Thursday, August 02, 2012

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Crown to expand Burswood casino...

Casino operator Crown will spend $568 million on a new luxury hotel at its Burswood complex in Perth.

The James Packer-controlled company said Crown Towers Hotel would be the largest in Perth, and create 500 new jobs once completed, plus 700 construction jobs.

Construction of the hotel tower will begin in 2013, with completion expected in 2016.
The development will be built on land currently owned by Burswood, plus land to be bought from the West Australian government for $60 million.

As part of its land purchase agreement with the government, Crown will be allowed to operate an additional 500 poker machines and 130 gaming tables at the Burswood casino.

The new gaming tables and machines will be rolled out over the next five years.

"The new hotel comes at a time when Perth and Western Australia are in desperate need of additional luxury hotel and short term accommodation to satisfy the demands of business travellers and tourists and will put Perth firmly back on the map for leisure travellers seeking exclusive, resort-style experiences," Crown said in a statement.

Some regulatory approvals are required before construction can begin. (AAP)


Packer plans 6-star casino in Perth...

James Packer has vowed not to undertake further luxury hotel-casino developments in Australia without bipartisan support after yesterday securing the backing of the West Australian government to spend $568 million to develop Perth's first six-star hotel.

The hotel, to be built on the Burswood Peninsula and called Crown Towers in line with the flagship in Melbourne, will feature 500 rooms as well as restaurants, bars, resort and convention facilities and take capacity at the casino precinct to 1200 rooms.


Crown set to join the Birdcage party at Melbourne Cup...

Business and gambling mogul James Packer has taken the lead by launching a Crown Casino corporate hospitality marquee in the Birdcage at this year's Melbourne Cup.

Race organisers have been flooded with sponsorship and hospitality deals that will push this year's spring racing carnival revenues 20 per cent above those before the global financial crisis.

It is believed the Victorian Racing Committee, the organiser of the carnival and the race that stops the nation, will soon unveil Crown Casino as a new marquee sponsor at the Melbourne Cup for 2012, along with another 18 new corporate private marquee clients at Flemington.

The decision by Crown to launch its Birdcage tent, which will be along millionaires' row that hugs the racetrack and overlooks the finish line, is part of a broader and deeper push by businesses to hook up sponsorship deals with the 2012 Melbourne Cup as well as ongoing deals that will now stretch out to 2015.

It is understood the Crown Casino marquee will have catering from some of the casino's best restaurants, such as Japanese eatery Nobu, part owned by Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, and popular French establishment Bistro Guillaume.

G. H. Mumm has just re-signed as official champagne sponsor for the next five years, The Age can reveal, while other new or extended sponsorship contracts have been inked by vitamins group Swisse, National Australia Bank, Yellowglen and Australia's largest brewer, Lion.

According to VRC documents, a suite of popular corporate sponsorships for this year's Cup, now less than 100 days away, have already sold out, including the Winning Post enclosure for Cup day, Trackside Enclosure on Stakes day and the private boxes for Derby and Cup days.

This has helped the VRC push its carnival sponsorship revenue up 19.4 per cent on pre-global financial crisis levels, while corporate hospitality revenue is up 32 per cent on 2009.

A study conducted by the consultancy group, IER, claims that the four days at Flemington generated a value-added contribution to Victoria's gross state product of more than $164.5 million - a figure that captures money injected into the Victorian economy from out-of-state visitors.

Victorian businesses also benefited from the $349 million in financial stimulus generated by the carnival, according to the report, while nationally, the economic output generated by spending associated with the carnival reached more than $746 million.

Fashion spending also increased, with racegoers spending $28.5 million ($26 million in 2010) in Victoria on items to wear to the Melbourne Cup carnival, representing an average outlay of $149.78 for each racegoer at Flemington.

Meanwhile, Black Caviar - whose presence at the track would provide a further significant fillip for Victorian racing - is undergoing a battery of tests to determine whether she will continue to race.

