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18 August 2011

Australian And New Zealand Casino And Gaming News Round-Up, by Greg Tingle - 18th August 2011


Media Man Crown Casino James Packer Tabcorp Holdings Asia Pacific Games Casinos Australian Casinos

Australia, as well as its southern neighbour, New Zealand, continue to be the source of some of the world's most important and influential casino and gambling news. Media Man and Gambling911 readers will recall that we recently reconfirmed Australia as home to the world's most passionate and highest spending gamblers. Today Media Man takes a look at the business end of the industry down under and learn that many Australian casinos are enjoying record profits. What does this mean to the punter who visits the land based casinos we are left pondering...


Media Man Crown Casino James Packer Tabcorp Holdings Asia Pacific Games Gambling911 Internet City Of Dreams Macau Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Australia

Aussie Sportsman and Gambling Icon Shane Warne And Liz Hurley Deny Engagement Rumours...

Shane Warne and Elizabeth Hurley have denied reports they are engaged. Australian magazine New Idea reported a source as saying the two were set to walk down that aisle, reporting the former Australian spin king had proposed while holidaying with the actress/model on James Packer's multimillion-dollar yacht in Spain. However Hurley, 46, hit back at the reporters, saying on Twitter "Why bother actually investigating anything? Just sit at your desk & make up 'friends' to say anything that suits your silly stories?." "When will talentless journalists stop using unattributed quotes? A lazy & transparently obvious device to avoid actually doing any work." Warne did not react to the story on his Twitter page, but his manager said the reports were untrue. It's not known when Warne will become pro active on the Australian gambling scene again, but his mateship with Crown boss James Packer continues.

Tabcorp Wins As Profit Leaps 13.9% To $534.8m...

Aussie gambling giant Tabcorp is defying the slump in consumer spending, reporting steady trading in the new financial year after unveiling a 13.9% jump in full-year net profit to $534.8 million. In a transformational year, Tabcorp demerged its casino business and secured two long-term licences -- the $60m, 10-year Victorian keno licence, starting next April, and the $410m, 12-year wagering and betting licence for the same state, from next August. Chief executive David Attenborough said each of the four continuing businesses -- wagering, gaming, media and international and keno -- had lifted revenue and earnings in 2011. "The company has seen steady trading activity continue into (2012)," Mr Attenborough said. "This underlines the resilience of our businesses." The profit included an extra $79m from the actual win-rate in the casino division's VIP rebate business, partly offset by a $6.8m loss relating to the demerger. On a normalised basis, reflecting the same business's theoretical win-rate and excluding the demerger items, profit was up 1.9% to $486.3m. Morningstar analyst Ross Macmillan said the result was reasonable, characterised by strong cost control and relatively low growth due to the soft consumer environment. "Technology is playing an increasingly important role at Tabcorp, with expansion in the Easy Bet self-service terminals and online betting," he said. In the key wagering division, earnings before interest and tax were up 4.5% to $220.2m. Strong growth in fixed-odds betting, where revenue climbed 31.7% to $242m, offset declines in Victorian and NSW totaliser revenue, which was in line with global trends. Turnover on the internet, including Luxbet, jumped 18.6% to $2.36 billion. Tabcorp said 44% of $3.02bn in Victorian retail turnover was channelled through relatively low-cost Easy Bet terminals, compared to just 19.2% of $3.67bn in NSW retail turnover. The future is clear, with Tabcorp continuing to roll out terminals last year to 3400 in TAB outlets in Victoria and NSW. While Attenborough said opportunities in domestic wagering mainly centred on consolidation, Tabcorp would also examine expansion options offshore. Elsewhere in the business, the newly separated media and international operations grew EBIT by 2.7% to $52.8m on a revenue increase of 9.3% to $179.3m. This was offset by a 9.1% rise in expenses, mainly due to the expansion of Sky Racing. EBIT from keno rose 4.7% to $48.8m.

Adelaide Casino Enjoys Record Profit...

