Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crown Limited - James Packer keen on Barangaroo for Sydney casino complex, by Greg Tingle

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The Australian casino (or gaming) wars have got to a whole new level. It's Packer's Crown VS Echo Entertainment in an almost 'State Of Origin' type battle for the bulk of Australia's land based casinos. One that will take place in a boardroom, rather than on a football field, but make no mistake - it's war.

A takeover war is hovering over the head of Echo Entertainment...the owner of Sydney's The Star casino...as James Packer yesterday made an audacious bid to be represented on the company's board.

The Star has been recently embattled in a scandal regarding inappropriate behaviour of a former director, so its all very interesting timing, and perhaps sees them in a weak position at the moment. Channel Seven is also planning follow up stories on The Star, and to Joe Blogs the casino does like a bit like a soft target right now.

Mr Packer's Crown yesterday fired off a missile more than doubling its stake in The Star's owner to the current 10 per cent maximum it is allowed to hold. Crown also applied to NSW and Queensland authorities for permission to go above the 10 per cent cap: prompting talk Mr Packer wants to in fact take over Echo.

This is understood to be the big move in plans to build a land based casino at Sydney's Barangaroo.

In paperwork sent off to Mr Packer yesterday, Echo Entertainment chairman John Story rejected Mr Packer's board bid.

Mr Packer told Rupert Murdock owned The Daily Telegraph he was "disappointed" in the reaction: "This is a good synergy for both companies, and today's rise in Echo's share price shows that the market thinks so as well," he said.

Mr Story's letter to Mr Packer stated in part: "The board believes that it is inappropriate for a Crown nominee to be appointed to the board as Crown is a competitor organisation. Accordingly, we will not agree to your request."

There have been some signs of an unhealthy business relationship between the two outfits in the lead-up to yesterday's announcement by Crown.

One source of tension has been Echo's constitution, which details a cap preventing any one party from having "voting power" of more than 10 per cent of Echo. Late last year, senior Packer advisor Guy Jalland let loose an attack on Echo's shareholder limit, describing it as a "poison pill" that was not in the interests of the company's shareholders.

Key sharemarket analysts have tabled that Echo Entertainment is one of the market's most obvious takeover targets because of its strategic value to Crown - already a giant in the gaming sector in the Asia Pacific region.

The theory was tested in Echo shares yesterday, which leaped up 50 cents to $4.30 on the understanding that Mr Packer would now move forward a takeover bid.

There was also speculation yesterday that Crown may be looking for a slice of Echo's high-roller VIP "whale" business. The Star has improved its performance in the "whaling" sector since its relaunch late last year.

Packer has torpedos and plenty of bait to snare in Echo. Echo's original "whales" will help with Packer's bottom line net profit, and further helps cement his place as one of the world's real big fish casino moguls. Echo is a touch on the nose at the moment, thanks to the scandal that rocked their boat and captain Packer and his loyal shipmates look poised to go in for the kill.

Will it be ships ahoy, fair winds or man overboard? Stay tuned as the Media Man agency continues to probe to probe the murky waters of the Australian casino wars.


James Packer planning $1.5bn casino investment...

Crown Limited plans to spend more than $1.5 billion on building new luxury hotels in Sydney and Perth, after boosting its investment in rival casino operator Echo Entertainment, Crown's executive chairman James packer advised The Australian Financial Review.

Mr Packer's plan to expand the Crown chain beyond Melbourne is part of a campaign to attract wealthy Chinese gamblers aka "Oriental whale VIP high rollers" to Australia's shores, he told the newspaper.

“Australia needs to have truly world-class hotels,” he said, acknowledging that regulators would probably raise competition concerns.

“I want to build one in Perth and one in Sydney to go with what we have in Melbourne. It puts these cities on the map."

Mr Packer's comments come after Crown spent more than $250 million lifting its stake in Echo, which owns The Star casino in Sydney, and Jupiters on the Gold Coast, to 10 per cent, from 4.9 per cent previously.

Echo rejected Mr Packer's call for representation on the company's board.

*the writer is an investor in Crown Limited, Network Ten and Virgin Enterprises

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PartyPoker: Online Poker News - Maximus Pointus March! The Gladiator returns to the arena

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Daily targets now start at just one point - new elite targets for most dedicated

Starts: 00:00 ET on 1st March, 2012
Ends: 23:59 ET on 31st March, 2012

Step into the arena for a month of exciting poker action where you could emerge with prizes fit for a champion. The minimum daily points target is just one point – so all you have to do to receive your first reward is to hit the minimum daily points target for a period of five days. The first reward you could claim is a much-deserved entry into a $500 freeroll.

The more days you earn points on, the bigger your prize. There’s up to $4,000 in cash to be won and anyone who wins a cash prize will also claim a seat in a $25,000 freeroll, giving you even more chances to win.

Finally, we've added a massive incentive for the most dedicated players. Earn 1,200 points on 30 days and you’ll win a WPT package worth $8,000 which you can use for the event of your choice. With March having 31 days, you have an extra day's rest — vital for those dedicated to reaching the very top prizes.

