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Friday, September 3, 2010

Australian Pokies Reform Won't Work: Aussie Pokies King, by Greg Tingle - 4th September 2010

Australia is tipped to get a massive pokie reform, initially starting at pubs, clubs and hotels... so pokies palaces, then onto land based casinos, but insiders in the thick of the action say the plan won't actually work and go onto explain why? FUD (fear, uncertainly and doubt), spin, or just the hard facts Jack? The developments come months after the release of the Australian Productivity Report into gambling, and as brands such as World Poker Tour, World Series of Poker, PartyGaming and Virgin continue to eye of Australia and the greater Asia Pacific region. Media Man and Gambling911 set sail to the land down under, encountering whales, dolphins and tuna. What a catch punters...

Australia is tipped to implement a number of gambling reforms, starting with everyones favorite - the pokies, you know... down the road at the pub. But, the reforms may be easier said than done, says folks on both sides - the pokie lovers and the pokie haters. Even those who are completely neutral on the matter says its going to be complex and may not actually the yield the desired result, which could well lead to a tidal wave of sackings from industries tied to gambling and gaming, including NRL and RSL clubs.

It's now widely believed from all ranks that putting in place a national "pre-commitment" system on pokies aka one armed bandits to enable gamblers to preset their spending limits would be "enormously" expensive and quite unlikely to actually reduce "problem gambling" (whatever exactly that is), industry veteran Len 'Always Winning' (MM tag) Ainsworth says. Gambling isn't it, and some of course have a bigger problem than others, but now the Aussie federal government has a new wave of problems on their hands. Let's learn more shall we.

Ainsworth's firm employs roughly 300 punters... ok, staffers, to build machines down under in Australia. It is one of dozens set to be affected by the pre-commitment system, which PM Julia 'Jungle Girl' (MM tag) Gillard has promised independent MP and anti-pokies campaigner Andrew 'Wild and Witty' (MM tag) Wilkie she will introduce (if) Labor wins government. Keep in mind the Liberal party needs to see all 3 remaining polies come across to Liberal ranks, if the Libs are to win! Want to place money on that.. but, stranger things have happened, so on with the story.

Ainsworth in his wisdom has estimated it would likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement, and would be an incredibly complex task, because the various gaming machine makers that supply Australian venues would need to offer a compatible system. This might cause international manufacturers to leave the market, he said. There's a massive flow on effect, and this could end up just sending more players online, in a growing trend, so they can still play all time favorites like Cleopatra, Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune, many almost online exact replicas. Firms such as IGT already have a dedicated online gaming arm - WagerWorks, which supplies some games to the likes of PartyGaming and Virgin Games.

Now get this...contrary to findings of the Productivity Commission, which has recommended the system, Ainsworth passionately argued problem gamblers would not be deterred because their gambling usually reflected an underlying problem, and its hard to argue with this point. Many people have some sort of problem, it just depends what exactly it is. Machines don't cause problems, people do. Same thing with driving a car. Some issues are part of a persons make up, and these can be passed on from generation to generation. It's in the blood, be it to much drinking or whatever.

"A problem gambler is like a problem drinker or a serial killer; you've got to get to the cause," Mr Ainsworth said.

Investors sent the shares of another pokie machine manufacturer, Aristocrat, down 16¢ to $3.64, and Woolworths (linked to gambling) shares fell 9¢ to $28.38.

Woolworths, via the ALH Group, owns about 11,000 of Australia's 198,000 pokie machines. From 2012 it's going to own thousands more down in Victoria, when the current ownership duopoly of Tatts Group and Tabcorp hits the wall.

Woolworths declined to comment while an election result remains unknown, so I guess we can't blame them for the current silent treatment.

The change is not expected to significantly affect Tatts and Tabcorp, because they are exiting the market, but it may have some impact on future ventures. Some flow on effects may take years to trace to the cause, which may end up being mismanagement from the Australian government! Don't be against it.

Tatts and Tabcorp have been coexisting, and Crown Limited remains focused on hotels and casinos in Australia, as well as driving forward projects in Macau, with the odd venture further afield. Tatts is considered a strong contender to become Victoria's new monitor of the integrity of poker machines from 2012. Tabcorp will manage gaming rooms for venues after 2012.

