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02 February 2012

Entertainment, Gaming, Casino And Celeb And Movie News Update - 2nd February 2012


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Lyric Theatre At The Star In Sydney To Get 'An Officer and a Gentlemen'...

Riding on the success of live musicals, The Star, currently host to 'Annie', will be presenting the world famous 'An Officer And A Gentlemen' from 18th May.

Based on the hugely successful Academy Award-winning film, this new production has been adapted for the stage. A rich and satisfying story that has endured for generations, An Officer & A Gentleman is a modern day love story.

Star casino sacks top exec over sexual harassment claims...

The GM of The Star casino, Sid Vaikunta, has been terminated.

The chief executive of Echo Entertainment Group, Larry Mullin, said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange that "Mr Vaikunta's employment has ended after his behaviour in a work setting".

It is understood the statement refers to one of more incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The annoucement comes just weeks after The Star received a clean bill of health and had its licence renewed by the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority.

Mr Vaikunta has been replaced by Frederic Luvisutto, who joined The Star from Jupiters Gold Coast.

The Media Man agency and its Casino News Media offshoot wish Mr Luvisutto well in his new role.

WWE Wrestlers To Clean House At Sydney's Allphones Arena 31st August 2012; WWE Gets New Creative and Development VP...

Aussie pro wrestling fans - get ready to rumble with the one and only WWE as seen on Australia's Foxtel.

The world's best professional wrestlers aka "sports entertainers" are going to come down under again and ply their craft in front of some of the world's most passionate and knowledgeable wrestling fans.

WWE Gets New Creative Boss...

No, it's not about John Laurinaitis (Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Raw interim General Manager).

Ex Reveille and Warner Bros. exec Eric Pankowski has entered the ring at WWE as Senior Executive Vice President of creative and development.

Pankowski had joined Reveille in September as SVP of creative affairs, overseeing syndicated programming. In his new role with sports entertainment powerhouse, WWE, he will be responsible for all TV creative development, including reality and kids programming.

He will also manage WWE's creative writing teams and oversee the sale of programming to networks, studios and other distributors.

"No more bad storylines like what the world witnessed in the dying days of WCW please. WWE needs storylines for the times - as realistic and possible with a pro wrestling based product", a Media Man staffer was overheard.

"Eric is a creative veteran whose knowledge and experience will be a tremendous asset in both the creation of new WWE content as well as enhancing our core product," said WWE exec veep of creative Stephanie McMahon, to whom Pankowski will report.

Stephanie is the daughter of WWE founder and top brass, Vince McMahon.

Pankowski enjoyed 12 years at Warner Bros, culminating in his role as SVP of production company ParaMedia ("Lopez Tonight"). He has also been director of programming at Telepictures ("The Ellen DeGeneres Show").

Media Man and the existing WWE team wishes Eric Pankowski well in his new assignment and is looking forward to seeing results from his contribution.

Casinos Shares Get Boost...

Casino operators Crown and Tabcorp spinoff Echo Entertainment could increase revenue by billions of dollars if they manage to regain share of Asia's growing gambling market, according to a Citi report.

The report cited estimates by Australian tourism body, Tourism Australia, that the contribution by international tourists to Australian casino revenues had fallen from 12 per cent to 8 per cent since 2004, when rival markets opened in Macau, and more recently in Singapore.

"Australia's share of gaming revenue captured in the region of south-east Asia has fallen from 30 per cent to 9 per cent over the past five years," Citi gaming analyst Jenny Owen's report said.

Little wonder Crown Limited top brass James Packer has been so vocal as to the role that Australian land based casinos play in our tourism industry.

Crown and Echo are investing a combined $3.7 billion to entice mainly oriental clients to their casinos.

A 9 per cent share of the regional market would rocket Australian casino revenues to $3.73 billion this year from $3.43 billion in 2011, the report said.

It said that to give an example of the potential gain, a 15 per cent share of the regional market this year would equate to $5.63 billion in revenue for Australia's casinos.

This could add more than $188 million to earnings before interest and tax at Crown and $137 million at Echo, according to Citi, which based the numbers on last year's revenue share for the two firms.

Citi said Echo Entertainment was better positioned to reap any potential jackpot because its casinos were in more attractive tourism markets than Crown.

"Echo has more leverage in our view as Sydney outranks Melbourne as a preferred destination, and Brisbane and the Gold Coast outrank Perth," the report started.

The Media Man agency director owns shares in Crown Limited.

Problem gambling measures to proposed in Australia...

In Australia, the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that it plans to introduce new measures to tackle problem gambling including a provision that would limit the amount of money a player can withdraw from an in-venue cash machine to $250.

The government revealed that it will propose legislation in the next Parliamentary session that would also require all new poker machines manufactured from 2013 to be capable of supporting pre-commitment and link up with a state-controlled pre-commitment system from 2016.

“We will also continue to work on pre-commitment technology through the COAG Select Council on Gaming Reform,” read a statement from the Gillard Government.

“At this forum in May last year, state and territory gaming ministers agreed to support the required infrastructure for pre-commitment technology in all jurisdictions.

“The Gillard Government understands that many Australians enjoy gambling responsibly but for others it can have devastating consequences. Problem gambling ruins lives and that’s why in November of 2008 we asked the Productivity Commission to inquire into problem gambling in Australia.

