Casino Watch - August

27 July 2006
A Rank Deal

Leisure company Rank Group Plc, will make a net gain of £53 million before tax from this month's sale and leaseback of its 43 Mecca Bingo clubs and Grosvenor Casino properties amid a restructuring of the organization from a leisure company into a pure gaming business. Rank will sell the 40 Mecca bingo clubs and four Grosvenor casinos (one property contains both gaming venues) to joint venture group Earth-Solarus for £211 million. Rank will pay the group £39 million to take on its liabilities for another 44 surplus leasehold properties, for a net sale of £172 million. Rank revealed this month that it is considering selling its Hard Rock restaurant and hotel chain to concentrate on its U.K. gaming operations. Merrill Lynch & Co. is advising the company on a strategic review of Hard Rock to decide whether to retain the division. Rank also owns the Blue Square online betting company.

Stanley and LCI to Merge

British gaming company Stanley Leisure has confirmed that it is in early talks over a proposed merger with smaller rival London Clubs International to create a new gaming company worth nearly us $1.2 billion. Stanley Leisure is the country's largest casino operator, with 45 sites. Its London casinos include Crockford's and Colony, which are both popular among high rollers. It is anticipated that a merger (should it go through) would be effected by way of a share-for-share exchange on the basis of one new Stanley share for every six London Clubs shares reflecting the ratio of the market capitalizations of the two companies over recent months. A follow-up announcement will be made in due course.

Borja Wants a Casino on Saipan

Manasses Borja, a former lawmaker on the island of Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands, is lobbying the island's legislature to pass a bill legalizing casino gaming. Borja says the law would help improve the region's economy, which has been in a slump since 1998, but the administration does not support the proposal because it prefers to further develop the gaming industry on its sister island, Tinian, where casino operation is already legal. Tinian is authorized to issue a maximum of five casino licenses, but only one gaming establishment, Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino, is operational there. Borja said there is a bigger market for a casino industry on Saipan because the majority of tourists stay there. He said he has asked at least three lawmakers to introduce the measure and that they seemed interested but have thus far remained noncommittal.

Seven Pros Sue WPTE

Seven world famous poker professionals filed an antitrust lawsuit July 19 against World Poker Tour Enterprises (WPTE) over the use of their likeness and their freedom to play in various televised WPT tournaments. Andy Bloch, Annie Duke, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Phil Gordon, Joseph Hachem, Howard Lederer and Greg Raymer allege that WPTE made them waive lucrative rights to use their images and names to promote products and video games before they could enter WPT tournaments. A team of lawyers from the Los Angeles firm Dewey Ballantine is representing the pros. To participate in WPT games, players are required to sign releases permitting WPTE to use their names and/or images in whatever manner it chooses, with no player compensation, and the players have no recourse. The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief to change the language of the WPT release so that future players' rights are not violated. They are also looking to void releases already signed. WPTE's general counsel, Adam Pliska, said on Friday, "We believe the claims alleged in this suit are without merit and plan to vigorously defend our position while pursuing all available legal avenues necessary to end this unfounded attack."

Korea's Casino Industry Is Booming

New figures from the Korea Institute of Public Finance show that South Korea's casino industry, introduced in 2000, paid 279 billion KRW (US$292.8 million) in taxes for 2005, up from the 246 billion KRW (US $258.1 million) paid in 2004. The institute attributes the upward trend to the development and operation of the Kangwon Land resort, Korea's version of Las Vegas.

British Advertising Groups Seek Opinions on Gambling Ad Restrictions

The U.K. Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) co-launched a public opinion campaign on July 18 seeking input on proposed advertising guidelines that place stricter regulations on content (particularly sexually explicit content) in casino and betting ads. Andrew Brown, the chairman for both committees, said the biggest responsibility is to ensure that gambling advertisements are socially responsible and avoid any harm or exploitation of children and/or vulnerable groups.

UK Gambling Commission Tries to Discourage Poker in Pubs

The U.K. Gambling Commission on July 7 sent written notification to police forces, local authorities and the licensing trade associations throughout England as part of a clampdown on illegal poker games. According to the 1968 Gaming Act, gambling for money in licensed premises, such as pubs, is highly restricted. A permit is required to do so, and the games cannot be used as an incentive for patrons to visit pubs. The commission has published new guidelines on the rules, however, and advises pub and members club owners to discourage the establishment or organization of games outside licensed casinos or card rooms. "Poker is a great game," Gambling Commission Director of Operations Phill Brear said. "But properly regulated operators such as casinos employ trained and licensed staff as dealers and supervisors, they use CCTV to monitor play, they offer protections to players and they are closely monitored and supervised by the Gambling Commission. Poker in pubs and similar arrangements offer none of these safeguards, and we will work with the authorities to clamp down on illegal games."

PokerStars' Latest: 'Moneymaker Millionaire' has launched the "Moneymaker Millionaire" tournament, named after poker pro Chris Moneymaker, who turned a $39 online satellite tournament win on into a $2.5 million windfall at the World Series of Poker in 2003. is giving players from around the world the chance to compete for a $2.5 million prize pool, which includes a brand new Aston Martin DB9 Volante and a trip to the Bahamas to play down to one winner and a $1 million first prize at the Moneymaker Millionaire main event on Dec. 3

PBL, Melco Seek Funding for Underwater Casino

The gaming venture between Hong Kong's Melco and Australia's PBL has hired four banks, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group and Bank of America, to fund an underwater casino resort in Macau. The banks will arrange the debt financing, which may include bonds and loans for the "City of Dreams" project, said the bankers. The casino resort, scheduled to open in the second half of 2008, will engulf 10.93 hectares (27 acres) of land in Cotai and will house a 40,000-square meter underwater-themed casino with more than 450 gaming tables and about 3,000 slot machines, the companies said in a statement on July 13. It will also include four hotels and offer 2,000 rooms and serviced apartments.