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25 July 2011

Australian Gambling News, by Greg Tingle - 25th July 2011

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Australia remains one of the world's hottest gaming, gambling and igaming meccas. Media Man with a red hot report from down under...

Tag Team Police Officers Sue Crown Casino For Compo Re 'Brutality'...

Two vet and highly experienced off-duty cops, one decorated for bravery, are suing the *ss of Crown Casino alleging excessive brutality at the hands of security.

Premier Ted Baillieu today said his Government had asked Victoria Police for advice on whether tougher regulation of the security industry was needed.

"Victoria Police have raised some issues with the Government," Mr Baillieu said.

"We’ve invited them to come back to us with any suggestions in terms of additional action or regulation that needs to take place, and we’ll wait for them to come back to the Government on that."

Casino security footage - which is almost never released publicly showed a pack of security guards following the policemen through the gaming floor before pinning the two men's arms, placing them in headlocks and wrestling them to the mat...er floor.

The CCTV footage shows one off duty cop being held by both arms, taken to the bowels of the casino and placed in an interview room and held for an hour.

Lawyer Michel Margalit, of Thomas Arnold & Becker, advised the men were suing but declined to give a figure.

Legal sources said if successful the two policemen could claim about $400,000 each under the Wrongs Act for pain and suffering.

The incident comes just weeks after Crown came under fire over treatment of Anthony Dunning, who passed away after being pushed to the ground and restrained by up to 6 aggressive guards at the famous casino.

Serving officers Sergeant Glenn Saw and veteran Acting Sergeant Leigh Discher were involved in the brawl with Crown security on January 23 last year.

"I feared for my safety. I didn't know where I was. I had been separated from my brother-in-law and taken down to an unknown area," Sgt Saw said.

Crown spokesman Gary O'Neill did not directly respond to questions about the case or the CCTV footage.

"If the people you referred to want to raise concerns or make a complaint about their treatment or any other matter, then I encourage them to contact Crown and we are happy to talk to them. Otherwise, I have no comment to make," he said.

Legal eagles for the officers released CCTV footage to press to highlight the "pack mentality" of the guards, the co-ordination of the confrontation and the forcefulness of their actions.

The two men both feared they would be physically injured.

Guards learned during the night that the pair were police officers.

The footage also revealed for the first time Crown's elaborate surveillance camera network.

The network can select and track individuals throughout the entire casino and entertainment complex, even zooming in on people or number plates, as shown in the multimedia footage!

Sgt Saw, who was awarded a bravery medal after being shot in the leg and foot by a criminal threatening a homeowner with a gun in 2006, said he had been genuinely fearful during the Crown incident.

"The shooting lasts 8 seconds - this went on for hours," he said.

Sgt Saw and his brother-in-law, Acting Sgt Discher, were in a group of roughly 5 family and friends at the Melbourne casino in the early hours of January 23, 2010 when Sgt Saw left the group to gamble.

He said he was sitting at a gaming table when security asked him to leave. The two men said they were not intoxicated though they had consumed a few drinks.

Neither of them was ultimately charged with any offences.

Footage shows a growing number of guards tailing Sgt Saw as he makes his way through the casino complex at 1.15am.

Two minutes later several guards were involved in a scuffle with him and Sgt Saw was spreadeagled on the floor, as shocked patrons looked on.

He was then frogmarched out of the casino into the street.

Sgt Saw said he asked if he could return to meet his group so they could all go home and was told to wait 45 minutes. After he returned he met Acting Sgt Discher.

However, one of the guards involved in the earlier incident said "I thought I told you to leave", so the pair started heading towards the door.

About 2am 12 guards can be seen in camera shot surrounding the pair.

There is no visible scuffle, but words appear to be exchanged before 2 casino guards make a pointing gesture and the rest of the bouncers form a tight circle around the two men. Some say it is pack mentality from casino guards.

A minute later a guard grabs Acting Sgt Discher in a lock from behind and with a second guard wrestles him to the ground.

Two seconds later other guards wrestle Sgt Saw down and both officers are pinned to the ground.

While Acting Sgt Discher was marched out of the building, his friend was escorted through the bowels of the casino along long corridors into a dungeon-like area with about a dozen guards, then at 2.05am into a cubicle marked "interview room".

Footage shows when he went to leave the unlocked room at least 13 bouncers darted towards him!

"In this situation it can all turn bad in a blink of an eye. It only takes one person to decide to act, then they act as a pack," he said.

Sgt Saw was in the room until 3.05am frantically trying to call family and friends on his mobile, until other police arrived and walked him outside.

Meanwhile, Acting Sgt Discher, who had been taken outside by Crown security, had met up with a bouncer employed by a firm independent of Crown to patrol the area outside and explained his concerns. That guard escorted him back into the complex to find his group and his missing brother-in-law.

