they rushed back to slots or gaming tables.

PartyGaming VS Virgin Games VS MicroGaming Casino Wars Heat Up...

PartyGaming's brands including their mega popular PartyCasino and PartyPoker continue to maintain most popular online gaming website status in Australia for casino and poker. Richard Branson's Virgin Games is looking to move forward in the Australia Pacific, and is understood to also be in touch with Australian authorities. Microgaming powered Captain Cooks has lost a bit of steam, with newer challenger Roxy Casino now offering Aussies The Lord Of The Rings - Fellowship of the Ring slot. Party's Sinatra, Cleopatra, The Godfather, Mission: Impossible, Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune, Rambo, The Terminator, King Kong and Heist are some of the most popular online slots of all for the Aussies, with their sign up bonus of $500 all told being very attractive to most punters. Many of Party's online slot games are in fact very good versions of the land based casino equivalents. In fact, IGT has its own online arm, WagerWorks, which often supplies games to both PartyCasino and Virgin Casino. Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: Secret of the Sword is still widely regarded as the most popular Microgaming powered game, but again, PartyGaming rules for branded slots in Australia. The play for free or play for money option has also proved to be a winning formula, as are the multi currency options, and the set betting limits option. All these brands have impressive security in place, and have been established for almost 30 years between them. Aussie's have been begging for a 'Kerry Packer', 'Underbelly' and 'Andre The Giant' slot game, but it still hasn't happened, but Christmas is coming. PKR is the most popular place still for 3D poker games and now also offer sport betting, taking a little chuck out of the likes of Betfair and Centrebet. PartyGaming is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is considered the world's most successful online gambling company, and that was even before the bwin deal being announced. Movie and TV show themes remain very appealing to players, with the games being an extension of the greater entertainment industry.

Australian Punters Bet More Via Online Pokies In Show Of Defiance...

Aussies are spending about $850 million a year on overseas gambling websites according to insiders. Having a punt is one of strongest attributes of Australian culture. Australians are also some of the world's highest users of the internet for work or play. What's driving more punters to online casinos? The Australian government's crackdown on hotels and pubs, and this trend looks to have also swept to Tasmania and New Zealand. Gambling911 and Media Man will be proving frequent news updates, and also the odd game review on their world famous website portals.

Sydney - Aussie Oriental High Roller In Hot Water With Legal System...

The trial trial of a Wollstonecraft man has revealed some clues of the world of the high roller whale. Zheng Tan was charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime because a stolen cheque for $500,000 was put into his bank account. Tan told the District Court it was the repayment of a loan he had made to a fellow gambler he met in the VIP room of the Crown Casino in Melbourne. First he lent the man $120,000 and received as surety a $300,000 Patek watch. Later, he lent him even more, in return for an IOU backed by property in his homeland China. When he later received the cheque (which he advised he did not know was stolen), he withdrew the $500,000 in cash and took it to gamble in Canberra, where it was stolen from his car, so the story goes. The prosecutor went on to suggest he had, in effect, laundered the money in return for a fee of $29,000 AUD. Tan denied this, saying he had put $10 million bucks through the Crown Casino over the years and "$29,000 is nothing to me. I would do nothing to break the Australian law for $29,000". The jury agreed, and found him not guilty on all charges. Confuses say, 'You out of luck my friend.'

Americans Taking Over To Management Jobs At Star City Casino...

