Aussie Hotels Want Pokie Limit Trial...

Written by:
Greg Tingle
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The Australian Hotels Association has just about begged the government to carry out detailed research and trials of mandatory pre-commitment poker machines before rolling out restrictions nationwide. The AHA's written submission to an inquiry on pre-commitment pokies was critical of the push by independent Andrew Wilkie, the committee's chairman, to have the pre-commitment system rolled out in 2014, despite the Productivity Commission saying it should begin in 2016, with exemptions for small hotels until 2018. The AHA warned that it could cost the industry up to $2.5 billion to upgrade machines to make them capable of having a pre-commitment function limiting the amount of money punters can wager.

Older machines, mainly in regional areas, would have to be completely replaced at a cost of $25,000 each to make them capable of having a mandatory pre-commitment. In its submission, the AHA said it wished to work with government "to develop a sensible, evidenced-based way forward - that will continue to minimise harm from gambling, but will not close our businesses, slash our workforce and reduce our community support". AHA's national chief executive Des Crowe and director for responsible gaming John Whelan fronted the joint standing committee on gambling reform yesterday.

The Productivity Commission also appeared before the committee yesterday highlighting the need for any trial of pre-commitment technology to be held in a large area, such as Tasmania. The commission warned that a small trial zone would allow people to drive to the next suburb where they could play unrestricted. The commission also dismissed concerns that people's privacy could be breached by new technology. On Friday the committee will reconvene in Hobart, where it will hear from Anglicare and the Australasian Casino Association. Media Man has interviewed dozens of journalists and gaming experts about pre commitment over the past few months with all questioned saying they don't see the Gillard government proposal offering a total solution and that trials overseas showed that the pre commitment doesn't work properly. It's widely known that gamblers and problem gamblers will gamble no matter what government restrictions are put in place.

An uprising off illegal poker and casino game events are expect in Australia on an invitation only basis. This follows the U.S and Canadian pattern, where if some forms of gambling become illegal or too restricted, they thrive in the underground, falling off the map of government reports and bean counter types.


Crown Casino Loves Rugby Union Too...


James Packer's Crown Casino is enjoying the company of other sports fans at a lunch for Melbourne's new rugby union team, the Rebels. 1200 people showed their support at the lunch, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and opera singer Teddy Tahu Rhodes part of the fun. Mike Brady gave a preview of his new rugby anthem.

Rebels board member Gary Gray, whose involvement with Victorian rugby goes back to the failed 2005 bid to get a licence from the Australian Rugby Union, said rugby's support in Melbourne was a complex and varied mix. Rugby is an international game. You have a lot of people that have been starved for it in this town - expats both from interstate and from New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, even France and other parts of Europe where rugby's popular." Gray said there was also strong support from the local south Pacific island community, which has fielded many top players, and local clubs.

"In Victoria there's the south Pacific island community, some of the state schools play rugby, most of the private schools play.". Crown Casino continues to back sport, having recently sponsored the NRL's Melbourne Storm.


Adelaide SkyCity Casino Feels Some Pain...


The popular casino's pre-tax earnings climbed to $16.1 million as its owner predicted subdued future trading. Sky City's half year profit fell 2.2% to $51 million ($NZ67.1 million) and chief executive Nigel Morrison said a quiet retail environment would impact on gaming revenue in Adelaide as it works with the State Government on developing the Riverfront precinct.

“Adelaide Casino lifted revenue by just $500,000 to $74.4 million but pre-tax earnings climbed 5.6 per cent to $16.1 million in the six months to December 31 thanks to "good cost controls and food and beverage revenue", Morrison said.

Smoking bans in Darwin impacted on Australian casino earnings which fell 2% to $NZ47.2 million. The economic environment in this country remained challenging, particularly in discretionary retail, while the Australian discretionary retail sector was now also reporting more challenging times, Morrison said.

Normalised net profit climbed 2.1% to $51 million after adjusting for comparisons without its divested cinemas group, the company said. Normalised revenue from ordinary activities rose 3.1 per cent on a year earlier to $NZ410.1 million. 

An interim dividend of 8c a share has been declared. Gamblers from the orient - China and Thailand into the company's Auckland casino boosted the company's international business division, which almost doubled revenue to $1.1 billion. That growth underpinned the decision to invest in increased capacity and world class facilities for international customers in Auckland, Sky City said. Sky City reiterated its full year profit guidance to $96.1 million.

Talks with the South Australian government on the proposed Adelaide Casino redevelopment and casino regulatory reforms were continuing, Morrison said.

"We continue to stress the importance of a level playing field in respect of casino regulation and believe in the potential of the Adelaide market to deliver strong growth should some of the current challenges be adequately addressed," the company said. Sky City shares are trading steady at $2.49.

Sky City New Zealand And Australia Half Yearly Profits Drop...

The economic slowdown in New Zealand and Australia has led to a fall in half-year profit at casino operator Sky City Entertainment Group. The company made $67.1 million in the six months to December, a decrease of 6% on the same period a year ago. Stripping out a contribution from its now sold cinema operations, the listed company's underlying profit rose 2% to $67.4 million.

Revenue rose 3% to $448 million, with growth in Adelaide and Hamilton partly offseting a fall at Darwin due to the introduction of a smoking ban. Sky City chief executive Nigel Morrision says earnings at its flagship Auckland casino remained flat, as the subdued economy deterred local gamblers, although turnover doubled from high rollers, mainly from Asia.

He says revenue rose 9% for the first six weeks of this year compared with the same period a year ago. Looking ahead, Sky City expects a full year profit of $127.4 million, compared with last year's normalised profit of $129 million. A dividend payout of 8 cents a shares has been declared.

Media Man analysts were not prepared to comment on what the financial position the firm would likely to be in come end of year results.- Greg Tingle is a Special Contributor to the website and founder of Media Man International

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