After she crowned her unbeaten career with a dramatic win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, Black Caviar was found to have suffered a number of muscle injuries.

Trainer Peter Moody and the mare's owners are expected to decide soon whether her racing career is over. (Fairfax Media)


Social concerns over proposed casino expansion...

The social welfare charity Anglicare is concerned about plans to add another 500 poker machines and more than 100 gaming tables to the Burswood Casino.

Yesterday it was announced that a 500 room, six-star hotel is set to be built alongside the Burswood casino complex in Perth.

The State Government has sold the land to the James Packer-owned company Crown for $60 million.

The hotel will cost nearly $500 million to build and is due to open in mid 2016.

Crown is also applying for an additional 500 gaming machines and 130 gaming tables.

Anglicare's chief executive Ian Carter says the impact the extra gaming machines will have on families should not be underplayed.

"We don't need an expansion of more opportunities for people to lose money," he said.

"We need to be clear here that the potential for family and marriage break down and for people to get into significant financial difficulty is associated with problem gambling.

"It's an issue in our community we're seeing increasing evidence of gambling opps being made available."

The new development also spells the end of the Burswood golf course.

Jeff McCann from the Burswood Residents Action Group, which has been lobbying to keep the course, says the news has come from left field.

"In many respects we feel deceived and we're very very disappointed," he said.

However, the Premier Colin Barnett has welcomed the development, saying the project will help ease the accommodation shortage in Perth.

"I am told it will be the best hotel in Australia by a significant margin and will do so much to help overcome the high quality shortage of hotel rooms in Perth," he said.

The Tourism Minister Kim Hames says it will help combat the shortage but more needs to be done.

"This will be the start of the change in this," he said.

"We will continue to work as a Government with other sites such as the Elizabeth Quay Development, the sinking of the railway line, East Perth development and of course we have recently announced the FESA house development.

"They will provide opportunities for the future to further address the hotel needs we have in this state." (ABC News)


Six star hotel to be built in Perth...

A 500 room six-star hotel is set to be built alongside the Burswood casino complex in Perth.

The State Government has sold the land to the James Packer-owned company Crown for $60 million.

The hotel will cost nearly $500 million to build and is due to open in mid 2016.

Crown is also applying for an additional 500 gaming machines and 130 gaming tables.

WA Premier Colin Barnett says the development will create 700 construction jobs and a further 500 once the hotel is completed.

"I am told it will be the best hotel in Australia by a significant margin and will do so much to help overcome the high quality shortage of hotel rooms in Perth," he said.

The Tourism Minister Kim Hames says it will help combat the shortage but more needs to be done.

"This will be the start of the change in this," he said.

"We will continue to work as a Government with other sites such as the Elizabeth Quay Development, the sinking of the railway line, East Perth development and of course we have recently announced the FESA house development.

"They will provide opportunities for the future to further address the hotel needs we have in this state."


NRL rejects player gambling research...

Gambling counsellor and former Newcastle Knights player Ashley Gordon says the National Rugby League needs to investigate the impacts of gambling on rugby league players.

Mr Gordon says gambling is having a devastating impact on the lives of some players and their families.

As part of his work with Southern Cross University he put forward a proposal to the NRL to conduct research into player gambling, but it's been rejected.

"I think it has been part of the game and part of the culture for too long," he said.

"I think the NRL are aware of this and really we need to take some strong steps to address the problems.

"I would like to see some research done to the players to provide us with the information on their beliefs and their values around gambling and money and so forth and their behaviour.

"That would give us valuable information to then put in programs and structures."

"We gave them a proposal that was knocked on the head.

"They weren't able to come up with the funds to support that initiative.

"I think it is important to provide the NRL with some important information would have been achieved by this research.

"At the moment it's a band aid solution where someone comes out, talks about the issue and we try and help that individual and then we wait for someone else to come forward with another problem. We need to do more."


