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23 November 2012

Australian and international gaming, business and interactive entertainment news

Australian and international gaming, business and interactive entertainment news: Crown Limited; Echo Entertainment, IGT, Virgin Games, Aussie Millions, Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, WWE, THQ, Marvel Entertainment, Disney, Warner Bros and more...Media Man reports


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Contender in Echo Entertainment CEO race drops out: report...


An undisclosed senior United States casino executive has emerged as the frontrunner to replace departing Echo Entertainment Group Ltd chief executive Larry Mullin after frontrunner Grant Bowie reportedly pulled out of the selection process, according to News Limited owned newspaper The Australian.

The New Zealand-raised Mr Bowie is president of US giant MGM Grand's Macau operations, and was seen as an ideal candidate given his record in Australia while working with Park Place Entertainment and Asian experience.

With Mr Mullin set to depart the company January 31, Echo is expected to name his replacement by the end of the year.

Marina Bay Sands casino head Andrew MacDonald and Skycity Entertainment's Nigel Morrison had been named as candidates, and the leading internal candidate is Echo chief financial officer Matt Bekler, according to The Australian newspaper.


IGT debuts trio of mobile slots...

American computerised gaming equipment and systems designer and manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) has released mobile versions for three of its most popular slots.

Las Vegas-based IGT stated that Elvis: A Little More Action, Wolf Run and Kitty Glitter have been ‘optimised for the industry’s fastest growing sector’ and are now ready for users of iOS and Android-enabled smartphones and tablet devices to enjoy via its remote game server Casino series.

“The size of the mobile market is expanding by the day and a selection of superior branded content and consistently high performing games helps make IGT a driving force behind this growth,” said Leigh Nissim, Interactive Commercial Director for IGT. “Choosing the right casino game supplier in the world of mobile gaming is crucial [and] our experience, expertise and compliance record at IGT is second to none.”

Elvis: A Little More Action is a 50-payline slot with stacked wilds that features audio from one of Elvis Presley’s most recognisable tunes, A Little Less Conversation. It also offers players up to 255 free spins via its Free Spins Bonus. IGT described the 40-payline Wolf Run and the 30-payline Kitty Glitter slots as two of its ‘all-time best performers’ and revealed that the mobile new versions come complete with the titles’ expected free spins bonuses.


Three New Games Launch on Virgin Mobile Casino...

Virgin Games, the leading online gaming company, has today announced the release of three new mobile games - Elvis, Kitty Glitter and Wolf Run. All are by leading game developer, IGT, and will be available exclusively at Virgin Mobile Casino.

Virgin Mobile Casino, which now accounts for more than 10 per cent of Virgin Games' gross revenue, was launched in December of 2011 to offer a range of slots, table and instant win games. It currently has content partnerships with both IGT and Microgaming, with the intention of introducing additional partners later down the line in order to offer the same variety and choice through the Mobile app as customers experience at the web based Casino.

Joshua Morris, Commercial Director at Virgin Games, commented: "The three latest mobile games to be added to Virgin Mobile Casino continue the trend of bringing our best games from the web onto mobile. We are already seeing 10% of our gross revenues come from Mobile in less than a year since launch and with the addition of top titles such as those launched today we are strengthening our position as a multi-game aggregator."

Virgin Games has attached its single wallet system to the new mobile product, meaning its players use the same account to play at Virgin Casino, Virgin Bingo, Virgin Poker and now mobile casino. Customers can register, manage their account, play for bonuses, deposit and withdraw seamlessly, whether they are on the web or on the move. Launched in 2004, Virgin Games is one of the UK's leading online gaming sites.


Aussie Millions Poker Tournament coming up...

The Aussie Millions (Jan 17th – 3rd Feb): Held at the awesome Crown Casino, the average temperature in Melbourne in January is about 26 degrees. Not only that the tournament runs at the same time as the Australian Open Tennis. Sweet!


PKR Gains Five Millionth User; 3-D Online Poker Room Hits Milestone After Seven Years...

PKR, the 3-D online poker room, has registered its five millionth user. The website was launched in 2006.

Simon Prodger, marketing director for the company, said, “We’re delighted to hit this major milestone, and we look forward to continuing to welcome more and more poker players from around the world to PKR.

“We have a range of marketing initiatives and product developments scheduled for launch in 2013 that we’re sure will continue to grow the PKR brand, including new TV advertising campaigns and the eagerly-awaited launch of our first mobile poker product.”

The company, which is hosting the upcoming World Poker Tour Dublin event, recently told the E-Gaming Review newsroom that it had launched a seven figure investment prospectus.

PKR told the industry magazine it had been unofficially searching for an investor for two years and it was not ruling out a sale.


