Australian Gambling and Casino News for November 26, 2010

Written by:
Greg Tingle
Published on:

Welcome to another jam packed news update from down under in Australia. We're got pro casino and gaming VS the haters, news media players, politic, entertainment goss and lots more. Media Man and Gambling911 take bring you the best in Aussie gambling and entertainment news. Lights, camera, action...

Biggest Police Raid In Victorian History; Gambling And Pokies Connection; Real Life Underbelly...

34 people, mainly Aussies and some Chinese and Taiwani are locked up after the biggest drug operation in Victoria's history sent 650 police storming into scores of properties allegedly linked to a $400 million cannabis-farms syndicate. Police raided 68 properties all allegedly connected to a cannabis cartel producing indoor hydroponic crops – each worth $80,000. Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones revealed the raids would have happened sooner but US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Melbourne had diverted too many resources.

But Sir Ken said suggestions the raids had been timed to benefit the State Government days before the election were "absolute rubbish". "We're not going to threaten our operations to suit any political cycle," he said. Today's raids are part of a long-term police investigation codenamed Entity. Many of the properties raided today were used as hydroponic "farms’’. As part of the investigation police have previously raided 50 properties in Victoria and New Zealand, seizing more than $20 million in assets.

The investigation involves Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, customs, tax and immigration officials. Investigators say the main targets are members of the Vietnamese community. Police say some of the funds reaped from the marijuana crops have been used to buy heroin in Vietnam, which has been imported into Australia. Detective Superintendent Gerry Ryan said early reports were the operation was going well. Police have long maintained there is a direct link between Vietnamese syndicates trafficking in both cannabis and heroin. Police have identified seven major heroin syndicates, which have recruited more than 100 Melbourne-based couriers. Police were ready to raid the houses two weeks ago, however the operation had to be delayed because of US Secretary of State Hillary Ms Clinton's visit.

Drug Taskforce investigators say the syndicates target members of the Vietnamese community with gambling debts who are susceptible to pressure from loan sharks. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade figures show 25 Australian nationals are in Vietnamese jails on drug charges. Since 2003, seven Australians sentenced to death in Vietnam have had their penalty commuted after pleas for clemency from the Australian Government. A police taskforce of drug taskforce detectives, Customs and Border Protection officers, the Australian Crime Commission and Australian Federal Police has been set up to investigate the syndicates. Operation Ripsaw has resulted in the arrest of more than 30 suspects in Australia and Vietnam in the past two years. In August police seized commercial and residential properties valued at $20 million they allege had been purchased through laundered funds made by the syndicates through heroin trafficking. More than 20 suspects have been arrested and $3 million in cash seized during the raids in Fitzroy, Brunswick, St Albans, Maribyrnong, Footscray, Sunshine and Collingwood.

Detectives say heroin couriers fly into Melbourne from Vietnam every week and some have made several trips. They have identified one female syndicate leader in her 30s, who bet $3.7 million at Crown Casino in six months and regularly wagered $50,000 a hand. Another key figure bet $12 million in Australian casinos in just over five years. Couriers are paid up to $24,000 to import four 70-gram heroin pellets (80 percent pure). Syndicates can net more than $700,000 from the drugs sold on Melbourne streets. On June 4, 2006, Australian Federal Police arrested Vietnam Airlines pilot Van Dang Tranas at Sydney International Airport with more than $540,000 concealed in his cabin luggage. The Australian Crime Commission money-laundering Taskforce Gordian found that he had smuggled $6.5 million out of Australia in less than 12 months. He pleaded guilty and in 2007 was sentenced to a minimum of two years' jail. It is alleged that crime syndicates used the Long Thanh Money Transfer Company in Footscray to launder more than $93 million.

Shane Warne Has Nerves About New TV Show...

Warne has he and Aussie gambling and media king, James Packer, were nervous before his interview before new show, Warnie. The interview is Packer's first one-on-one TV interview in 20 years and a real coup for Warne. Speaking at Channel 9's Ashes launch this week, Warne said the two had been friends for two decades, which contributed to the nerves. "Not many people know James Packer that well," he said. "He is a wonderful guy. He's been a good friend to me for 20 years." Warne's interview subjects for his new show include Dannii Minogue, Coldplay's Chris Martin and Sting. He said he just tried to be himself when interviewing the big names. "I think the one thing about this show is, when I'm doing the interview, I'm not one of those guys who ask those silly questions about the past and that sort of crap. "I want to know how you spend your life away from this, how you relax and have a bit of a laugh. "I think people will see a good side to so many different people." Joining Warne on the show is his old mate Merv Hughes, who will be a reporter on the street, and Nine's rising star in the world of news, Today reporter Alicia Gorey. The first episode of Warnie airs on Wednesday - that's tonight on Channel 9, of course! Ok, it could of been Network Ten, but 10 out of 10 for 9, for putting this show together.

