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14 May 2011

Australian Gambling News, by Greg Tingle - 14th May 2011



It's been a big week for Australian gambling news, both down under in Australia, as well as Aussie gambling entities making waves overseas. Plus we're got the IGT VS Aristocrat legal update, Australian gambling and media stock price updates and loads more.

Media Man, Casino News Media, Media Man News, Property News Media and Global Gaming Directory team up to deliver this jam packed news update, with some help from friends at Fairfax Media, Google News and wires.

Credit To Gambling Companies And Players Where Credit Is Due...

Congrats to Crown's James Packer for his ongoing development of Crown Limited, creating employment opportunities for thousands of Australians, in addition to continuing to assist GenerationOne, focused on sustainable solutions for Aboriginal Australians, which employment and welling being key aspects. Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment's PartyCasino.com has snatched another Media Man 'Online Casino of The Month' award too, and Vegas gambling tycoon Steve Wynn has gotten himself married, and invited some of Australia's most notable citizens, including you guessed it - The Packers. We also thank Fairfax Media, The Daily Telegraph and The New York Times for their responsible reporting on the gaming and gambling industry, and also well done to Gambling911 and Poker News Daily for their daily colourful stories covering the sector. Life would be more dull around gambling if it wasn't for Chris, Jenny and the team and Gambling911. Media Man of course remains independent, certainly for new media and gaming coverage standards, but once in a while do an official campaign for quality brands and individuals.

Packer Family And Other Aussie Billionaires Attend Wynn Wedding In Las Vegas...

Gambling tycoon James Packer and wife, Erica, Wolverine Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness, billionaire truck driver - transport entrepreneur Lindsay Fox and his wife, Paula, retail big wig Solomon Lew and wife, Rosie, were the Australian guests at casino king of the kids Steve Wynn's extravagant wedding. The Aussies enjoyed themselves big time at the ball that went for 3 days, which featured a swag of entertainment including Lionel Richie and Garth Brooks. Clint Eastwood was best man. Wynn married his Pommie sweetheart, divorcee Andrea Hissom, and the lovely couple have been named by the press "duke and duchess of Vegas". Wynn first met Hissom during a trip to the French Riviera circa 2008. Wynn aged 69, and Hissom, understood to be in her 40s, got married at the cost of $US5 million ($4.7 million), with 500 guests from around the globe. Other guests included Donald Trump, Sylvester Stallone and Celine Dion. The super A-list guests were flown in for a poolside "white" party on the day prior to the elaborate wedding. A "Grand Celebration" was housed in Wynn's Encore Ballroom...was put together by Michael Jackson's ex musical - events et al genius Kenny Ortega. Brunch was held on the Sunday morning. Wynn's ex wife, Elaine, was not on the list. She's mum to Steve's two kids. Last year the ex was awarded one of the largest divorce settlements in US history - $US741 million in stock in Wynn Resorts. It's understood the Packers enjoyed napoleon of tuna with caviar and roasted turbot with red wine sauce and cauliflower puree. The Wynn's are understood to be delighted at the way everything went down, and the Australia's were equally delighted we understand.

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment's PartyCasino Wins Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month'

PartyCasino has once again won the Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month Award'. The well known and respected online casino brand has won the Media Man awards over a dozen times in the past three years. The award is given out based on a number of factors including gameplay, portfolio of games, customer services, affiliate partners offerings, value for money, innovation and overall customer service. Richard Branson's Virgin Casino has also won the award, but Branson's brand doesn't accept Australians which has held back the firm in recent years. PKR Casino and Captain Cooks Casino have been Media Man semi finalists over the years, but PartyCasino looks like a safe bet to maintain it's stranglehold on the title for now. Well done Party.

Las Vegas Live at Burswood Theatre...