"I was absolutely stunned, I couldn't believe any of it," he said.

"I was scared.

"When they first took me to the loading bay (exit) I thought I was going to cop a bashing out of view of the cameras and I was concerned for Glenn's safety and whereabouts."

Their lawyer, Ms Margalit, explained that since the death of Mr Dunning, her firm had launched investigations into 10 cases of alleged assaults by Crown bouncers.

"The bouncers think they are the police of Crown but little did they realise that our clients were in fact police," she said.

Ms Margalit said the incident involving her clients was "an absolute disgrace".

"The footage reveals the guards' modus operandi - and the people operating the cameras are totally aware of what has happened."

Ms Margalit said legal action would be launched within weeks but declined to put a compensation figure on their claim for psychological injuries.

But legal sources confirmed if successful the men could each claim a maximum of about $400,000 for pain and suffering.

Ed: comon Crown - you and the powers that be can do better than this. Punters want to feel its safe to visit the casino.


Crown Casino Bouncers Taught Hurt 101!...

A tactics guide given to Crown casino security staff teaches violent body blows and pressure-point techniques.

The security manual, obtained by hard working journalists through ex Crown staff, has surfaced as Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu foreshadows more stringent security industry regulation.

It follows the release of footage demonstrating Crown Casino security employing heavy handed tactics on two off-duty police officers.

The Navitas College of Public Safety manual guides security staff through throwing, striking, locking and constriction and restraint and pain compliance procedures.
The manual, which has "Crown Ltd - DT manual" on each page, warns against punching to the face and cites the death of cricketing icon David Hookes, who died after being punched by a bouncer in Melbourne in 2004.

It also demonstrates a series of striking techniques, such as "palm strike", "knife hand", "hammer fist" and "extended knuckle" strikes.

Pressure-point areas and a range of forearm and elbow strikes, kicks and knees are also illustrated and explained. It's said it would be good reading for MMA - UFC fighters and trainers.

Crown spokesman Gary O'Neill said security staff training was "first class".
"Crown is really confident its security staff receive the best training it possibly can," he said.

The casino is under intense scrutiny after the treatment of Anthony Dunning, who died after being pushed to the ground and restrained by up to 6 guards.


Crown's City Of Dreams Macau Saves The Day; Bumps Figures For Packer...

City of Dreams Macau and a few more of its casino assets in Macau have made its financial figures look pretty decent. Crown shares would look a touch ordinary than their current near three-year highs if not for Macau. Rid the value of its 33.4% stake in Melco Crown Entertainment and you discover that Crown's domestic business lost value in the past 4 and underperformed the ASX 100 Index. That is not necessarily a bad thing, just a sobering reminder for supporters of Packer's gaming empire that Melbourne's Crown casino and Perth's Burswood are staunch contributors, but in an aged market. Broker JPMorgan, after factoring in the soaring worth of Melco Crown, advised last week the Macau gains warranted a lift in its price target for Crown stock from $9.80 to $10.25. That compares with Friday's $9.15 close. While the independence of Morgan's analysis is unlikely to be impaired by the fact that it has provided investment banking services to both casino groups, it is a market maker in the Macau associates stock. Morgan also produced a strained argument for how a $3.3 billion Crown bid for the spun-out Tabcorp casino arm, Echo Entertainment, might work in shareholders' favour. The speculation has been running since it emerged last month Crown had 4.9% stakes, in derivative form, in Echo and Tabcorp. Crown has said it did that deal before the split and had "no current intention" of increasing its investment in either company. Hopefully, Crown bought into Tabcorp at a low price, because the combined value of it and Echo is below their June 6 separation — and most of that fall has come in Echo (although Tabcorp was assisted by renewal of its wagering licence in Victoria last week). Echo Entertainment's shares have dived down from $4.35 on debut to a close of $4.07. That may make Echo an easier target, but whether it is sensible for Crown remains to be seen. The Morgan theory is that because Crown already has a stretched balance sheet there are only two real ways of funding a bid for Echo. One is through a share-swap offer, which would dilute the Packer holding to about 33% of the enlarged company. The second is by selling its $2.6 billion stake in Melco Crown, which would clear close to the entire cash amount required to buy Echo. Morgan thinks that for Crown investors that might mean a reward in share price terms because it believes the worth of the company's Melco Crown holding could be discounted by as much as 50 per cent because it is an arm's-length investment in City of Dreams and Altira casinos. Theoretically, if the "passive" stake is cashed in and Crown gobbles up Echo, then its shares may fully reflect the worth of having direct involvement in all its casinos. There may be some sentimental desire of Packer to buy the company that owns a Sydney casino...given that his legendary father, Kerry (KP), missed out on winning the original licence, almost got control of it in the late 1990s and then pulled out when it all got too hard. Strategically, though, it makes little sense to swap the foothold in Macau for more in Australia unless Crown has a particularly grim view of abroad and wants to cash up pronto like. Australians' propensity ala passion to gamble may be high, but this economy is not built around casinos alone. Macau is home to multimillionaires a plenty and casino visits are frequent and dolphins and whales spend up big. As such, the total Macau casino market is generating about $2.25 billion in revenue each month, of which Melco Crown is netting in about $300 million. In the June quarter of 2010, Melco Crown revenues were about $710 million. The same quarter of 2011 they were $1.01 billion, which means growth of 40%. Since March 31 Crown's shares have gained 15%. Melco Crown's stock, though, has gone from $US8 on Nasdaq at the end of March to a close of $US15.73 on Friday — a 97%. Packer is delighted with his Macau investments.