Celeb chefs are keen to headline restaurants in a $250 million Adelaide Casino expansion as it reported a third straight record annual profit. General manager David Christian said the casino would look for "a few big names" to headline restaurants in the new Adelaide complex, as it did with restaurants in its Auckland casino. Both national and South Australian names are in the spotlight, he said, but SkyCity is yet to formally approach any of its preferred names. Before any expansion goes ahead, tax and regulation changes will be on the bargaining table with the State Government today as SkyCity bosses meet Treasurer Jack Snelling and Infrastructure Minister Patrick Conlon. SkyCity yesterday unveiled Adelaide Casino as the best percentage performer in its stable, which includes Darwin, Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch casinos. Annual pre-tax earnings climbed 8% to $34.3 million in the year to June 30, based on a 1.8% rise in revenue to $150 million. It contributed to net annual profit for the group of $97.85 million, up 20.5%, adding to improved earnings from its newly expanded Auckland Casino. SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said he would like to see the 43.5% tax on SA poker machines brought into line with the 20-25% rate elsewhere in Australia. Replacing coin-operated poker machines in VIP areas also would lift the casino's inbound tourism revenue, he said. "Those VIP customers who go to Crown in Melbourne and Star City in Sydney as well as Brisbane, they'd love to go to Adelaide . . . but the experience of playing (poker machines) with coins is messy," he said. "People like coming to Adelaide Casino, they like the old-style ambience, but it needs more car parks, more restaurants more bars and entertainment facilities. Ahead of today's meeting, Mr Snelling said the Riverbank Precinct did not need Adelaide Casino's expansion to go ahead. '"We'd welcome their involvement obviously," Mr Snelling said. "The Riverbank Precinct will stand on its own . . . I'm not going soft about them potentially renewing their monopoly in the city."

Accor Australia Continues To Ranked As Australia's #1 Aussie Hotel Operator...

The Accor Australia hotel group, which has eight properties in the Far North, continues to rank as the leading hotel operator in Australia. In the latest CB Richard Ellis Hotels market review Accor, with 161 hotels and 21,740 rooms, is first, followed by the Mantra Group (110, 16,268) and third placed InterContinental Group (34, 8355). Accor properties include Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort, Novotel Palm Cove Resort, Mercure Cairns Harbourside, Grand Mercure Rockford Esplanade Palm Cove, All Seasons Cairns, All Seasons Colonial Club and Mercure Port Douglas Treetops Resort. The Mantra Group has six properties at Port Douglas, three in Cairns and two at Palm Cove, while IHG has the Holiday Inn in Cairns. CBRE Hotels senior director Wayne Bunz said Accor was an "aggressive" operator with a strong management and sales team. "They have a great spread of properties within Australia, from All Seasons Ibis, Mercure, Novotel and Sofitel to Pullman," he said. Mr Bunz said they were strong performers with good revenues and had particularly good Cairns properties, including the Pullman Reef Hotel
Casino. Accor Australia vice president Simon McGrath said its Far Northern hotels were among the first to join the group which is marking its 20th anniversary in Australia. "It’s pleasing that we are still the major force in the Australian hotel industry," he said. "New hotel development may have slowed but Accor is still growing its network strongly through acquisition of new hotel management contracts and franchise agreements. "North Queensland was one of the first locations in Australia for Accor, when we launched the Novotel Palm Cove Resort in 1994. "The All Seasons Colonial Club Resort has just become the second hotel in Australia to be accredited under Accor’s Optimum Service Standards for Chinese visitors and this highlights our aim to open up new markets for the region. "While international inbound is soft from traditional markets, and the high Australian dollar is continuing to restrict arrivals, we are actively looking at emerging markets such as China and India to grow our business in north Queensland and elsewhere.
"Having worked here myself I know what an outstanding destination it is. "We just need to give more reasons to discover or return to the region."

New Zealand's SkyCity Gambles On Weather...