When: Friday 20 May...Take a trip to Las Vegas without the airfare or expenses. Viva Las Vegas has all the razzle dazzle and glitz of the entertainment capital of the world, and is coming to Burswood for one night only! The show combines sensational song and dance numbers with exciting specialty acts. Viva Las Vegas will take viewers on a spellbinding journey to Las Vegas, without leaving their seat. Show-goers will witness the gorgeous Vegas Showgirls in spectacular costumes and dazzling choreography, plus the remarkable illusions of Magic2. Audiences will also experience the best celebrity impersonators, Tom Jones tribute artist and world class Elvis impersonator Rick Charles performing together with a live band. This is 90 minutes of spectacular Las Vegas entertainment, a fabulous night to be remembered forever.

UK Gaming Giant Keen On Centrebet...

Alice Springs-based online gaming - gambling giant Centrebet International has confirmed a London-listed company is proposing a takeover bid. A spokesman for Centrebet says discussions are being held with Sportingbet. The UK gaming company is proposing to acquire shares and performance rights for starters. The spokesman says no agreement has been reached as yet. He says the Centrebet licence would most likely remain in Alice Springs if a takeover bid is successful.

MP Wilkie Keen To Discuss Poker Machines With Victoria...

Federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie says he is happy to talk to Victoria about its concerns regarding his planned poker machine changes. Wilkie is insisting on a compulsory scheme where pokie players will have to pre-set how much they are willing to lose or play on machines, which will only accept $1 bets. Victoria opposes a mandatory scheme and says Mr Wilkie should see the voluntary scheme it is putting in place. Mr Wilkie, who is threatening to bring down the Federal Government if he does not get his way, says he is happy to speak with the Victorian Government. "But I want to make one thing perfectly clear: it is not an option for Victoria to be exempted from these national reforms. It is as simple as that," he said. "There will be mandatory pre-comittment on these high-intensity poker machines, full stop."

Aussie Lottery Winners Unlucky With Love Life...

They used to be a couple whose relationship would not endure for love or money - not even $3 million bucks. They split up a year after the woman bought a winning lottery ticket, and the Federal Magistrates Court had to decide how to divide the fortune. Known by the pseudonyms Ms Kneen and Mr Crockford, the pair - aged in their 20s - had lived together on and off for a while. In September 2008, after spending much of the year in women's shelters, Ms Kneen moved back in with Mr Crockford. A month later she bought a Powerball ticket at a Canberra newsagency and was stunned when she learnt she had won $3 million. Establishing the facts was not easy; the federal magistrate who determined the property settlement, Stuart Lindsay, said both parties were "very poor witnesses" who lied to help their own case. Kneen claimed she was the only one who bought lottery tickets and that Mr Crockford was "dismissive of her buying tickets and encouraged her not to". ''She said that she always referred to the tickets as her tickets,'' Mr Lindsay said. ''She said that she had only ever won small amounts … and that she always kept those winnings for herself.'' But Mr Crockford said they both played Powerball or Lotto every week and each contributed to the tickets, on the understanding that "whoever bought it, it was a joint ticket and that they would share the winnings," Mr Lindsay said. After the $3 million windfall, they bought three properties. The pair flew to Melbourne together to claim the winnings and Ms Kneen was with Mr Crockford when the cheque was made payable to his account, Mr Lindsay said, suggesting a relationship where the money would likely "be regarded by them both as having been jointly won". Mr Lindsay allocated $100,000 to Ms Kneen because she earned less than her former partner, but split the rest equally. (Credit: www.smh.com.au)

One.Tel Legal Case Against James Packer And Lachlan Murdoch Dismissed...

The New South Wales court has dismissed a civil case against James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch in relation to the collapse of phone company, One.Tel. Some of One Tel's creditors appointed a special purpose liquidator, Paul Weston, to investigate why the board withdrew financial support for the company and put it into voluntary administration in 2001. Mr Murdoch and Mr Packer were directors of the board and companies linked to them were investors. But Justice Julie Ward said the case was stale and the proceedings should be dismissed. Mr Weston has been ordered to pay the costs of the case. The High Court has agreed to hear an appeal by ASIC against the dismissal of civil penalties against former James Hardie directors. In 2009, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission won a landmark court case against the company's former executives and directors for misleading the market about asbestos compensation. James Hardie was fined, and the former executives and directors were fined and disqualified. The case was partially overturned on appeal and the former directors had their penalties quashed. The local share market ended higher after a volatile day. The All Ordinaries Index rose 11 points, or nearly 0.25 of a per cent to 4,787. Spot gold is higher at just over US$1,510 an ounce. West Texas Crude oil is at US$98.97 a barrel. The Australian dollar is nearly $US1.07. Congrats to 'Our James' and 'Our Lachlan'.

