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03 November 2012

Australian gaming, casino and property wars; James Packer, Crown Limited, Barangaroo...

Australian gaming, casino and property wars; James Packer, Crown Limited; Barangaroo, Zynga, Marvel Entertainment - Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment and much more from 'Sin City' and the land down under...

The Media Man agency has another look at the world famous Australian casino wars.

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Shareholders approve Murdoch buyout of Australia's CMH...

Shareholders in James Packer's majority-owned Consolidated Media Holdings on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of a US$2 billion takeover by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited.

The deal will see News, the Australian arm of News Corp, emerge with 50 percent control of Foxtel, the country's biggest pay TV operator, and all of Fox Sports. Telecommunications giant Telstra holds the other half of Foxtel.

"At the meeting held today CMH shareholders approved the scheme of arrangement... under which News Pay TV Financing Pty Ltd, a 100 percent owned subsidiary of News Corporation, will acquire all of the shares in CMH," the subscription TV-focused media firm said in a statement.

CMH said 90.13 percent of shareholders present or voting by proxy at the meeting voted in favour of the deal, with 99.91 percent of all votes cast in favour.

It will be taken to the Federal Court of Australia on Friday for formal assent and lodged with the securities regulator the same day, with the intention that trading in CMH's shares cease by the end of that day.

CMH said the deal, which has already been cleared by the competition and investment regulators, was expected to be implemented on November 19.

The Aus$3.45-per-share deal was in little doubt given CMH's largest shareholders -- James Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings (50 percent) and Kerry Stokes' Seven Group Holdings (25 percent) -- had already indicated their approval.

Seven had wanted to mount a rival bid but it was knocked back by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It will be the first time in a century that the Packer family will have no media interests in Australia, apart from a small stake in the Ten Network.

For News Corp, the takeover is its most significant investment in pay television since its bid to buy out British Sky Broadcasting broke down.

Consolidated Media chairman John Alexander told shareholders ahead of the vote, which was held in Perth, that board members unanimously supported the takeover.

"I think that when you get an offer which basically makes overwhelming sense -- and our two biggest shareholders thought it made overwhelming sense, the independent expert thought it made overwhelming sense -- you have to act in the best interests of shareholders," Alexander was quoted in The Australian newspaper as saying after the meeting.

Consolidated Media Holdings was formed when Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd, founded by Packer's grandfather Frank and run by his father Kerry, a one-time arch-rival to Murdoch, changed its name in 2007.

Since Kerry's death in 2005, billionaire Packer has been moving away from the family's traditional media business and focusing on creating a worldwide gambling empire.

He has casino interests in Australia and Macau, the world's biggest gaming hub, and is pushing to build Sydney's second casino as part of a huge gambling and hotel development on the harbour foreshore.


Critics slam approval process for Packer casino...

Critics of James Packer's plan to build a second Sydney casino say the billionaire has had a free ride through the planning approvals process.

The New South Wales Government and Opposition have both thrown their support behind the project, which would see a high-rollers' haven built at the northern end of the CBD - right on Sydney Harbour.

Mr Packer thanked both the Liberal and the Labor parties for their support.

But current and former politicians are questioning why the community apparently had no say in approving the development.

Mr Packer already owns Crown in Melbourne, the casino in Perth, and has a large stake in BetFair. He also has casino interests in London, Las Vegas and Macau.

The proposal for the Barangaroo site in Sydney is a little different, in that mug punters will not be allowed in through the front door.

"We don't want a customer that can't afford to be there," Mr Packer told a business dinner.

"There's a lot of people out there who can afford it and who you're selling adrenalin to, and they're happy to pay for that experience."

'Appalling process' Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the city's people have been locked out of the approvals process, and it has been too easy for Mr Packer.

"I think if Australians, if ordinary punters want to go to the casino they should be able to," she said.

"I think the process is appalling. This is a site, it's public land, it's probably one of the most important sites in Australia, it is harbour-side, adjacent to the global city of Australia, and yet there's no consultation.

"The Government knows that before it came to office... there was real concern in the Sydney community about the process that the previous Labor government had gone through, and they came in saying that they were going to do it differently.

"And here we have a situation, this major, major development where there's no tendering and there is no public consultation and it's all been done behind closed doors and it's been done by both the major parties to Jamie Packer.

"I just think the people of Sydney will be appalled by what is going on."

Crown predicts when it is finished, the casino complex could inject $400 million into the local economy and support 1,400 jobs.

But former federal opposition leader John Hewson says whichever way you look at it, the approval looks bad.

"Perception is the problem here, people perceive that Packer's bulldozed this through," he said.

Wealth and power

Current Greens MP John Kaye went further, saying the integrity of the political process was being undermined.

"Mr Packer's wealth and Mr Packer's power has given him an easy access to the second stage of the O'Farrell Government's process," he said.

"There will be no public consultation on whether we have a second casino or not, that's now a done deal, with four parties in the New South Wales Upper House signing off on it.

"At least there should have been a debate."

Mr Hewson dealt with the late Kerry Packer during the tender process for Sydney's first casino.

On ABC Local radio recently, he was scathing in his assessment of the latest approvals process - especially of James Packer's assumption he would win any tender process.

"I think that's the height of arrogance and I think it pre-judges the processes of government," Mr Hewson said.

"It's not clear to me that an international gaming group wouldn't have been an effective competitor, we don't know that.

"We've been told it wouldn't apply but we don't know that.

"It reminds me of his father telling me in pretty colourful language that you know the country doesn't need pay TV, but if we have to have pay TV I'm going to own it.

"And it's that sort of arrogance, there's sort of two sets of rules, one for the Packers and one for the rest of us."