Management who have departed Sydney's Star City casino say the company has swept the table of senior Australian employees in a move to "Americanise" the icon formally known to Sydneysiders at The Pyrmont Workers Club - RSL Club on steroids. Would you believe lucky ten execs have left in less than a year, including managing director Craig Garvin, celebrity chef Sean Connolly and 4 general managers last week. This poses a question - its it a sinking ship, or management can not deal with the aggressive 'Aussie Casino Wars', adding to the bodycount. Count em folks - 10 casualties. Down south in Melbourne insiders tip only 3 or 4 management changes occurred in the past 12 months. A leak advised American or US-trained executives now held critical senior positions, including head of casinos, managing director and head of hospitality. "The Americans have so far indicated they have a poor impression of Australians by replacing senior posts with people from overseas," the mystery source said leaked. "It's more like stars and stripes city than Star City." The Tabcorp-owned casino is in the midst of an $860 million refurbishment by Yankee designers that will include a new hotel, an events centre with restaurants and gambling facilities to be ready next year. Yeah, ready for the next round of the 'Aussie Casino Wars'. It is also expected to be given a name change and this may include the possibly of loosing the "city" - as part of the rebranding as it attempts to match the bombs and warheads from Melbourne's Crown Casino, which lures off the line about 17 million visitors a year, about double that of Star City. Insiders say Crown has better relationships, marketing and bait than Star. Melbourne is known as Australia's casino hot spot, something Star will be looking to change. 'Cunning' (Media Man tag) Connolly, a former Australian Hotels Association chef of the year who had been working at the casino for about 15 years, politely declined to comment. He is is now understood to be working with a chefs' international consultancy company. One deep throat still employed by the casino said "It is anticipated that the $7 million Sean's Kitchen will soon be renamed and totally revamped as part of a plan to remove Connolly's name from the casino.". Yep, the cunning one is about to have the history books re written in a roundabout way. Apart from Connolly, outbound Aussies in the past year have included gaming general manager Michael Ahearn, hotel food and beverage general manager Richard 'Moneybags' (MM tag) Munro, entertainment general manager Bicci 'Happy' (MM tag) Henderson and marketing general manager Richard Whaite. Last week, 4 additional senior staff departed from the departments of security, beverage and operations. And you thought security was being beefed up. Hopefully it was deadwood they lost. Incoming executives include 2 former bosses from Borgata Casino in Atlantic City: Larry Mullin, who is now head of casinos at Star City, and Sid 'Viscous' (MM tag) Vaikunta, now MD. The deep throat said there were fears that some of the blunders that led to the casino being condemned by some as crass and ugly when it opened in 1997 would be repeated. The Lagoon Bar, designed by the US firm Landmark Entertainment Group, was described by Fairfax publication, The Sydney Morning Herald, as "gobsmackingly gaudy" for its fake desert rock and palm tree. Philip Cox, the acclaimed Sydney architect whose firm designed the building's exterior, distanced himself from "the rock and the tree", as the bar decor became known. The leak said: "There are concerns that the company now has little Australian expertise and that the new development will be very American." Vaikunta was invited on Friday to discuss the matter but a spokeswoman said he had to cancel because of extensive meetings. In a statement, he said "There have been some changes to the management team at Star City as part of the redevelopment project as we transform the casino complex into a world-class entertainment destination. The vast majority of our management team is made up of highly experienced local managers. In fact, 7 of our 11 senior managers are high-performing local managers and many are long-serving managers of Star City."

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Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, what's on your mind pertaining to the casino, online casino, poker and entertainment industry? What's your favorite slot game? Tell us in the forum.

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Wrap Up...

James Packer has continued to hold his place at the Australian casino king, and if things keep going his way, may also be soon considered the Asia Pacific - Oriental region casino king also. He's certainly got out nod for Media Man casino entrepreneur of the month. Online casinos continue to build in popularity, despite the market being somewhat flooded. Strong brands like PartyGaming, PartyCasino, Virgin, Playtech, Microgaming, World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker maintain their hold on punters and the majority of mainstream and gaming news headlines. Australian publishers, gaming entrepreneurs and a good portion of politicians are calling for gaming and igaming reforms, but its not happening quick enough for some. Liberal Malcolm 'No Bull' Turnbull is now the minister for Communications in the new Tony 'The Bruiser' Abbott cabinet reshuffle, and is known to have high intelligence when it comes to all manner of internet b2b matters. He made millions from the internet himself, so expect 'No Bull' to not put up with bull from Labor or The Greens, and will keeping Labor on their toes with with NBN national broadband rollout proposal. Website portals like Media Man and Gambling911 are expected to maintain their strong position as key news sources, traffic and balanced information when it comes to casinos, online casinos, sports, and the greater entertainment industry sector.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming.

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