Accusations cruise ship ran illegal casino...

The New South Wales Government has ordered an investigation into claims a P&O cruise ship ran an illegal floating casino off the state's south coast.

Last weekend, a P&O cruise ship left Sydney on a three-night cruise, including a stop at Jervis Bay.

Passengers say once at sea they could access up to $5,000 from their credit cards to gamble on games including blackjack, poker and roulette.

Under state laws it is only legal to run casinos on ships that are at least 12 nautical miles offshore.

NSW Gaming Minister George Souris says the waters around Jervis Bay are technically Commonwealth territory, but he has asked the Office of Liquor and Gaming to investigate.

"If it turns out that gambling operations were being conducted in New South Wales territorial waters of the coast line then that is indeed a breach," he said.

P&O says it has always worked to operate within the legislative framework.


Packer jet's close encounter with Virgin...

Details have emerged of a close shave between a corporate jet owned by James Packer's Crown Casino and a Virgin Australia passenger aircraft over the skies of Armidale, New South Wales, late last year.

A report from air safety inspectors, released today, reveals that the Gulfstream IV, which is used to fly Asian high-rollers to Crown's Melbourne casino, and the Virgin 737-800 were flying towards each other on air routes which intersected about 35 nautical miles north-west of the city on October 8.

An air traffic controller identified the situation but the instructions issued to the pilot of the Gulfstream meant that the corporate jet was cleared for descent below the level at which the 737 was flying.

The progress towards what air inspectors term a "breakdown of separation" continued when the controller did not recognise the error during the Gulfstream pilot's read-back of the clearance, the report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau states.

A breakdown of separation occurred about 3pm when the planes got within 4.8 nautical miles (8.9 kilometres) of each other.

The appropriate separation between planes is 5 nautical miles side by side, or 1000 feet vertically.

Fortunately, an automatic alarm was activated seconds later, and the controller issued an alert to the Virgin pilots advising them that the Gulfstream was at 1 o'clock in their line of vision at 4 nautical miles.

"The pilot of the 737 responded that the traffic was sighted and that a traffic alert and collision avoidance system ... traffic advisory alert ... had been received. This was reported to have assisted the pilot to visually sight the descending Gulfstream IV," the report states.

"Subsequently the controller acted correctly to recover from the ensuing breakdown of separation."

The ATSB's general manager of aviation safety investigation, Ian Sangston, said today that the report highlighted the various layers of defence in a complex air-safety system.

"In a complex situation there are a number of layers of defence ... and where there is an inadvertent slip up on the part of the controller, other layers in the system catch the slip," he said.

The report found no evidence the pilots of either aircraft were at fault.

The Virgin jet was flying from Brisbane to Sydney, while the Gulfstream was operating a flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast Airport at Coolangatta.

The corporate jet is one of three Gulfstreams – two of which are V versions – the casino owns to fly high rollers to Melbourne from destinations throughout Asia.

In a VIP configuration, Crown's corporate jets can seat about 10 people.

Crown controls 80 per cent of the high-roller market in Australia. (Fairfax Media)


Legal questions over latest Echo plan...

Another day, another theory about the carve up of Echo Entertainment, owner of Sydney casino The Star.

Unfortunately, the latest leaked plan from "well placed sources" suffers a major flaw - it is illegal.

For months, speculation and imaginations have run wild, ever since Malaysian casino group Genting snapped up a stake in Echo and gradually lifted it to 10 per cent, rivalling that of James Packer's Crown Group.

The sudden arrival of the Malaysians threw Packer's neat plan - to gain control of Echo without a takeover offer and then use its monopoly casino licence and its balance sheet to build a glittering new gambling den at Barangaroo - into chaos.

Would there be a bidding war? Or would the pair join forces to carve up Echo?

