Casino Watch - Apri

23 March 2006
Ongame Takes

Internet gaming software developer Ongame has added Malta-based sports betting, casino and poker site to its poker network. is owned by Nordic Betting Ltd. and focuses on the Nordic market. "We are delighted to be able to further expand our poker network," Patrik Selin, CEO of Ongame, said. "Our aim is to create Europe's largest online poker community."

UK 'Maneuvering'

U.K. Gambling Minister Richard Caborn challenged the Conservative Party this month to drop its opposition to "super casinos" and allow more than one to be built in Britain. Caborn accused the Conservatives of "political maneuvering" before the 2005 general election to force the government to reduce its original plan to grant eight super casino licenses. The government eventually agreed to allow eight small and medium-sized casinos and the single larger operation. "There was a political maneuvering, as we all know . . . the Tories thought they'd actually get a few votes in the election by knocking it from eight to one," Caborn said.

Partouche on the Move

France's largest casino operator, Groupe Partouche, made its first entry into the U.K. market in February by teaming with Probability Games Corporation to launch a mobile gaming service featuring traditional casino games. The company also requested a gaming license in Gibraltar and said that the project that would use the license would create 300 jobs. Although its name is well known and established in France, the company cannot offer interactive gambling services to French residents due to the country's monopolistic licensing regime. But La Tribune reports that Patrick Partouche has not ruled out challenging the monopoly system by submitting a complaint to the European Court of Justice.

Packer/Ho Jockeying

James Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd. (PBL) has severed ties with casino tycoon Stanley Ho, who announced Wednesday that he is stepping down as chairman of PBL's Asian partner, Melco International, of which he owns 11 percent. The move is expected to expedite probity checks into the PBL-Melco venture, which have been underway since 2004 by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation (VCGR). Ho's son, Lawrence will step in as chairman. Just before the split, Melco International upgraded its status as a casino player after its partner, PBL, agreed early this month to pay Wynn Resorts US$900 million (HK$7.02 billion) to secure the last available gambling sub-concession in Macau. The Hong Kong-listed company will acquire a 40 percent interest in the PBL subsidiary that will own the sub-concession. The purchase, funded by US$400 million (PBL's share is US$240 million and Melco's is US$160 million) equity and the rest in bank loans, is subject to government approval.

Poker Night Scandinavia

England's "Poker Night Live," the interactive poker show that is broadcast on SKY TV's Pokerzone (SKY 226), has launched a Scandinavian version of the show on Stockholm's Viasat channel Quiz Nation. "Poker Night Live works over here, and the awards prove that," Creative Director Sam Orams said. "We will be using Scandinavian presenters for this new version so that we create a program that really involves the audience. It's a fantastic new challenge. Watch this space."

Kerzner Privatization

Kerzner International Ltd., operator of the land-based Atlantis and Mohegan Sun casinos, agreed to sell for about $3 billion to a group that includes company Chairman Sol Kerzner and CEO Butch Kerzner. The father and son team, along with shareholder United Arab Emirates- based Istithmar and other investors, will pay $76 a share, 8 percent more than the closing price on March 17, making Kerzner International private and seeing the Kerzner's gain control of the company. Other investors in the group include Whitehall Street Global Real Estate Limited Partnership 2005, Colony Capital LLC, Providence Equity Partners Inc. and The Related Companies LP. The company said it will seek better offers during the next 45 days and if a better offer is received, the investor group will receive a breakup fee of about $30 million and Sol and Butch Kerzner will provide transition services for six months following the sale.

Loading up the WSOP Train

Betfair Poker announced this month that it is offering an unlimited number of seats for this year's World Series of Poker through its Threedom Pass, which gives qualified players paid entry and travel to that tournament for three years.