Casino Watch - October

21 September 2006
UK Consolidation

British gaming company London Clubs International (LCI) and rival Stanley Leisure were nearing a merger agreement when U.S.-based Harrah's Entertainment swooped in at the end of August with a £279.3 million bid for LCI. The board of directors for LCI approved the deal, which calls for Harrah's to pay 125p per share. Pending regulatory approval, the sale is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Las Vegas-based Harrah's operates and manages 40 properties, including casino hotels and riverboat and dockside casinos.

A few days later, the Times reported that Stanley Leisure had received a proposal concerning a possible offer. Ladbrokes, Australian gaming company Tabcorp and Greek lotto and gaming operator OPAP were named as possible suitors, but Stanley Leisure later confirmed that Malaysian casino group Genting Bhd, which has a 20 percent stake in the company, made the offer.

Amid massive restructuring, British gaming conglomerate Rank group has sold legendary London casino the Clermont Club to Singapore investment firm BIL International for £31 million in cash. The Clermont Club, which Rank acquired in 1990, was the favorite gaming house of Lord Lucan, who vanished in 1974 after his children's nanny was found beaten to death in the basement of his London home. Rank said the sale was in line with its plan to focus on the mainstream gaming market. Rank unloaded 40 Mecca Bingo clubs and four Grosevenor casinos in July to joint-venture group Earth-Solarus for £211 million.

Svenska Spel Does Well

The Internet poker site run by Swedish National Lottery operator Svenska Spel has proven to be a great success since its April 2006 introduction. According to the company, 65,000 players have registered on the site, wagering more than SEK 2 billion (US$280 million) in the first three months of operation. The company has reported a profit of SEK 52 million (US$7.2 million) from Internet poker during this period.

IGT in the Wireless Ring

The Nevada Gaming Commission on Aug. 24 gave Reno-based slot machine manufacturer International Game Technology final approval to compete in an emerging market for hand-held, mobile gambling devices. Members of the commission voted unanimously to approve the company for licensing, making it the second company licensed in the state to manufacture and distribute wireless gaming devices. The first, Cantor Gaming, which led the 2005 legislative efforts to allow wireless gambling in Nevada casinos, was licensed in May.

PBL on the Move

James Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. received approval last month for its Macau casino development joint venture with Melco International Development Ltd. The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation and the Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia said that after their investigations they had no objections to the joint venture. PBL Melco will build three casinos in Macau with the first project, Crown Macau, due to open in April next year. The second phase, City of Dreams, will be a hotel, casino, retail and entertainment complex and it is expected to open in late 2008.

Packer also announced plans to buy his family's stake in a group of British casinos as a prelude to an expansion into the European gaming market. The Packer family company Consolidated Press Holdings owns 50 percent of British gaming company Aspinall's and owns three small casinos, including London's Aspinall Club. The other two are in Swansea and Newcastle. The deal is expected to take place before the end of the year.

China's Overlord Option

Internet gambling may soon become accessible to citizens of China, thanks to a local warlord, according to the Asia Times Online. The newspaper said new gambling facilities have been built in a remote Myanmar region in the town of Mong La, the hub of tourist gambling in the 1990s. During that era China sent a small number of troops to enforce travel bans and pressure casino operators to close down their operations. Sai Leun, the town's overlord is believed to have financed much of the city's gambling infrastructure in the late 90s. He is now expanding his gambling enterprise into online gambling. He opened seven Internet-enabled casinos in April this year, specifically designed and outfitted for online China-based gamers, and another 14 gambling venues are in development southwest of Mong La.