Tingle: Australia Gambling With Legal Eagles And Politics

Written by:
Greg Tingle
Published on:

G'day punters, gaming and casino millionaires, billionaires, legal eagles, law enforcement officials, politicians and everyone else. Today we look at a curious situation with a gambler who dropped a heap of money at Crown Casino in Melbourne, pokie lovers and haters in the political scene and a whole lot more. Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com and Gambling911 with your daily dose of Australian news. Just what the doctor ordered...

High Rolling Aussie Whale Harry Kakavas Avoids Bankruptcy...

Crown casino has not been successful in its attempt send 'High Rolling Harry K' into bankruptcy.  The major win for Mr Kakavas at a Collins St creditors meeting means he is now free to chase his $30 mil battle against Crown in the Victorian Court of Appeal. A hearing of his appeal against a Supreme Court judge's dismissal of his $35 million claim against the gaming company for gambling losses is set for June. Kakavas, who owes more than $50 mil, yesterday won the backing of 22 out of 31 creditors, headed by Challenger Bank and all 8 of his legal reps, including top silk Allan Myers, QC. The Gold Coast property tycoon (of sorts) has pledged to pay $555,000 to his creditors over a 10-month period and another $5 million if he wins the appeal against Crown. On Friday, Crown issued an application in the Federal Court attempting to prevent the creditors meeting going ahead. The application was later abandoned. Kakavas, a fully diagnosed "pathological gambler", lost roughly $30 million bucks at Crown circa 2005-06. At the pinnacle of his gambling he was betting up to $300,000 grand on the flip of a single card, once losing a whopping $2.4 million in 43 minutes if you believe the yarn. He has boldly accused the casino of devising a plot to lure him back to the casino with cash incentives and use of a luxury jet. His legal eagles will argue Justice David Harper made 36 errors in his 2009 judgment in favour of James Packer's casino. The appeal will be based on Justice Harper's finding that Kakavas's gambling addiction did not disadvantage him in his dealings with Crown. Kakavas has already paid $210,000 in security costs in order for the appeal to proceed. We're hopeful that things may get resolved amicably, but word is there's bit of bad blood, so stay tuned.

Tattersalls Targets Melbourne Housing Estate For Pokie Palace Fun And Games...

A poker machine venue in a new housing estate in Melbourne's north would be part of a safe and friendly "boutique hotel", gaming giant Tattersalls claims. Tattersalls says in a submission to VCAT that the development would result in many jobs and a big financial investment in Doreen's Laurimar estate. "The benefits are many and should not be lightly treated," it says. The City of Whittlesea and a residents' group led by a local Baptist minister claim a poker machine venue would have a negative impact on the growing community's welfare. The council has gone to VCAT in a bid to overturn a decision by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation to approve the venue. Tattersalls wants to install 40 "one armed bandits" at the planned Laurimar tavern, with annual gaming revenue expected to reach up to $4.2 million. The VCGR has also given the green light to the Bridge Inn hotel, 5km from Laurimar, to put in 40 machines. In its submission, Tattersalls says Laurimar's boutique venue would be safe and friendly and could be managed responsibly. "The proposal would deliver a range of social and recreational opportunities for the community which would facilitate community interaction and sense of place," it says. "The evidence is very much to the effect that this community is advantaged in terms of social cohesion and values to accommodate licensed premises and gaming." The VCGR says in its submission that the City of Whittlesea is one of Melbourne's fastest growing municipalities and there is increasing demand for modern, family friendly sporting, entertainment, dining and social facilities. "The Whittlesea community will benefit from a modern tavern with a range of entertainment options," it says. The commission says it is satisfied that the tavern would be operated by people experienced in electronic gaming machines. The hearing before Judge Felicity Hampel and town planner Anthony Liston continues today. Good or bad idea? The judge will tell us soon enough.

Man Rips Off Employer Of $600,000 To Feed Gambling Addiction...