SkyCity Entertainment chief executive Nigel Morrison is forecasting sunnier days ahead for the Kiwi casino company, despite frequent snow falls at present. Financial results for the year to June 30 have came in with significant increases in Auckland gaming machine revenues and in non-gambling revenue. Auckland gaming machine revenue was up 5% in the first half and 10.5% in the second half - providing returns not seen since 2008 and the global financial crisis. Auckland non-gaming revenue - from the firm's increasing array of food and beverage sales and hotels - was up 8% last year. Morrison predicts the Rugby World Cup will deliver an extra $8 million profit to hotels, which will flow through to the casino floor. Morrison was predicting a mainly fine outlook for the New Zealand economy, saying that in the second half of the 2011 financial year SkyCity was "exhibiting a momentum for growth". "Business confidence in New Zealand is improving, with positive employment statistics, retail turnover growth and a stable interest rate environment," he said yesterday. Many in the retail sector are wary about consumer confidence in a volatile market. First New Zealand Capital analyst Rob Bode noted that the SkyCity chief executive tended to be bullish. But other analysts said there were signs the gambling market had started to recover. While Auckland gaming machine revenue has been a shining light, SkyCity has not been so lucky with table games in Auckland. Revenue for the year was down 5.6%, mainly through a fall from second-tier upmarket gamblers - a group mainly made up of New Zealand punters. Morrison admitted these customers had not been well served and would benefit from some of the new capital developments. Results across the Tasman have been mixed. In Adelaide operating profits were up 8.9% to $34 million, due in part to cost-cutting and a 5.6% increase in revenue from table games. Morrison said Adelaide achieved pleasing growth despite the challenging retail environment in Australia. Results for Darwin were "disappointing" with an 8 per cent fall in slot machine revenue contributing to an overall drop of 3.1% to $112.5 million. Operating profits were down 10.7%. Morrison said the high value of the Australian dollar meant more Australians had travelled overseas and fewer had visited the Northern Territory, where the local economic recovery was expected to be slow. SkyCity's Hamilton casino operating profits were up 4.2%, buoyed by the local dairy sector, with gaming machines up 9.6%. Christchurch casino was closed from February 22 to May 27 while it was inside a cordon, but its proximity to the quake-hit city's closed-off red zone continued to hurt revenue. SkyCity announced a $15 million write-off of the value of its 50% stake in the casino from $89 million to $74 million. Morrison said capital expenditure in Auckland had been a major boost for its flagship casino, with $60 million on upgraded gambling facilities and several additional bars and restaurants. He said the improvements, including a new rooftop development opening at the end of month, were reinvesting the return from the sale of SkyCity's cinema interests 18 months ago. SkyCity Entertainment's half-year dividend of 8c brings the annual dividend to 16c a share, representing 70% of net profit. 60% was imputed at 28% with the payment date on October 7. Make no mistake, SkyCity Group are in the money! New Zealand Poker Tour Queenstown...

Press Release: SKYCITY
17 August 2011 New Zealand Poker Tour Queenstown - SKYCITY Snowfest only days away!

With the 2011 New Zealand Poker Tour (NZPT) Queenstown - SKYCITY Snowfest poker tournament only days away, Queenstown is preparing for the arrival of poker players from across New Zealand, Australia and beyond.

The tournament takes place at SKYCITY Queenstown Casino from 22 – 28 August 2011. Big name poker players including Joe Hachem, who is the regions only World Poker Champion will be hitting the felt during the tournament and hitting the slopes in the off days.

Well over half the seats for this great tournament have been snapped up, with some seats remaining, so hurry to ensure your place in New Zealand's most exciting poker tournament this year.

The NZPT Queenstown - SKYCITY Snowfest will provide a week long poker extravaganza for visiting players with an expected total prize pool of $540,000 NZD* in the $3,000 NZD buy-in Main Event.

Participation in this event will be capped at 200 players, so quick registration is advised to avoid disappointment.