Aristocrat Names Gaming Visionary Rich Schneider Chief Product Officer‎...

Aristocrat Technologies has named legendary gaming visionary Rich Schneider as its new Chief Product Officer. As CPO, Schneider will lead all aspects of product design, portfolio management and global marketing activities, and he will direct the overall leadership of Aristocrat's vibrant creative studios. Schneider will be based in the company's Las Vegas office and will report directly to CEO and Managing Director Jamie Odell. "The appointment of our CPO is significant, and we are fortunate to have attracted someone of Rich's calibre, and he will play a critical leadership role in the next stage of our turnaround story," Odell said. "His skill set, knowledge of the industry and years of experience will be tremendous assets to Aristocrat's Executive Leadership Team and to our business." "I could not be more delighted about joining Jamie and the entire Aristocrat team. Aristocrat's breadth of product, coupled with a great game library, and a strong tradition of delivering games that players just love to play are all great building blocks for a successful future," said Schneider. Schneider is widely regarded as an important force in the gaming industry and has played significant roles in shaping its future. Most notably, Schneider was Executive Vice President of Product Strategy at IGT. He has also served as IGT's Senior Vice President of Server Based Gaming and President of IGT Systems. Prior to IGT, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Acres Gaming. He has also been V.P. of Game Development for CDS and Director of Engineering for United Coin Machine. Schneider's vision has helped lead to the creation and proving the value of system bonusing products that have become the industry standard for building patron loyalty and driving casino revenues. He also played a vital role in conceiving what is now known as the Gaming Standards Association and has been a tireless advocate for open standards. Schneider has held several important positions in GSA, including Board Member and Vice Chairman of the Board. Schneider holds a BS in Engineering from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He will begin his tenure at Aristocrat on July 28. Aristocrat Technologies Inc. is a subsidiary of Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL), a leading global provider of gaming solutions. The Company is licensed by more than 200 regulators and its products and services are available in more than 90 countries around the world. Aristocrat offers a diverse range of products and services including electronic gaming machines and casino management systems.

Aristocrat v. IGT: Attorney Negligence, Revival, and Inequitable Conduct...(Credit: www.patentlyo.com)

Aristocrat Techs. v. Int'l. Game Tech. & IGT (N.D. Cal. 2011)

Patent attorneys regularly have hundreds of patent applications pending, each with their own due dates – far too many for anyone remember on their own. We keep track through docketing systems, paralegals, and attorney cross-checks. We are often overwhelmed – especially when firms change and staff leaves (as happened in this case). One of the comments to this post astutely introduced the old adage: "there but for the grace of God go I."

The Aussie slot-machine manufacturer Aristocrat missed its US national stage patent filing deadline by one day. The patent was saved when the USPTO granted Aristocrat's US attorney's petition to revive the abandoned application based on the claim that the "entire delay" in filing the appropriate papers was "unintentional." During infringement litigation against market leader IGT, the district court first held the patent invalid based on a defense of improper revival. In particular, the district court held that the USPTO lacked authority to revive national stage applications unless the abandonment met the much higher standard of being unavoidable. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed — holding that improper revival did not constitute a cognizable defense to allegations of infringement under 35 U.S.C. 282.

On remand, IGT shifted its focus to unenforceability — alleging that Aristocrat committed inequitable conduct in the revival of its abandoned application.