Victoria has plans to introduce a pre-commitment system, phased in from this December to 2015, when all the machines will be linked across the state to prevent a player using any machine for a set period, once their spending or time limit has been reached. The tech has been used in Queensland and South Australia, and is offered to loyalty club players at Crown Casino. It's got a bit of a 'Big Brother' feel to it, but Australia's been big on 'Big Brother' and 'Thought Police' for decades, however these days its just more obvious.

Aristocrat in fact provides the "central monitoring system" for Norway's Norsk Tipping, which has a mandatory pre-commitment system.

"The system tracks usage by each player with the player able to set limits up to a maximum allowed by the Norwegian government," an Aristocrat spokesman disclosed.

Of the $19 billion Aussies spent on gambling - gaming in 2008-09, $10.5 billion was spent on poker machines in pubs and clubs. Another $1.4 billion was spent on pokies at casinos. Just how much went to internet portals and online casinos is not clear, but website portals such as Media Man, Casino News Media and Global Gaming Directory attract millions of hits per month, and MM remains ranked in the Hitwise top ten (entertainment category), so you know there's serious numbers involved.

Some state governments which on average get 10% of their revenue from gambling taxes are tipped to resist the federal push for change.

Enter the academics...constitutional law expert George 'Why Is It So' (MM tag) Williams, of the Uni of New South Wales, advised the federal government could use its powers under the Corporations Act to enforce the change, and that would probably apply to clubs as well. However, under WorkChoices states had demonstrated a precedent to get around this, he said. So, its all very complicated and like a gigantic Pandora's box. Hey, there's probably going to be an online slot games for it too... there's a Rubik's Cube slot. The possibilities are endless, and the internet is infinity in size, so its fun and games all the way...for the meantime.

The Late News...

Australian Casino, Gaming And Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Unite: James Packer and Shane "No Spin" Warne; Kym Illman Marketing Aussie Gumleaf Mafia Connection...

Warnie and Packer, long time mates and associates, have been working on something big for quite a while now, and the past Warnie - Kym Illman - Messages On Hold campaigns have been impossible to miss, thanks in part to Max Markson and even everyones favorite... wait for it... Media Man.

Cricket legend, poker player and Aussie larrican, Shane "No Spin" Warnie is officially going into business with Aussie casino and lifestyle king, James Packer. Warnie sure know how to pick mentors, also getting guidance and business opportunities from fellow mate Kym Illman, over the years. Yep, the Aussie Gumleaf Mafia is leaping ahead in leaps and bounds. It's enough to make Gambling911 resident and friend to all, Kasino Koala blush and fall out of his tree.

Back to business at hand, this year the Packer - Warnie collaborations with bit hitting the casinos, and they also have a few tricks up their sleeve for cafes, restaurants, gyms and other venues down under in Australia, and they don't have to be existing 'Gumleaf Mafia' or Warne - Packer inner circle to get in on the action, depending on what b2b deals are of interest. However, the casino joint venture is a Crown Limited thing, and the spinner might just get his own branded poker room at Crown if he plays his cards right.

Warne has been on fire, and not just fired up and pissed about what happened with the Paki fixing scandal. The legend is also tipped to get an 'Ashes' talkback show on Network Nine. No coincidence that Bondi Beach local David Gyngelll, just happens to be the CEO of Nine, and holds a seat on the Crown Limited board. Again, relationships matter, as does loyalty. A couple of Aussie media entrepreneurs have purchased Crown shares over the years in a big picture - holistic type strategy, and the same happened with Virgin, owner Richard Branson also being on good terms with Packer.

The spinner remains tight lipped on some matters, but did tell press a bit about his passion for good music. Ah, his colourful exploits with a few blond goddesses over the years hinted at that. Music does get one in the mood, so does coffee and a few other unspeakables.

Warne, a mark for '80s music, have taken like a duck to water for the music industry. Specifically lyric-free ambient music, set to calm the soul, energise the body and warm the heart. Yep, we're been reading up on the sales blurb too.

Warne yesterday spruiked his latest biz alliance Groove Gallery, a company that sells ambient music to gyms, cafes and restaurants that wish to "sub-consciously" put their customers in the mood to spend a dollar or ideally, much more.

Shane Warne Inc, a spin off from Billionaire Inc, now sports roughly 16 business investments at last count. There's "Advanced Hair, yeah yeah" poker website 888, a Messages on Hold deal, luxury designer Dunhill and a bush tucker bag of paid gigs and appearances et al with Channel Nine, Sky Sports and Cricket Australia, and god knows what else on the boil. Media Man TV?