Poker Machined Banned From Shopping Centre...

Electronic gaming machines have been banned from the Mansfield strip shopping centre. The amendment to the Mansfield Planning Scheme banning the machines has been approved by the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development. A survey conducted by the shire found 87 per cent of respondents did not want gaming machines in the Mansfield Shopping Centre. The CEO of Mansfield Shire, David Roff, says the shire's research shows the amendment is in line with community beliefs. "Effectively, what the amendment does is it identifies the Mansfield strip shopping centre as an area where gaming machines are prohibited but it recognises that gaming is a legitimate activity but for areas not so close to the centre of town," he said.

Candidates’ Each Way Bet On Casino; Says National Party...

All of the data used by Mildura accounting academic Larry O’Connor in his report Gambling With Mildura’s Future was sourced from publicly available information material. “The pro-casino Independent candidate claims that I used statistics from Mr O’Connor’s report in the week before it was released,” says Member for Mildura Peter Crisp. “Actually, I’ve been using facts and figures on casino operations for much longer, because they’ve been available in documents produced by the Productivity Commission and in a report produced for the Australasian Casino Association by the Allen Consulting Group. “For example, I said via a news release on October 26 that: “More than 80% of customers of casinos in Australia are drawn from the city/state in which the casino is located, according to a 2009 report to the Australasian Casino Association by the Allen Consulting Group”. “I was making the point that a casino would drag patrons away from local community-owned clubs, which I reiterated throughout the campaign. “The Workers Club made the same point in a full-page advertisement in the Sunraysia Daily in early November. “Had the pro-casino Independent candidate done even a scrap of research he would know that a casino in Mildura would bankrupt a number of existing community-owned clubs.

Murdoch Media Power; Sarah Murdoch Fires Production Company After Model Mistake...

If you stuff up big time at work, the firm you work for decide to sack you: that's how it usually works. Not if you're Sarah Murdoch, part of the powerful media family dynasty it doesn't. If you're Sarah Murdoch, you fire the company. Foxtel, which is partially owned by the Murdoch family, had, at her insistence, dumped Granada Media Australia, the production company behind the past 6 series of Australia's Next Top Model...which Murdoch presents and slide in with a new production company for the show's 11th series. Media Man has been hitting the phones... AAP, Fairfax Media, News Limited, and this amazing news is confirmed. Exactly what new production company will get the gig now open is not known at this time, but the favourite was Shine, which is owned by sister-in-law Elisabeth Murdoch. When called Granada, where a spokesperson couldn't confirm that it had lost the show. Calls were also placed to to Foxtel, explaining the nature of the enquiry, but no one called back. Then Murdoch went on record, confirming the change in production company and gave the following: "Granada produced Australia's Top Model for six years. I worked with them for two years. They are a very talented and hard working crew. But after what happened this year I thought very hard about it and decided it was probably time for a change." The readerership might recall that on the final live episode of the show, Murdoch momentarily panicked after a breakdown in communication with the backstage production team, and announced the wrong model as the series winner. It was a simple, embarrassing and pretty exciting misunderstanding that had everyone in a bit of a fluster, but also generated extra publicity. Murdoch is understood to be a driving force to firing Granada. So Sarah's stirred up things, and  husband Lachlan now involved with Network Ten, Elisabeth at Shine and old man Rupert still plugging away, there's a Murdoch's everywhere. We expect James Packer to enjoy much smoother sailing with his Lachlan Murdoch and Network Nine dealings, and even Shane Warne wouldn't likely get a gaffe as rough as this one.

