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21 November 2010

Aussies Talk Biz With Yanks At Global Gaming Expo: Vegas, by Greg Tingle - 20th November 2010

G'day punters, gamers, casino and media millionaires and billionaires, journalists, politicians and one and all. It's an Aussie - Yankee big news update today, with one of the world's top gaming and gambling expos on the way in Las Vegas. Reps from around the world include some from embattled Aussie Aristocrat Leisure meet and greet our American friends at Global Gaming Expo. Media Man and Gambling911 with our special Australian - American gaming expo report...

The top notch Global Gaming Expo has recently taken place in gambling mecca Las Vegas, and the general belief is that the industry will return to normal, but is unlikely to get back to Vegas "glory days". Yep, not too much more doom and gloom. Most experts including our Aussie mates in Vegas reckon the comeback has already started. Funny Aristocrat is focused on the positive, when they have just been hit with a lawsuit for copyright infringement plus from American gambling machine powerhouse, International Gaming Technology (IGT). Lawsuits have also recently enjoyed a comeback, but that's another story... we will cover again soon.

This past Wednesday a round table discussion at the Global Gaming Expo took place, and we now have some of findings.

Former International Game Technology Chairman Chuck Mathewson advised good news the gaming industry is already recovering from its multi year slump.

"It's going to be a long recovery, and we're starting to see some traction," said Mathewson, who it is understood invested in IGT in the early 1980s, became chairman and chief executive officer, and grew the company into the industry's largest slot machine manufacturer.

"The industry won't be as robust as it was, but it will recover," Mathewson said. "We just need to continue to provide the entertainment options that people want."

Even Australia was represented at the Las Vegas Convention Center with Leonard Ainsworth, founder of Australian slot machine giant Aristocrat Leisure; ex New Jersey gaming regulator Steven Perskie; veteran Strip hotel-casino exec Burton Cohen; and Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., prez of the powerhouse group American Gaming Association.

Political expert Jon Ralston, who did moderation for the talk fest, was able to get like responses from the panelists when he quizzed about the gaming industry's recovery, especially in downtown Vegas.

Cohen tipped Vegas casino and gaming operators always have reinvested in their properties to keep reinventing what they would offer guests, like new places to eat and a range of amenities. He expects that trend to stick for sometime longer.

He and Mathewson said Strip casinos need to refocus their efforts on gaming and return to the industry's roots (not that sort of root dirty old men), with its being understood that's still where the wad of real moolah can be made.

Cohen, who recently joined board of directors of MGM Resorts International in April, forecast the $8.5 billion CityCenter development eventually will hit its straps, instead of being a bit of a whipping boy and poster child of what's wrong in Vegas.

"Only in Las Vegas would you be able to build a city within a city," Cohen sprouted.

During his intro, Ralston tipped that Cohen operated such resorts as the Desert Inn, Thunderbird and the Dunes over his impressive 40-year career.

Cohen went on to say "In a testimony to my ability to manage, all of those hotels have been blown up." Some eyebrows were raised, and some Aussies downed some beers were heard.

When the chit chat got onto Macau and its obvious effect on Las Vegas and the rest of casino industry, Ralston said Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn and Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who have large casino investments in China, are always in Asia and rarely available in Las Vegas.

"That's not at all a bad thing," Cohen remarked.

Ainsworth advised Macau and recent casino openings in Singapore have created new casino customers, predominately in Asia.

Cohen said the expansion of gaming nationally and globally has been bloody good for the industry, although he had opposed the legalization of land based casinos in Atlantic City in the mid-1970s.

As the head of the Nevada Resort Association, he was unsuccessful in getting the member casinos to fund a campaign against Atlantic City's efforts.

"Little did I know all the men in the room were getting options on land in Atlantic City," Cohen said. We all live and learn hey buster.

Perskie thinks Atlantic City is on track for recovery, even though the market has experienced circa 27 straight months of gaming revenue decline. He thinks the solid efforts by New Jersey's governor to revamp the tourism market plus the state's gaming industry will be successful, sooner, rather than later. Gambling tycoons and even small time operators hope he is right, while online casino and online gaming entrepreneurs have mixed thoughts.

A Media Man spokesperson said:

"Ok, gaming and gambling has seen better days, but in a decade in the media, new media and internet business, I have found that often traditional gambling's loss can be online gamblings gain, and we here have been tracking this. Our numbers and the numbers of our business partners don't lie. Online gambling is still cutting into the profit of traditional casinos. The land based casinos who don't exist will either die, or continue to struggle. Donald Trump has seen merit in getting his land based casinos up to speed with the online gambling sector, but quite a few of the others don't just get it, or don't want to, like Steve Wynn. Smart casino operators will see the internet for the great opportunity for growth and retention that it is. We hear that some of the folks at G2E understand also, so not all of them have wasted their time. The investors and financial institutions are watching them closely, and if Vegas and Atlantic City doesn't lift its game more operators will go under. Australia on the other hand is powering, thanks to operators like Crown Limited."

Perskie said "The reports of Atlantic City's death have been greatly exaggerated". He also went on with that the impact from expanded gaming in neighboring states, such as Pennsylvania, will eventually drop off.

The panelists were mixed on Internet gaming when further probed. Ainsworth was pretty supportive of efforts to legalize Internet gaming in the U.S and Fahrenkopf's Washington, D.C. based outfit now thinks the tech exists to safely regulate the activity.

Cohen, however, was a touch wary, even skeptical, and went on about activity that might keep potential customers away from casinos.

"I was the driving force behind no TVs in hotel rooms," Cohen said.

The industry has largely been positive on the latest talk fest, but murmurs keep coming back that actions need to be louder than words.

How did you find the report today? Offer your opinion in the Gambling911 forum.

If you have a bet, bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a Special Contributor to the Gambling911.com website and proprietor of Media Man International

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They also offer political analysis.

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