Given Packer's reluctance to stretch his finances, the latter idea has dominated thinking. Earlier this year, there were reports the Malaysians really just wanted a slice of the action in Macau, where Crown has a joint venture on several casinos with the Ho family. A deal was imminent. Or so we were told. No-one could ever explain the twisted logic of why anyone would buy a stake in an Australian casino group in order to get an advantage in Macau.

This week, reports appeared that Crown and Echo will work together to carve up the VIP market for wealthy Asian gamblers.

If true, that would be a major capitulation on the part of the Echo board and a serious about face after its earlier fierce opposition to Packer's plans. It would also possibly raise concerns from the competition regulator.

But the latest theory, that Genting and Crown have hatched a plan to each buy 25 per cent of Echo and then control the company, would represent a serious breach of the Corporations Act.

Such a deal would make the pair related parties. As a result, they would be prohibited from buying any more than 19.9 per cent between them. And should the pair want to extend beyond that, they would either have to jointly launch a takeover or buy 3 per cent every six months through their joint vehicle.

Both groups have requested regulatory approval to lift their holdings beyond the 10 per cent limit enforced by gaming authorities.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission chief Greg Medcraft recently voiced concerns to a parliamentary inquiry about the latest trend towards gaining control of a company by skirting the takeover laws.

He was specifically referring to Echo and Fairfax Media which has been under siege from Gina Rinehart.

These latest reports should be a red flag to the regulator.

Genting put a serious dent in Crown's Asian expansion plans a few years ago when it beat the Packer organisation for the rights to build and operate a massive new casino in Singapore. And it is no stranger to Australia. It was the original operator of Perth's Burswood casino, now owned by Crown, and was an early key investor in the Queensland-based Jupiters Casinos, now owned by Echo.

As your columnist postulated months ago, the more likely scenario is that Genting has built a blocking stake and will attempt to wrestle the three Queensland casinos out of the group if Packer launches a takeover bid.

But that's just another theory. (Fairfax Media)


Crown gambles on six-star hotel in WA...

James Packer has continued to gamble heavily on luring Asian tourists to his Australian casino resorts, with Crown Ltd announcing plans yesterday to spend $568 million building a six-star hotel at its Perth casino.

The deal with the WA government also includes a boost to its gambling facilities. Crown is also seeking permission from NSW and Queensland gaming regulators to increase its stake in Echo Entertainment from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

The Echo investment is part of another plan to engage its local rival in a joint venture focused on Asian VIP gamblers. Crown intends to create a billion-dollar luxury destination for Asian high rollers at Sydney's showpiece harbour development, Barangaroo, but needs Echo's casino licence - and money - to do it.

Yesterday Crown announced it had an in-principle agreement to pay the WA government $60 million to acquire land for the planned hotel development.

The government has agreed not to oppose an application for 500 additional gaming machines at the Perth casino and 130 additional gaming tables, Crown said. The application will include plans for private gambling salons for VIP gamblers.

The luxury hotel, to be known as Crown Towers Perth, adds to the $2.2 billion Crown is spending on its two Australian casino resorts in a bid to attract Asian VIP gamblers from the strong competition in Singapore and Macau.

''Our goal is to create an integrated resort capable of competing with the best in the Asian region,'' Mr Packer told a Perth audience last year. He has made no secret of the need to invest heavily in luxury accommodation and facilities to compete in the lucrative global market for China's tourists who are displaying an appetite for travel, gourmet food and gambling.

A third of Crown's Australian revenue last year, about $800 million, was generated from international visitors. Most of this revenue comes from high rollers and other VIP-level customers, but the recent opening of two casino resorts in Singapore has affected Crown's business, especially in Perth. The increase in gambling facilities in Perth will be phased in over five years, subject to the approval of the Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia, Crown said.

Construction of the 500-room hotel on a property near the casino will commence early next year and take three years, according to a statement from Crown.

The development is also expected to include restaurants, bars, resort and convention facilities.

The company's shares closed 2¢ higher at $8.47 yesterday. (Fairfax Media)


TEXT-Fitch Affirms Australia's Crown at 'BBB'; Outlook Stable - 30th July 2012...