Crown Limited sweet tax deal?

In Australia, Crown Ltd.’s controversial ‘unsolicited proposal’ to build a second casino in Sydney won’t be of much benefit to the taxpayer, according to ex Citigroup analyst and current independent research consultant Jenny Owen. Crown’s plan is for an international VIP-focused casino, meaning the applicable tax rate would be 10%, about one-third the rate applied to other gambling revenue, like most of the action going on down the street at Sydney’s existing casino, The Star. Ms. Owen told the Sydney Morning Herald this made for "a very attractive business model, certainly one that I would have thought would go to public tender and should attract a reasonably significant license premium. Clearly that doesn’t appear to be the case.". Time will tell as "It sure looks like the casino - hotel will be going ahead" according to a Media Man gaming spokesperson.


Online Gaming Execs Respond to Detention of bwin.party CEO...

Leaders of the world’s top online gaming firms are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. In response to last Tuesday’s detainment of bwin.party co-CEO Norbert Teufelberger in Brussels, Belgium, 14 executives from 12 internet gambling companies penned a public letter to the Financial Times saying that enough is enough when it comes to European Union (EU) countries ignoring EU law.

To recap, Teufelberger was set to make the closing remarks at Responsible Gaming Day, put on by the European and Betting and Gaming Association (EGBA), of which he is Chairman, when he was detained by Belgian police. The authorities reportedly kept him for two hours (he was allowed to make his speech first), questioning him about bwin.party’s activities in Belgium.

bwin.party has found itself on the short end of extremely strict Belgian gaming regulations, which, among other things, require online poker operators to have a brick-and-mortar presence in the country in order to be granted an online gaming license. Only six operators – PokerStars.be, Poker770.be, Partouche.be, Win2day, GoldenPalace.be, and Unibet – have received licensed. To make matters worse, some of bwin.party’s websites have been put on the Belgian Gaming Commission’s (BGC) blacklist. Despite the blacklist status, bwin.party has continued to operate in Belgium.

While Belgium’s regulations may be cut and dry, they are not without controversy. bwin.party, as well as other gaming companies and organizations, feel they run contrary to EU law and have been fighting them for several years.

Norbert Teufelberger himself was one of the 14 executives to sign the letter to the Financial Times, along with co-CEO Jim Ryan. The others were:

Michael Carlton – CEO, Victor Chandler International Denise Coates and John Coates – Joint CEOs, bet365 St├ęphane Courbit – President, Betclic Everest Group Canel Frichet – CEO, Winamax Noel Hayden – Managing Director, Gamesys Denis Kelly – CEO, Stan James Brian Mattingly – CEO, 888 Holdings Andrew McIver – CEO, Sportingbet Magnus Silfverberg – CEO, Betsson Ralph Topping – CEO, William Hill Ed Ware – CEO, 32Red

In the letter, which was posted at FT.com, the executives expressed their resentment towards both the EU Belgian law enforcement, saying, “While the Belgian authorities are free to intimidate Europe’s leading online gaming groups with threats about the consequences of challenging their domestic gambling laws, the European Commission has yet to receive an answer to its own concerns regarding the regulatory regime in Belgium that have remained unresolved since issuing its detailed opinion back in 2009.”

The letter reminded the Financial Times’ readers of the complaints against Belgium two years ago, quoting the head of the European Commission, Michel Barnier, from 2010 , “’…ensuring compliance of national law with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) is a prerequisite of a successful EU policy on online gambling…if blatant infringements persist, I will not hesitate to propose to my colleagues that the appropriate proceedings be taken or relaunched.’”

The letter concluded, “We hope that the commission will now enforce compliance with the European treaty and do so swiftly. Countries such as Belgium and Greece that are in clear breach of EU law and that are seeking to enforce those laws domestically are likely to be at the top of the list. The time for polite rhetoric is now over. It is time for deeds not words.” (Poker News Daily)

THQ being sued by tattoo artist...

Chris Escobedo, creator and owner of Elite Tattoo, has sued THQ because one of his tattoos has been used by the developer in their game, UFC Undisputed 3 without his consent.

His tattoo, a lion, has been used on the arms of current welterweight champion of UFC Carlos Condit in the game. Escobedo claims that THQ never came to him to seek permission to use the tattoo in the game.

People often believe that they own the images that are tattooed on them by tattoo artists,” said Escobedo’s lawyer Maria Crimi. “In reality, the owner of the tattoo artwork is the creator of the work, unless there is a written assignment of the copyright in the tattoo art.”

Escobedo said: “I would not have agreed to the recreation of the tattoo by an animator.”