To register for the tournament or for more information visit or go to

*Based on full participation of 200 entrants

New Zealand's Sky City Year Profit Up, Expects Growth...

New Zealand's largest casino operator Sky City Entertainment Group Ltd. reported a 4% rise in full year net profit on Wednesday, and said earnings were showing signs of improving further. The top-10 company said earnings had lifted in the second half and it was already showing further growth in the early stages of the new fiscal year. "With Rugby World Cup upon us in less than a month and our Auckland flagship property in great shape, we are excited and optimistic about the future," chief executive Nigel Morrison said in a statement. Sky City made a net profit of NZ$123 million ($103 million) in the year ended June 30, compared with a NZ$102 million profit the year before. The prior year's result was hit by tax changes but also offset by a NZ$10 million gain on the sale of its cinema chain, resulting in a normalised figure of NZ$129 million. The current year's normalised profit was NZ$131 million. In February it said it expected to report a net profit in line with last year, and a survey of seven analysts forecast a net profit of NZ$128.9 million. Sky City declared a dividend of 8 cents per share, compared with 9.5 cents per share last year. Shares in Sky City closed on Tuesday at NZ$3.51 having gained around 5 percent so far this year, compared with a fall of nearly 1% fall in the benchmark NZSX-50 index. Morrison said the company had had a good second half and this had been reflected in the earnings for Auckland and the main Australian establishment in Adelaide. He said NZ$50 million has been spent on upgrading Auckland to attract Asian visitors and high stakes gamblers and this was expected to bolster revenue in the current year. Adelaide's earnings had increased for a third consecutive year despite mixed consumer activity. Sky was prepared to invest further in the complex depending on the outcome of new gaming laws in South Australia. Sky City owns or has an interest in four casinos in New Zealand, where a ban on new casinos has given it dominance. In addition to Adelaide and Sky operates in Darwin in Australia, where it competes with Tabcorp and Crown Ltd. On Aug. 3 the board of Sky City said it had selected Chris Moller to be its next chairman, replacing Rod McGeoch when he retires at the next annual meeting. In November the company said it had made a cash offer to buy out the 50 percent in the Christchurch Casino it did not already own but had been rebuffed.

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.

Casino Operator Melco Eyes '$600M Hong Kong Float'...

Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment plans to raise up to $600 million in a Hong Kong share sale later this year, a report said, as operators continue to bet on the Asian gaming hub.
Melco, a joint venture between Lawrence Ho, son of gaming mogul Stanley Ho, and Australian entertainment tycoon James Packer, would launch its offering in the fourth quarter, Dow Jones Newswires reported, citing an unnamed source. The casino operator, already listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, plans to raise between $400 million and $600 million in the southern Chinese financial hub, Dow Jones said. Melco Crown said Thursday it had applied for a Hong Kong listing, but did not say how much it planned to raise or when the flotation would go ahead. In June, the firm said it would pay $360 million for a controlling stake in a new gaming resort call Macau Studio City, its second in the gaming hub. Melco said it will spend $1.7 billion developing the 2,000-room resort, with construction starting as early as next year to meet a 2015 completion target. Its listing plans come after MGM China Holdings, a casino firm jointly owned by US-based MGM Resorts International and Stanley Ho's daughter Pansy, listed in Hong Kong in June after raising about $1.5 billion. US rivals Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts have also listed their Macau units in nearby Hong Kong. Macau, the world's biggest gaming hub and the only place in China where casinos are legal, drew $23.5 billion in gaming revenue last year, outpacing the Las Vegas Strip four-fold.

Casino And Gaming Share Prices...

Symbol Company $AUD

CWN Crown Limited 8.280
EGP Echo Entertainment Group 3.860
RCT Reef Casino Trust 1.75
TAH Tabcorp Holdings Limited 3.240

BPTY Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment 1.15 GBP
PLS Paddy Power plc 33.04 EUR

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

If you have a bet, please do so responsibly and bet with your head, not over it, and most importantly, have fun.

*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. Media Man also publishes Media Man News

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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