Australian Media and Photographer Legend Dies, by Greg Tingle

One of Australia's most colorful and successful photographers Peter Carrette has died of a heart attack this past weekend. Regarded as one of the good guys in the pap and photography biz, London born Carrette first came to prominence when he photographed a sick Marianne Faithful in a drug coma in her hospital bed circa 1969. Faithful had tripped to Australia with musician Mick Jagger who was to star in a film about Ned Kelly. She had over-dosed after, it was claimed in the British press, she had discovered Jagger in bed as it were, with another woman. Carrette donned a white doctor's coat and stethoscope and sneaked into Faithful's room, snapped the photo that was flashed around the world as one of the first examples of intrusive photography. Earlier this year when Faithful was in town for the Sydney Festival, she advised new media outlet 'The Shuttle' she'd still like to give the snapper a "quick boot in the backside". However she later revealed she had forgiven him. After a stint of studying photography in London, Carrette traveled to Sydney and picked up gig as Sir Frank Packer's copy boy when the media baron owned Daily Mirror newspaper. Once established he worked for various publications photographing news. He ambushed the US invasion of Grenada by hiring a smuggler's boat while the world's news media waited for official transport in downtown Barbados. He also did well in New York for 6 years and photographed for leading fashion title Vogue in Paris for 2 years. A few years back here in Sydney he and another pap squirted the actor Heath Ledger with water pistols at a Sydney film premiere. The images of a startled and wet Ledger was flashed around the world. He was ever so briefly banned by film companies from movie premieres and the like, but later made peace with Ledger shortly before he died in New York. Carrette also supported an orphanage in Cambodia by donating the fees received from his exclusive candid photos of celebrities often taken around Bondi Beach. He ran his own studio and photo biz from a Bondi Beach flat, "The greatest office in the world" he said, where he had lived for the past 20 years. The flat is owned by his good mate, Jack Thompson. Carrette was well liked in the industry, a keen philanthropist, and gave a lot back to the industry. He attended the Sea Shepherd Bondi No Compromise! event at the beach on Friday night at the invitation of Media Man, who has collaborated closely with Peter over the past 3 years, usually at Bondi Beach and often on community based projects. It's understood he passed away on Sunday evening from heart failure while working at his computer.

James Packer Likely Inspired Australia's Richest Woman Share Raid On Network Ten...

It all happened at the event to celebrate Alan Jones's 25 years in radio. Gina Rinehart witnesses history, and decided to play a big part in it. Australia's richest woman was in the mix of the 1100 media and political in crowd who gathered at Sydney's Darling Harbour on November 5 to toast Jones and witness tributes from the likes of former prime minister John Howard, Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger, opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and British conservative icon Jeffrey Archer.

An emotional address from gaming and media mogul James Packer clearly made an impression. In a rare public display, Packer opened up about Jones. "Alan, no one will ever take your place," he said. "You are without peer, my friend." Packer had just raised his already considerable public profile by grabbing 18% of Ten Network Holdings in a shock sharemarket raid. Here was confirmation he was back in town after some moments of severe doubt during the global financial crisis. Rinehart was paying attention. It is understood the mining heiress wrote to her fellow billionaire afterwards, congratulating him on his speech, expressing her support for Jones and wishing Packer luck with his $280 million Ten investment. Within days, traders noticed that Morgan Stanley Smith Barney...a retail brokerage that accounts for less than 1% of Ten trading on an average day...was responsible for a whopping 24.3% of turnover. That was November 10. The brokerage continued to soak up stock in the following days. Seek co-founder Paul Bassat, adman John Singleton and media company News Limited (publisher of The Australian) were all rumoured to be behind the trades. But this week the mystery buyer was revealed as power woman Rinehart.

Nobody could have guessed, except perhaps Packer, who received another letter from Rinehart yesterday, telling him she had spent more than $150m on 10 per cent of Ten. Without being too specific, Rinehart indicated broad support for the Ten shake-up and said she liked the look of the new board. Here was confirmation that Georgina Hope Rinehart was not content to confine her $4.5 billion fortune to the mining sector. Rinehart is said to resent the description "mining heiress", believing she deserves credit for building on her father's legacy. She also does not want to be remembered as the person who took Porteous to court. Some associates believe she wants to make her mark on a bigger stage, much as fellow iron ore magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest has in championing the cause of indigenous Australians in recent years. She hinted at issues of national interest in the short statement released on late Monday. "Our company group is interested in making an investment towards the media business, given its importance to the nation's future, and has selected Channel 10 for this investment," it said.

So notions of legacy and influence perhaps explain why Rinehart jumped on the truck to help lead the big crowd in a chant of "axe the tax". She used a megaphone to do it that day. Others have found owning part of a media company is another way to open doors in Canberra. Media Man will be following up the fun, games and media power plays of Australia's Richest women and think she might be the source of more major news for media friends and partners across the global, especially for the good folks at the always hard hitting and switched on Gambling911.

Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, how did you like our report? Tell us in the forum. 

If you have a bet, please bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.

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