His family and life after cricket and some key motivators.

Speaking with News Limited Warnie shared "We've got two or three that we are looking at at the moment, there's a business that I have with James Packer that we'll be launching next year. I'm not sure James would want me talking about that yet".

He's seriously cashed up, but he's not really a showoff. More a lifestyle guy who loves his family and big boys toys.

We obtained quite a property asset list of Warnie... $9 million Middle Brighton home, a $3.35 million investment property in Sandringham, and a $2.2 million holiday home in Arthur's Seat and a home in London. Who knows what else he has. How about a Bondi Beach pad too mate, if you haven't already. We might see you up at Icebergs Bergs Gaming

As you might have cottoned on, things are good for the spin man..."Life is going great, never been better," he said.

For Warnie its been about ups, downs, roller coasters, working hard and playing 'n party int harder. Clearly things are on the up and up for Warnie, be it business, pleasure and passion, or more likely, both. Knock em for 6 sport.

Paki Cricket Scandal...Warnie Speaks...

Just on the red hot subject matter of cricket for moment. Warne said "I thought that the game was clean now with the anti-corruption people there". We're not certain if that's music to the ears of inner circle Packer and Illman or not, but this Aussie 'Gumleaf Mafia' types have a habit of turning controversy and negatives into bags full of cash' whispered a Media Man insider, (at a well known Bondi Beach cafe...hit Sparrow... interested to give the music a test run). Ah, relationships matter. Media Man believes that relationship marketing, buzz marketing, and the simple concept of headline grabbing Shane Warne will pretty much guarantee the success of all or most of Shane Warne linked campaigns in the foreseeable future.

Media Man Profiles

Australia

James Packer

Shane Warne

Kym Illman

We think the Packer - Warne - Illman collaboration is a can't miss, and poised to knock 'em for 6 success, but what do you think? Tell us in the forum.

Gambling and pokies reform may be easier said than done. It's complex, and there's strong cases for and against on both sides. What happens if the Australian government gets it wrong? Numerous analysts forecast that 10,000s of people could be soon out of work, with the hospitality and entertainment industry being a major employer of Australians, and the proposal already threatens some of the good work of GenerationOne, that has been supported by James Packer's Crown Limited (Crown Casino and Burswood Entertainment Complex etc).

The stakes may never have been higher. It's not a few dollars down a slot anymore, its potentially a large chunk of the Australian workforce, and with gambling being such a signifiant part of Australian culture the proposed reforms are certainly akin to dancing with the devil. Yep, the devil is in the detail. In the meantime the early indicators are that the pokie playing public will be driven to website portals like Media Man, Gambling911 and Google, and the Aussie government will remain the 8 ball, chasing their tail, as they try to grasp new technologies, and at the same time the population telling them they don't want online censorship, offline censorship, thought police et al. And, the public awaits the downfall of yet more politicians involved in porn and internet surfing scandals at work and priests getting busted for porn offences.

It all looks like a perfect storm, and unless your Aussie casino king James Packer, sailing the high seas in your Arctic P, with casinos and entertainment icons scattered half way across the world, there could be stormy waters ahead.

But, punters and media, its not all bad news. For the meantime at least your can continue to surf the world wide web coming across thousands of slot games, virtual casinos, table games, arcades the worlds. PartyGaming, Virgin, Playtech Microgaming, Captain Cooks, World Poker Tour, WSOP, PKR, Media Man and the like may get short to medium term gains, but what will be the long term result is just about anyones guess. Punters are tipped to bet harder and more frequently, including on the web, as the news comes, knowing that the party may soon be over. Even a small amount of punters and gaming entrepreneurs are starting to speak about setting up new homes and bases abroad, as a protest against the Australian government, but that's only a small minority of people, but its a trend on the rise. Pubs, clubs, hotels and casinos are yet to start mass sackings, now unable to afford to employ the same amount of staff they once did, however experts say give it 3 to 6 months, and the trend will become clear, with welfare departments such as Centrebet about to get a whole lot more customers. Ah, the Aussie casino and gaming wars just keep getting bigger. Aren't you glad you have your (unfiltered) computer at home. If the filter comes, just add proxy. We're told its child's play, but the mess the Aussie government is heading in is anything but. Work hard and party and play harder.

Readers, know the odds, bet with your head, not over it, and have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming.

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