Late Filing and Hiding Abandonment from Client: The district court used one-hundred-twelve paragraphs to described the facts relating to the abandonment and revival. Here are a few key facts:

January 10, 2000: On the day of the 30–month deadline, Aristocrat's US patent counsel (Shahan Islam) used US Express mail to file the necessary documents to enter US national stage examination. The USPTO received the documents the next day (January 11, 2000). However, according to the USPTO, Islam did not include sufficient evidence to prove the January 10, 2000 mailing date. And, Mr. Islam's firm did not retain the filing evidence in a locally held file.

June 2001: The USPTO dismissed Islam's petition to correct the filing date and indicated that the application remained abandoned. Mr. Islam later testified that he did not remember receiving the June 2001 decision. The court found that Mr. Islam likely saw the decision shortly after it was mailed.

November 2001: Aristocrat requested a status update on the application from Mr. Islam. (Up to that time, Aristocrat had been told nothing of the abandonment issues). In December 2001, Mr. Islam responded in an e-mail that "we have learned that the application won't be examined for at least another nine months(!) [or] so in view of the backlog." The e-mail did not indicate anything about the abandonment. Mr. Islam also forwarded his response to another attorney at his law firm saying "lets discuss."

During this same time period, eight other Aristocrat applications being prosecuted by Mr. Islam also went abandoned based on failure to respond to PTO notices mailed in 2001.

July 18, 2002: Mr. Islam (at this point with the KMZ firm) filed a petition for revival for unintentional abandonment — included a statement that "the entire delay in filing the required reply from the due date for the reply until the filing of a grantable petition under 37 CFR 1.137(b) was unintentional." In addition, Mr. Islam filed a preliminary amendment and petition for accelerated examination. In a letter to Aristocrat, Mr. Islam incorrectly (and apparently intentionally) stated that the amendment & petition to accelerate had been filed in January 2002. The letter did not mention the petition for revival.

September 3, 2002: USPTO granted the petition to revive.

2003: KMZ attorneys informed Aristocrat of the abandonments & revivals.
Revival: The USPTO typically does not require documentation to revive under the unintentional delay standard. Rather, the office relies on the applicant's statements that the entire delay in filing a response was unintentional. Here, the USPTO did not require specific documentation.

Unintentional versus Not Intentional: In its analysis, the district court held that the facts did not provide clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Islam had intentionally delayed the petition filing. In particular, the court could find no motive for the delay. Instead, the delay appeared to be the result of Mr. Islam's ongoing negligence rather than intentional misbehavior. Negligence is the foundational non-intentional tort and therefore a finding of negligence does not suggest that the delay was intentional. In an odd logical analysis, Judge Whyte concluded that Islam's failure to notify Aristocrat of the abandonment "actually suggests that the delay was unintentional."

Mr. Islam did not want to disclose his errors [to Aristocrat] because he was likely embarrassed by his failure to act in accordance with his client's instruction. Had it been granted, Mr. Islam's Petition to Correct would have avoided abandonment altogether. Mr. Islam's deflections in December 2001 show that he was fully aware that Aristocrat wished to proceed with the '717 application. Mr. Islam's comments to Mr. Owen's regarding the PTO backlog at the time further avoided acknowledging any personal responsibility for delay but it may have been correct, especially considering that the '717 application remained in an abandoned state even after the PTO had officially revived it. Still further, Mr. Islam's incorrectly dated Second Preliminary Amendment is further evidence that Mr. Islam's chief motive was to hide his failures from Aristocrat. Once the June 2001 Decision was sent, a decision to deliberately delay reviving the '717 application would not have helped to hide his errors from Aristocrat.

Although Judge Whyte found "Mr. Islam's testimony was disturbingly vague and his lack of memory difficult to believe," the Judge agreed with the notion the delay was entirely explained by Mr. Islam's disorganization and the "out of control" state of his practice at the time. "Even if Mr. Islam failed to properly prosecute the '717 application, 'unintentional' delay does not require that the delay have occurred despite the exercise of due care and diligence (as does 'unavoidable' delay)."

After holding that the delay was not intentional, the court concluded that the statement regarding unintentional delay could not be a material misrepresentation and therefore that the defense of inequitable conduct could not stand.