“The Productivity Commission found that problem gambling affects up to five million Australians including friends, family and employers of people with a gambling problem. These far reaching impacts are why the Australian Government is delivering genuine long-lasting reforms to help problem gamblers and their families.”

Regarding online gambling, the Gillard Government is planning to introduce legislation that would further ban the promotion of live odds during sports coverage and extend pre-commitment to those offering wagering services over the Internet. There are also measures planned to ‘crack down on online sportsbetting companies offering credit’ and passing ‘stricter limits on betting inducements’ while increasing the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to enforce any new rules.

“The actions the Gillard Government is taking will be the most significant and far reaching national reforms to tackle problem gambling ever seen in this country,” read the statement from the Gillard Government.

Kerry Packer to be played by Lachy Hulme in Nine mini series...

The role of Kerry Packer will be played by actor Lachy Hulme in the Nine Network's mini-series focussing on the media and gambling tycoon's creation of World Series Cricket.

The Offspring and Hollowmen star will play the role instead of actor Rob Carlton.

Carlton was widely expected to reprise his role in the Nine mini-series after starring as Packer in ABC's acclaimed Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo last year.

However, The Sunday Telegraph reports that Carlton, who received an AACTA Award nomination for playing the mogul, was dumped in favour of Hulme after Nine Entertainment Co chief executive David Gyngell and producer John Edwards witnessed Hulme's audition tape.

Gyngell was reportedly "blown away" by Hulme's impersonation.

Carlton told The Sunday Telegraph: "I had a fantastic time on Paper Giants and was proud of the work I did."

"Obviously I was really looking forward to doing Kerry Packer with Channel Nine and I thought that's what we were all moving towards."

A potential sequel to Paper Giants is tipped for the ABC, however it's not known whether Carlton would reprise his role.

As well as being nominated, Carlton will also present at Tuesday's AACTA Awards which will be televised on Nine at 9:30pm.

Hulme will also star as miner Todd Russell in Nine's Beaconsfield telemovie which will air later this year, also produced by Edwards.

Howzat: The Kerry Packer Story will air later in the year.

Gina Rinehart becomes biggest Fairfax shareholder...

Australia's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, has become the largest shareholder in newspaper publisher Fairfax Media in what could become a play for control of the 181-year-old company.

Ms Rinehart, a mining industry billionaire, had acquired 12.8 per cent of the nation's second-largest newspaper company by late today.

This puts her ahead of Commonwealth Bank's 12.4 per cent, according to IG Markets analyst Chris Weston.

The news pushed Fairfax shares up 7.5 cents, or 10.14 per cent, to a three-month high at 81.5 cents.

Fairfax Media publishers The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review and owns a string of radio stations.

Ms Rinehart made her $192 million play at 81.77 cents a share - a 10.5 per cent premium to Tuesday's close - which has increased her stake from 4.9 per cent to just under the 15 per cent ownership limit under current government law.

While neither Ms Rinehart nor Fairfax would comment today, the move has been met by mixed responses elsewhere.

This includes concerns that Ms Rinehart wanted a board seat and influence over editorial content.

Media analyst Peter Cox said there was no way Ms Rinehart was buying into Fairfax as a major shareholder just for a financial investment.

"This has to be driven by her view on politics in Australia," Mr Cox said.

"What's the point of spending that money on it if you're not going to have influence?

"So, I think it's possible she'd want to go on, buy more shares, get greater control and end up as the effective controller of Fairfax."

Ms Rinehart's late father, Lang Hancock, was an investor in Western Australian newspapers The Sunday Independent and the National Miner.

Ms Rinehart, who chairs her privately owned mining company Hancock Prospecting, has been a vocal critic of the Gillard government's mineral resources rent tax (MRRT) and Labor's plan to put a price on carbon pollution.

EL&C Baillieu Stockbroking media analyst Ivor Ries said Ms Rinehart's move on Fairfax was high risk, given he doubted she could influence the board and he doubted that the company would ever return to its profitable heyday.

"She could just be being opportunistic ... she's enjoying the up cycle of mining, media is in a down cycle and she's buying it at the bottom to flip them out in 18 months to two years' time when the media cycle turns better," he said.

Ms Rinehart's personal wealth is believed to have recently doubled to about $20 billion through the sale of a 15 per cent stake in the Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia to South Korean corporate giant Posco.

That would mean her investment in Fairfax represents less than one per cent of her fortune, with Fairfax's complete market value only $1.7 billion.

Avatar's James Cameron plans New Zealand move...

James Cameron has snapped up more farmland near New Zealand's capital Wellington, not far from his Oscar-winning colleague Peter Jackson.

Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, two of the highest-grossing films in history, has bought more than 1,000 hectares in the Wairarapa region, around 80 kilometres north-east of Wellington, land information records show.

The area is renowned for its rolling coastal farmland used for beef, sheep and dairy farming, along with vineyards.

News media reports say he paid around $NZ20 million for the two separate properties.

The records show Cameron and his family, who currently live in Malibu, California, plan to "reside indefinitely" in New Zealand, and operate both properties as working farms.

Jackson, possibly New Zealand's most famous export after he directed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, owns a large estate about 20 kilometres away.

It boasts a 20-metre high castle built on an island in a lake, along with sets from his Oscar-winning films.

Jackson's next film, The Hobbit, the prequel to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, is due out later this year.

Cameron's property purchases have firmed expectations he will make large parts of two sequels to his 3D science-fiction epic Avatar in New Zealand.


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