Well, it certainly is a violation of the copyrights, as silly as it may seem.

"WWE ’13" receives rave reviews from video game gurus..

“WWE ’13,” available in stores now, gives WWE fans the most seamless, realistic and exciting WWE video game experience to date. With the new addition of WWE Live, enhanced Predator Technology and an enormous Creation Suite and talent roster based on the Attitude Era, it’s no surprise that “WWE ’13” is a hit with reviewers. Look at what some of the leading reviewers have to say about “WWE ’13” and pick up your copy today!

IGN Review score: 8.4 out of 10 “At its core, ‘WWE ’13’ continues last year’s legacy with already solid gameplay refined via a few new moves. Aptly named OMG Moments let you tackle opponents through barricades and break the ring with top-rope suplexes, while the creation suite has been slightly upgraded with improved arena types that should facilitate better community creations.” (MORE)

Game Informer Review score: 9 out of 10 “I’ve always pointed to 2000’s WWE No Mercy as the best wrestling game I’ve ever played, but nostalgia is certainly a factor in that. After playing ‘WWE ’13,’ I’m hard pressed to think of a more enjoyable and complete wrestling game in history.”

Official XBOX Magazine Review score: 8 out of 10 “Of particular note is the game’s superb single-player experience, which should serve as the foundation for all future endeavors. If anything, the smart objective design and use of archival WWE footage makes us want more.”

AtomicGamer Review score: 8 out of 10

Bleacher Report Review score: 8 out of 10

Canadian Online Gamers Review score: 85/100

Click Online Review score: 4.5 out of 5

GamesBeat Review score: 86/100

GamesRadar Review score: 4 out of 5

IRB Gamer Review score: 4.5 out of 5

PlayStation Official Magazine – UK Review score: 80/100

RTV Review Score: 4 out of 5

TotallyGN Review score: 8 out of 10

Disney honors Black Friday in Avengers Alliance, Gardens of Time et al...

When it comes to the biggest shopping day of the year, Disney ain't playin' no games ... or something like that. The company's social gaming arm has lots planned for Black Friday in its most popular Facebook games, namely a number of enticing deals for in-game boosts and items for Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Gardens of Time, Ghosts of Mistwood and Blackwood & Bell Mysteries.

Each game will offer reduced prices on in-game currency in addition to specific offers for in-game goodies. Here's the list of the delectable deals straight from Disney and Playdom:

Marvel: Avengers Alliance: Starting Nov. 23, Mockingbird will be on sale for all players until Nov. 26. Mockingbird was originally only available as the ultimate reward for achieving 15 mastery stars in the first Special Operation, but starting on Black Friday, players will have four days to recruit this secretive S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent from the Heroes section and get her before she is gone.

Ghosts of Mistwood: From Black Friday through Cyber Monday on Nov. 26, the hit Facebook game, Ghosts of Mistwood, will be having a special Black Friday bundle sale to help players solve the mysteries of Mistwood Estate. Players can gobble up lantern oil, coins, special ingredients and a Limited Special Stardust Relic for a limited time in the Market and at a festive price.

Gardens of Time: For Disney Social Games' super sales weekend, Gardens of Time players will be able to purchase any of the in-game gold decoration items at a discount when sending them to their friends. That's over 100 items discounted for this offer.

Blackwood and Bell & Threads of Mystery: Two more amazing hidden object games from Disney Social Games, Blackwood and Bell & Threads of Mystery, will be having sales on in game gold. Players need to head on over to take advantage of these limited time Black Friday Sales.


Tolkien's estate sues over Hobbit gambling games...

JRR Tolkien's estate is suing the makers of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies for allegedly overstepping their merchandising rights by making gambling games based on the books' characters.

Tolkien's family and publisher HarperCollins are suing Warner Brothers, its subsidiary New Line Cinema and Saul Zaentz for $80 million.

In papers filed in a Los Angeles court, they accuse the defendants of copyright infringement and breach of contract.

They say the companies are entitled to develop and sell only tangible merchandise such as clothes, figurines and stationery, not downloadable video and gambling games.

The Tolkien estate has asked for an injunction on such products, which it claims have caused irreparable damage to the author's legacy and reputation.

"Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of defendants' rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works," the lawsuit stated. The suit claimed Warner Brothers has earned millions of dollars from legal merchandise licensing revenue related to The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, which have grossed nearly $3 billion at the global box office.

Representatives for Warner Brothers, Tolkien's estate and HarperCollins were not immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit comes a week ahead of the New Zealand premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a new trilogy of films returning to Tolkien's world of elves, goblins and wizards of Middle Earth, based on the Lord of the Rings prequel novel, The Hobbit.


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