A problem gambler recruited a Victorian based mate to help with a false invoice scam to rip off nearly $600,000 from his Brisbane based employer, a court heard yesterday. Prosecutor Julie Aylward told the District Court in Brisbane that Leslie Jones had used a persistent and calculated fraud to pinch $583,339 from his employer B and R Enclosures. Ms Aylward said there were 221 false invoices issued of which money was paid on 220. She said no restitution was made and the company had to bear the loss while its profit margin had gone up since Jones had been caught. Judge Kerry O'Brien said there was some complexity about Jones's offending and he had to impose a sentence of seven years' jail. He said, however, after taking into account the mitigating circumstances he would set a parole eligibility date at February 28, 2013. Jones, 50, pleaded to aggravated fraud between July 24, 1998 and October 5, 2005. Earlier, Aylward outlined how Jones and a man named Kevin Tidball became mates when working for Ford Australia in Victoria and they remained in contact after they both resigned. She said Jones came to Brisbane to work for B and R Enclosures while Tidball opened his own engineering company. B and R Enclosures, a steel fabrication business, outsourced some its work to overseas companies and relied on them to ship goods to Australia in a "timely and cost effective way". Aylward advised Jones was responsible to ensure the goods were shipped to Australia and Jones was aware there was regularly a surplus between the budgeted cost of freight and the actual cost. "It is alleged Jones put in place a process using the services of Tidball to defraud the company of this surplus," she added. Aylward said Jones got Tidball's company to submit invoices which were paid by B and R Enclosures although no actual work had been done. Tidball kept a modest 10% of what was paid and deposited the rest in Jones's bank account. She said Tidball was sentenced to a wholly suspended 12 months' jail in relation to the cunning scam when he appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last year. Barrister James Godbolt, for Jones, said his client had a good work history in England before coming to Australia where he worked at the Ford company in Victoria and then in Brisbane. He said Jones had developed a gambling addiction after a relationship breakdown and a family illness placed him under stress. Godbolt said Jones had since sought assistance to overcome his addiction. Gambling addiction has been linked to dozens of fraud cases that Gambling911 and Media Man have covered over the last number of years.

Terri Irwin's Australia Zoo; Some Financial Challenges But Las Vegas Deal Part Of 10 Year Business Plan...

Steve Irwin made the the globe aware about Australia and its wildlife. He attracted millions of tourists to our great land. Now, five years after his death Australia Zoo numbers are down in a big way. Zoo boss Terri Irwin this week has rejected claims her husband's legacy was at risk, but admitted the zoo had been forced to go through the painful process of shedding 22 employees to cut costs. Mrs Irwin declared the showpiece "had survived for 40 years and would thrive for another 40". She said times were tough for many tourism businesses because of recent devastating weather events. This could not have come at a worse time with official figures showing the numbers of international tourists already were on the slide because of the strong Australian dollar. Ironically, the challenge for Australia Zoo is to engender more support from Australians, especially Queenslanders. Mrs Irwin, whose leadership brought her recognition as Owner Manager of the Year at the Queensland Management Excellence Awards in November, believes local support holds the key to their future success. She urged people to look to their own back yard for amazing holiday experiences instead of heading overseas. "Australians are famous for sticking up for their mates. This is what they do best. We really need them to do this now," she said, adding she would step up her hands-on leadership of the operation and strive to make it even better. Bindi, 12, and Robert, 7, also would continue to help develop the dream, which began when their grandfather Bob founded the Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park in 1970. Australia Zoo and was propelled to stardom by their parents Steve and Terri, after they took over in 1992. Their passion and vision ensured it grew into a world-class facility and conservation icon, taking out Major Tourist Attraction at the Queensland and Australian Tourism Awards and being inducted into the Queensland Tourism Hall of Fame. Mrs Irwin said that people continued to be just as generous in donating funds towards helping animals and vowed that the zoo's conservation activities would charge ahead. A new Africa exhibit, with giraffes and rhinos, soon would make a spectacular appearance. Mrs Irwin would not rule out having to sell some of the Beerwah attraction's property holdings and indicated the roll-out of a $300 million plan to replicate Australia Zoo in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas may be put back. "It remains on our 10-year business plan but our immediate focus is here," she said. The world, it seems, can wait while challenges continue at home. Mrs Irwin said a renewed focus on "our core business" was the only way forward. "I want people to spend a day with us and be able to say 'that was an amazing experience'," Mrs Irwin said. "I will make sure everything Steve stood for and his legacy will continue." "We continue with our core business - the animals are OK, that we maintain as many of our team as we can and that we move forward in the future," she said. "I'm not looking at consolidating to stop, I'm looking at consolidating so that we can plan on growing again in the future. "I have absolutely no intention of closing Australia Zoo - again our wildlife hospital is running, our wildlife experiences are continuing and we fund our conservation projects with people who come into Australia Zoo. "We have conservation projects, both throughout Australia and the world, and while the projects are not seeing the influx of cash that they have in the past, none of them have stopped. "Nothing has closed. Nothing will close." She says she intends to honour a promise to her late husband Steve Irwin to keep Australia Zoo operating successfully. Ms Irwin says the zoo's problems are similar to those being experienced by many Australian businesses. She says expansion plans locally and in the United States, most likely via the Las Vegas strip, have slowed but will not be axed. "Certainly I haven't shelved Steve's 10-year business plan," she said. "I don't think it's a matter of if, it's a matter of when - so I wouldn't shelve anything. "Certainly I'm not going to be going ahead full speed at this time, but we are going ahead." Business analysts believe that a Terri Irwin crocodile themed venture such a a fun part in Las Vegas would likely be a success and would plug into a captive audience keen to spend their money on quality entertainment.