But there is a long way to go before anyone starts building anything. This is the first approval in a three-stage process.

Still to come is a tick-off by a Government-appointed panel and a design competition for the six-star hotel.



Australian casino king James Packer defends Sydney casino bid process; Entering virgin territory...



Tycoon James Packer has defended the way he and the New South Wales Government have gone about securing a second Sydney casino at a new harbour-side development.

Recently the New South Wales Government gave a preliminary tick of approval for the casino-hotel proposal at the Barangaroo site.

The Government says any new casino will not be allowed to start operation until 2019 because of an exclusivity arrangement with Star Casino.

And the project will not go out to tender - although Mr Packer insists he would have won any tender had it been conducted.

Recently Packer told a business dinner in Sydney that he was not just interested in making money, but wanted to build something "special" on the site at Barangaroo.

"I spent a lot of time in casinos as a kid with my dad, and I ended up thinking, f***, this must be a good business," he said.

"My dad was a lot smarter than I am and a lot more successful than I'll ever be, but he got his adrenalin rushes from going to a casino.

"That's the customer that we want. And there are a lot people out there who can afford it, and who you're selling adrenalin to, and they're happy to pay for that experience."

Mr Packer and his gaming company Crown Limited are having an especially good run of luck.

He says the latest project has been given the preliminary tick not because of lobbying, but because it is a really good idea.

This is more than just about money for me. My dad was a larger-than-life figure and I think this is my chance to do something that is special.

"The Labor Party and the Liberal Party were prepared to look at this – or the Labor Party especially – in a bipartisan manner and Premier O'Farrell was willing to say 'let's just do it'," he said.

"There's three stages, and we've got to get through stages two and three ... Premier O'Farrell's made it very clear that we're not done and I don't think we're done, we're a long way from done, but we've had a very good day."

Mr Packer also defended his decision not to wait for a competitive tender process.

"The unsolicited proposal legislation was designed for good ideas and this is a good idea and we took advantage of the legislation that was in place," he said.

"So I think frankly if there was a tender it would be very hard to see how we wouldn't have won it."

So far, the gaming venue has been touted as one that would lure high rollers, especially international tourists, and it would not have pokies.

But Mr Packer says that could change.

"This is not an economic no-brainer," he said.

"You know, there has never been a casino in the world built for a billion dollars without slot machines.

"So we're entering virgin territory, and we're sitting there and saying we'll wait until 2019, as we should."

At the same time as promising to give Sydney an economic kickstart, he says he wants to be the one to leave a legacy in keeping with his father's.

"This is more than just about money for me," he said.

"I am a great believer in Sydney, this country has been incredibly kind to my family, this city has been incredibly kind to my family.

"My dad was a larger-than-life figure and I think this is my chance to do something, you know, that is special."


CALIFORNIA ONLINE POKER ASSOCIATION COLLAPSES...

They certainly had noble intentions, but the ride is over for the California Online Poker Association after several million dollars spend and a handful of failed legislative bills caused the organisation to cease its lobbying efforts.

COPA had poured a lot of money into ensuring that online poker was both legalised and regulated in the state, but after spending $1.2 million on its efforts in the first half of 2012 alone without making any headway, it was decided that the group must fold.

Despite outspending companies like Chevron and the California Teachers Association, COPA’s two-year run saw a handful of proposed bills fall through the legislative cracks as interest dissipated or the state could not agree on the financial rewards for those who were involved.

COPA’s operating agreement had stated that the organisation would dissolve if significant progress had not been made by January 2013, but the decision was made to pull the plug ahead of schedule earlier this month, with Ryan Hightower, the group’s spokesman, confirming: “The decision was based upon insufficient progress within the legislature towards the passage of an online poker bill.”

The San Manuel and Morongo tribe who had affiliated themselves with COPA, however, are not giving up the fight just yet and have stated that they believe it is only a matter of time before online gambling happens in California. If legislation does change after 2013’s proceedings, don’t be surprised to see the efforts of COPA and its partners reassessed in light of the new online climate.



Marvel Entertainment Movies: Amazing Spider-Man, Thor 2, The Avengers Et Al Boost Popularity Of Marvel Slot Games...

The Media Man agency reports that Marvel themed online slot games across the network, and featured at partner, PartyCasino.com , are boosting the popularity of the superhero themed online slot games. Bwin.Party currently offers The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, with more expected to soon hit the popular gaming and entertainment website destination.



Zynga partners with bwin.party to offer real-money gaming...



Social gaming giant Zynga has signed a partnership agreement with bwin.party digital entertainment to launch real-money poker and casino offerings for the UK market.

'Bringing together Zynga's expertise in social gaming with the top international real money gaming operator is the best way to create the highest quality gaming experiences for our players in the UK,' said Barry Cottle, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Business Development, Zynga. 'Partnering with an established leader like bwin.party is a strategic and prudent way for us to enter a key RMG market while giving local players the real money games they've been asking us for.'

The new real-money poker and 180 game casino suite are set to launch in the first half of 2013 and will include table games such as slots, roulette and blackjack. Zynga also revealed that it will also offer UK players the first-ever, online FarmVille-branded real money slots game.

'Today's announcement is another example of our success in leveraging our assets through strategic blue-chip partners,' said Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, Co-CEOs of bwin.party. 'Zynga is the world's leader in social games with hundreds of millions of active players worldwide and a significant player base in the UK. We are delighted to have been selected as their chosen partner for this important step in their evolution, and hope to expand our relationship into other products and markets.'

*Media Man is a shareholder in Crown Limited, Network Ten and Virgin

*Media Man has conducted b2b with Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, Crown Limited, Virgin Enterprises Limited and Marvel Entertainment

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