Expert Opinion: Two leading patent law experts testified at the inequitable conduct hearing: Charles Van Horn for Aristocrat and Paul Gardner for IGT. While the court found the testimony helpful for explaining the prosecution of PCT applications, it found the experts' extensive legal conclusions filled with "blatant advocacy" to be "not helpful." Judge Whyte has been known to speak critically against expert testimony in patent cases. (Credit: www.patentlyo.com)

Ex IGT Exec joins Aristocrat...

Former International Game Technology executive Rich Schneider will join Aristocrat Technologies in July as its chief product officer. Working out of the company American headquarters in Las Vegas, Schneider will oversee slot machine development for Australian-based Aristocrat. Schneider will report directly to Aristocrat CEO Jamie Odell. Schneider served in various executive capacities with IGT, overseeing game design, gaming systems and developing server-based gaming products. Odell said Schneider’s “knowledge of the industry and years of experience will be tremendous assets to our business.” Prior to joining IGT, Schneider held executive positions at Acres Gaming and United Coin Machine.

S&P Revises SKYCITY Outlook To Stable; Rating Affirmed...

May 13, 2011--Standard & Poor's Ratings Services today said that it had revised its outlook on New Zealand-based gaming company SKYCITY Entertainment Group Ltd. (SKYCITY) to stable, from positive, and affirmed its 'BBB-' long-term corporate credit rating on the company. The rating affirmation and stable outlook reflects our view that SKYCITY's financial profile and credit measures--while incorporating some leeway to allow management the flexibility to pursue growth and shareholder-return objectives--will remain commensurate with the 'BBB-' rating over the medium term.

"We believe SKYCITY's strengthened balance sheet and debt-maturity profile, combined with our expectation of relatively stable property-level EBITDA and cash flow generation, will enable the company to undertake debt-funded growth opportunities in a manner that preserves credit quality at the 'BBB-' long-term rating," Standard & Poor's credit analyst Jennifer Wee said.

The rating and outlook incorporates our expectation that SKYCITY will maintain the competitive positioning of its New Zealand and Australian casino assets, underpinned by a supportive licensing environment and measured capital investment. Furthermore, we expect the company to continue its relatively stable cash flow performance and disciplined financial policy, balancing future potential capital projects and dividends with the maintenance of rating-commensurate credit measures over the medium term.


Packer To Spend $281m For Extra Aussie Casino Development....

Packer's Crown Casino is raising its bet on the business, announcing it would spend an extra $281 million upgrading its Australian casinos. It is also making acquisitions that include consolidating its ownership of the Aspinall's Club in London. The new money s on top of $139 million previously earmarked for upgrades of the Crown Casino in Melbourne and Burswood Casino in Perth, signalling the company's confidence in the market and its ability to attract high-rollers to the casinos' VIP gambling service. Crown's buys include the Holiday Inn hotel building and associated assets at Burswood Casino for $79 million. "Burswood will be entitled to a greater share of hotel profits,'' the company said. A further $81 million will be spent upgrading Burswood's gambling floor, catering, convention centre and VIP accommodation services. Crown Casino in Melbourne will enjoy $132 million in upgrades, with a more extensive investment in the gambling floor and catering as well as a new bar and lounge that will feature Shane Warne and the poker champion Joe Hachem as ambassadors. Further upgrades to its VIP facilities were also announced, including refurbishing the casino's jet. Crown and Tabcorp's Star City had announced upgrades to the VIP gambling businesses to meet growing competition from new casinos in Singapore and Macau. In December Mr Packer, Crown's chairman, said Australia would need to work harder to compete with new Asian developments and called on other companies to take up some of the slack. ''Australian investment in large-scale tourism attractions has been relatively modest in recent years. In contrast, Crown has been and continues to be a significant investor in Australian tourism infrastructure." Crown will acquire a 100% interest in Aspinall's Club. The casino was owned by the Aspinall's Group, Crown's joint venture with the Packer family friend Damian Aspinall. The venture will use the $55 million in proceeds to pay debt.