Anti Gambling Independents Nick Xenophon And Andrew Wilkie Continue To Battle On...

A couple of folk who are wary of the Australian Labor Club donations are the anti-gambling independents Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie. "It is a very dramatic example of how big business and big money corrupts the policies of the political parties," Wilkie tells me. He describes Labor's acceptance of the donations as "a significant conflict of interest" between the ALP and poker machine reform. "It's one of the many reasons why nothing has been done about poker machine reform before I came along," he says. Xenophon and Wilkie are insisting on reforms to try to curtail problem gambling, including the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment. Precommitment involves gamblers compulsorily signing up to a system which will, at a nominated limit, shut off their ability to play the machines like Cleopatra, Black Rhino, Derby Day, Where's The Gold and so on. It would involve the use of smart card tech, although not with fingerprint or biometric ID, that would either turn off the machine, or enable the player to keep playing without paying. To be somewhat effective, the card would have to work at every machine in every club. The clubs are not keen on the concept, stating it will cost thousands of jobs and slash revenue, and are ready for a massive brawl, already being played out in the press and at various venues where the two pokie hating "independent MP" show their face and run their spin. Under the terms of Wilkie's agreement to support Gillard, the government has until May 31 to secure an agreement on precommitment with the states, and if it does not, then it must legislate unilaterally by budget 2012 to impose it. In view of the link between the pokies venues run by Labor clubs and the coffers of the Labor Party, Xenophon wants Gillard to step up now and get the Labor clubs to introduce mandatory precommitment as an example to other clubs. "It would be the responsible thing," he says. "I think it would have enormous moral authority for Julia Gillard to do this." Wilkie says this is a top idea and would trigger the ALP to claim the moral high ground. But so arrogant is he of winning government and parliamentary support for the measures he has put forward that he believes they will be in force in every pub, club and casino in Australia, with the exception the very smallest in the same time duration. The states are so far refusing to play ball and a meeting of state gaming ministers with the federal minister responsible, Jenny Macklin, on Friday made very little progress. Wilkie was not present but was hanging over the discussion with Macklin repeatedly referring to the government's deal with him. "He was like Banquo's ghost," one leaker spoke. NSW premier-in-waiting Barry O'Farrell has signed an agreement with Clubs NSW to support a system of precommitment that is "voluntary for the player, venue-based and cost-effective". Victorian Gaming Minister Michael O'Brien argues his state is already ahead of the game, pardon the pub, with plans to remove ATMs from gaming venues by July next year, and the rollout of mandatory precommitment for all machines with voluntary sign up for players by 2015-16. "We won't want to see those policies compromised by the Wilkie agreement," he says. He insists precommitment has to be mandatory for both machines and all regular gamblers. Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are not saying yet which way they will go on the issue, but Wilkie is confident he will get enough support to get his measures through the lower house. Word on the street is that Wilkie is a "dead man walking" and may end up being a key reason that Labour is going down for the count. Many Aussies think Labour is out of touch with the people. If the government reneges on the agreement, Wilkie is adamant he will withdraw his support for the government. "Whether that brings her (Gillard) down or not is a separate issue," he says. "I might withdraw my support from her and give it to Abbott or not give it to anyone." Australian are some of the most passionate gamblers in the world and have been so ever since Captain Cook discovered Australia in 1788. PartyGaming, Betfair, and Centrebet are understood to be the most popular online gaming brands in Australia. Crown Limited, Tabcorp and Tatts Group are the big 3 of land based gaming and gambling in Australia. Rumours persist that James Packer's Crown Limited may look to buy out Tabcorp in the coming years, but that is speculation. Australia is forecast to remain in the world's top 10 gaming countries for the foreseeable future.

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Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com Casino News Media http://www.casinonewsmedia.com and Gambling911 are website portals. Not casinos as such, however are recognised as world leading websites that cover the sector and act as central points to games, news, reviews and more.

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 http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a dozen sectors covered

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited

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