Gibraltar – 23rd February 2012 – ‘The Gladiator’ returns to PartyPoker.com for the month of March and, as ever, only the strongest survive in the online colosseum! In new twists, however, the popular promotion is more accessible than ever with the daily points target now starting at just one point - as well as more appealing to those who want to play a lot with ambitious new targets for the most dedicated players.

A PartyPoker.com spokesman said: “The promotion has been adapted with the most frequent and infrequent players in mind. From the 1st – 31st March all players have to do is opt-in and hit the minimum daily points target of one point and the road to prizes start. With the minimum daily points target at just one point – all you have to do to receive your first reward is to hit the minimum daily points target for a period of five days. The first reward you could claim is a much-deserved entry into a $500 freeroll.”

“The premise of ‘The Gladiator,’ is simple, the more days you earn points on, the bigger your prize. There’s up to $4,000 in cash to be won and anyone who wins a cash prize will also claim a seat in a $25,000 freeroll, providing even more chances to win. We've also added a massive incentive for the most dedicated players. Earn 1,200 points on 30 days and you’ll win a WPT package worth $8,000 which you can use for a WPT Main Tour event of your choice. With March having 31 days, you have an extra day's rest — vital for those dedicated to reaching the very top prizes.”

“For the players that want to push themselves even harder there is an exclusive elite target. Players who earn 1,500 points on 40 days between 1st March and 15th April will win a huge $15,000 WSOP* package**.”

You don’t even have to earn points on consecutive days: we’ll just count up the number of days where you made the targets during the promotion.

For example, if you earn 10 points every day for 10 days, take five days off and then earn 10 points on 10 more days of the promotion, you’ll get the $15 cash prize for earning 10 points on 20 days and entry into the $25,000 freeroll.

Players can keep updated on how many points picked up so far in ‘The Gladiator’ by checking their PartyAccount. Points are not removed from player accounts following the promotion – they all count towards Palladium VIP targets. Step into the arena from 1st to 31st March for a month of exciting poker action where you could emerge with prizes fit for a champion.

*World Series of Poker"® and "WSOP"® are registered trademarks of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc. No license, affiliation, sponsorship or endorsement is claimed, or should be inferred from the use of these trademarks here. We are not licensed by or otherwise affiliated with Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc. or the World Series of Poker® in any way.


Shuffle Master to Buy Ongame Network...

American casino equipment manufacturer Shuffle Master is expected to purchase the Ongame Network from online gaming giant bwin.party, according to a report by the UK’s The Sunday Times. The move is likely being made by Shuffle Master as a way to position itself when and if online poker is legalized and regulated in the United States.

The Ongame Network has been on the auction block for a year, a casualty of bwin’s merger with Party Gaming last March 31st. The network was purchased back in 2005 by bwin for £474 million, but that was pre-UIGEA and pre-Black Friday, two dark days in online poker history that have significantly changed the valuation of Ongame. Now, the deal with Shuffle Master looks to be for a mere £13 million ($20 million). Prior to the completion of the bwin/Party union, a bwin spokesperson said that the Ongame Network was considered a “surplus asset” and that it was “no longer needed” by the combined company.

The Ongame Network currently ranks as the 6th largest online poker room network/room in terms of cash game players, according to PokerScout.com. With a seven day average of 2,150 players, it falls just behind PokerStars.it (2,250) and just ahead of Winamax.fr (2,100). PartyPoker, which has remained separate from Ongame, ranks 2nd with a seven day average of 4,750 cash game players.

The problem Shuffle Master will face, however, is that the Ongame Network will likely not be as large after the purchase as it is now, although that is probably reflected in the purchase price. The headline room of the network is bwin.com, whose customers will almost certainly stay with bwin.party after the sale. What remains to be seen is what will happen with the other rooms on the network, particularly Betfair, the best known room after bwin.

Shuffle Master is best known for its automated card shufflers, installed in gaming tables, including poker, in casinos all over the world. The company also operates Shuffle Interactive, a division which offers casino games on a variety of platforms, including PC, Mac, Facebook, iOS, and Android. The games can be licensed by online casinos.

Investment bank Roth Capital Partners said in a research note last week, “We view the interactive gaming opportunity as the most under-appreciated aspect of Shuffle’s growth story.”

Though Shuffle Master and other American gaming companies (such as International Gaming Technology, which bought the Entraction Network for $115 million last May) are making moves under the expectation that the online poker market will open up in the United States, it does not appear that that will happen until at least next year. As we reported this weekend, the disappointing news first came from reliable Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Howard Stutz, who tweeted, “One Wall Street analyst opinion: Internet poker legalization not being attached to the payroll tax bill means the issue is dead for 2012.” It is not completely out of the question that something could get passed this year, as there are slight hopes that a poker rider could be attached to the Obama Administration’s jobs package or the upcoming cyber security legislation, but those are not strong possibilities. (Credit: Poker News Daily)

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