Crown Casino Still Under Microscope...

The Victorian government has asked police to advise if greater regulation of Crown Casino is needed after a series of violent incidents involving security guards there.

It was reported on Sunday that two off-duty police officers are suing the casino, alleging brutality at the hands of guards, who they allege put them in headlocks and wrestled them to the ground.

It comes just weeks after 40-year-old Andrew Dunning died of a heart attack after guards held him to the ground for eight minutes.

Homicide squad detectives are investigating his death and have said surveillance video shows Mr Dunning did not provoke security staff.

The lawyer for the two off-duty officers told News Ltd that since Mr Dunning's death, her firm had launched investigations into 10 cases of alleged assault by Crown bouncers.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said he would not comment on the latest assault claims as Victoria Police was drawing up a report on ways to improve security at the casino.

"Victoria Police has raised some issues with the government and we've invited them to come back to us with any suggestions in terms of additional action or regulation that needs to take place and we'll wait for them to come back to the government on that," Mr Baillieu told reporters.

"It's one of the biggest tourist drawcards in Australia, quite frankly, and we need to recognise it as such, and obviously a lot of people attend (and) from time to time, people attend there and get themselves into some sort of difficulty.

"We don't want to see that happen and we'll do whatever we can to avoid that and await Victoria Police's response."

Premier Ted Baillieu would not comment on the latest claims but has invited Victoria Police to "come back to us with any suggestions in terms of additional action or regulation".

Comment was being sought from Crown Casino.


News Corp Takeover Takes Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings Into Mess...

Embattled News Corp. suffered another setback on Friday when Australian competition regulators said its bid to expand its pay-TV operation in the country raised "significant" monopoly issues. The news will come as a blow to the company...and its chief Rupert Murdoch -- as it struggles to overcome a phone hacking scandal in Britain that saw it abandon its plan to buy the London-based satellite broadcaster BSkyB outright. Subscription TV service Foxtel -- 25 percent owned by News Corp -- has mounted a Aus$2.5 billion ($US2.7 billion) takeover bid for regional cable operator Austar, its major rival, in a move that would expand its reach into rural Australia. But the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled that the merger was "likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition" in the pay-TV, audio-visual content and telecoms markets. "Foxtel and Austar are the only significant providers of subscription television services in Australia," the ACCC said in its preliminary issues paper. "The proposed merger would therefore effectively create a near monopoly subscription television provider across Australia." The rollout of Canberra's ambitious National Broadband Network, a Aus$43 billion project to connect 93 percent of Australians to superfast Internet by 2017, would mean greater opportunities for telcos to compete, it added. "The proposed acquisition would prevent any such competition from occurring," it said. The ACCC plans to hand down its final decision in September, but the issues ruling is a significant blow for Foxtel, the remaining 75 percent of which is owned by telecoms giant Telstra (50 percent) and Consolidated Media Holdings (25 percent). Consolidated Media Holdings is a joint venture of Kerry Stokes' Seven television network and Consolidated Press Holdings, run by media and casino magnate James Packer.

A Media Man spokesperson said this News Corp takeover stuff is having a negative flow on effect for various b2b partners of News. James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings is just one of a number of parties that have been dragged into the mess in a roundabout way. We are hopeful that the probe of News Corp will have a effect of cleaning up the news media industry and getting rid of black marks on the industry".


Casino And Gaming Share Prices...

Symbol Company $AUD

CWN Crown Limited 8.98
EGP Echo Entertainment Group 4.02
RCT Reef Casino Trust 1.70
TAH Tabcorp Holdings Limited 3.30

BPTY Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment 1.41 GBP
PLS Paddy Power plc 34.73 EUR


Punters, er readers, stay glued to Media Man reports for more "can't miss" information on Australian pokies, gaming and casino wars.

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming. Media Man also publishes Media Man News

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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