James Packer Says Kangaroos And Clichés Stifling Australian Tourism...

Australian tourism is letting itself down by sticking to outdated clichés, according to one of the country’s richest men. Marketing campaigns promising to “throw a shrimp on the barbie” and asking “where the bloody hell are you?” have been a waste of $500 million of taxpayers' money, says James Packer, son of the late media tycoon Kerry Packer. Tourism’s contribution to the national economy has plummeted from 3.4 percent to 2.6 percent over the last decade. Its world ranking in tourism competitiveness has dived from fourth in 2008 to 13th, according to a World Economic Forum Report. Casino mogul Packer says the latest campaign –- featuring Americans navigating a four-wheel drive through the outback looking for kangaroos –- is geared towards backpackers on “$50 a day," and would do little to change fortunes. In a rare interview with The Saturday Age, a frustrated Packer said tourism was a "lost opportunity." He said a "tired and aging … Sydney has fallen behind not only other Australian cities like Melbourne, but also our regional competitors. And it is a regional market -- we're competing with Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur." James Packer, who has an estimated net worth of $3 billion, believes marketing should target the affluent, middle-class Asian market to arrest stagnation in the sector. This comes as the Chinese have emerged as the primary force in Australia's tourism sector. Packer believes Australia needs to market the cities –- and imitate Singapore's and Macau's initiatives -- rather than selling the Great Barrier Reef and the desert. “The majority of tourists want to go to man-made attractions, not the outback," he said.
And Packer, who owns Melbourne’s Crown Casino and another in Macau, believes this is what Asian tourists are after, putting him at odds with a Federal campaign to limit gambling. He believes tourism is being held back by five factors: a strong Australian dollar, antiquated visa applications for Asian visitors, run-down tourist facilities, key inbound tourist markets suffering natural disasters, and fierce competition from our Asian neighbors. Australia’s selling itself short, according to Packer. Hotel owners and tour operators desperate for business agree. Even the chairman of Tourism Australia, Geoff Dixon, believes a lack of investment in tourism infrastructure and protectionist visa regulations are holding Australia back. The premier, Barry O’Farrell, agreed that tourism needs to sell a modern Sydney, rather than outdated clichés, reports Smh.com.au. He said the multicultural hub of Cabramatta was an “extraordinary place to visit on a weekend." "And there are many other places like that across this city," O’Farrell said. "So I think we are dealing with a far more sophisticated tourism trade than simply sausages on barbies and looking for kangaroos."

Australian Shares: Media And Gaming - 13th May 2011

CWN - CROWN LTD - up one cent at $8.51

Casino operator Crown will spend an extra $281 million to buy new properties and further upgrade its flagship casinos in Melbourne and Perth.

FXJ - FAIRFAX MEDIA LTD - down 3.5 cents at $1.09

Fairfax Media has confirmed it will outsource all sub-editing work from its flagship Sydney and Melbourne newspapers, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says.

TEN - TEN NETWORK HOLDINGS LTD - up 1.5 cents at $1.275

SVW - SEVEN GROUP HOLDINGS LTD - down 64 cents at $8.96

*Television executive James Warburton will have to wait until January 1, 2012, to start as the boss of Ten Network Holdings, a court has ruled.


Media Man Firm May Sell Some Website Portals...

As Media Man continues to develop and desersify they are apparently looking to sell a few of their website portals. A well placed leak said "Media Man is looking to raise some fast cash to fuel other non gaming ventures. They found that gaming related ventures are down from last years numbers and have decided to get into more online - non gambling related services, following the Packer strategy. It's also rumoured Media Man sold some of their shares in Crown Limited, Ten Holdings and Virgin Blue to also raise extra cash, after apparently over spending as they over invested back in their business". Don't be mistaken however, Media Man still own approximately 30 website portals and remain a well known and established media, publicity brand and internet brand, and are understood to be getting further investor ready.

*Media Man has an online news syndication arrangement with Fairfax Media and The New York Times

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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