SYDNEY, July 30 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Crown Limited's (Crown) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) and its senior unsecured rating at 'BBB'. The Outlook on the IDR is Stable.

The Australian gaming and entertainment operator's ratings are supported by its strong market position as the sole licensed casino operator in the states of Victoria and Western Australia. Its gaming assets in Melbourne and Perth have demonstrated consistent cash flow generation, which in part reflect stable and predictable local markets that represent over 50% of consolidated revenue.

Crown has outperformed the Australian industry by increasing market share even as total gaming expenditure in the country has grown at a slower pace than inflation. More significantly, the company has achieved this growth in a period of disruption to its operations as it is in the midst of a significant capex programme.

These strengths are offset by the concentration of operating assets in two casinos from which all of Crown's cash generation is derived.

Crown has planned to incur expansionary capex till FY15 (financial year ending June). As most of the capex will be incurred on existing properties, project implementation risk is minimal. Sizable expansionary capex coupled with annual dividend payout would result in Crown continuing to generate negative free cash flow (FCF) till at least end of FY15. However, Fitch does not expect Crown's financial risk (net adjusted debt to operating EBITDAR) to exceed 2.5x (FY11:1.6x) during this period.


What Could Trigger a Rating Action?

Positive: Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a positive rating action include:

-the completion of the extensive capex that Crown is undertaking. This would need to be combined with ongoing evidence that Crown's focus will remain on lower-risk assets

-Net adjusted debt (excluding working capital cash) to EBITDA falls below 1.75x on a sustained basis

Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a negative rating action include:

-Net adjusted debt (excluding working capital cash) to EBITDA increases above 2.5x on a sustained basis.

-Significant negative regulatory action -Additional material funding of investments


Shane McMahon Note...

YOU On Demand Holdings, a leading Pay-Per-View and Video On Demand platform in China of which Shane McMahon is CEO and Chairman, announced today via a press release that it has signed an agreement to offer Paramount Pictures titles through their Video On Demand and Subscription Video On Demand services in the People's Republic of China. The titles that will be available to YOU On Demand customers include Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Transformers, No Country For Old Men and Star Trek.

"Paramount Pictures is one of Hollywood's most iconic studios and we are delighted to offer films from its rich library to our customers," said Shane McMahon. "The addition of Paramount's roster now gives YOU On Demand the most vibrant and compelling titles available in the People's Republic of China."


WWE News: Ric Flair's Daughter Reports to FCW...

WWE may have signed their next huge female star.

Women's wrestling website Diva-Dirt reports that Ashley Fliehr Johnson, the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair, made her first official appearance for Florida Championship Wrestling at an event a few days ago.

It was first reported back in May that Fliehr had inked a deal with the company and was expected to join FCW imminently. She will follow in the footsteps of second- and third-generation Divas like Natalya Neidhart, Tamina Snuka, and Shaul Guerrero, who are all currently under WWE contract. (Guerrero is still training in developmental, while Snuka and Neidhart have been on the main roster for some time.)

Fliehr, who has a background in personal fitness, previously found herself in the public eye back in 2008 after an embarrassing—and volatile—family argument in her hometown of Chapel Hill, NC, which ended with the then-21-year-old's arrest. She was later sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a $200 fine over the incident.

At the time her signing was announced, it sparked interest in some circles that the aspiring Diva had elected to go to WWE and not TNA, the company to which her father contracted at the time.

Of course, shortly afterwards it was announced that "The Nature Boy" had acrimoniously parted ways with America's No. 2 wrestling promotion, which may have explained the move.

Although Flair's daughter may be on the FCW roster, his own future in WWE remains up in the air. While the promotion would surely love to have the popular and charismatic legend back—and had jumped at the chance to sign his daughter—the current TNA/WWE lawsuit for issues related to contract tampering looks to have prevented his return for the time being.


Movie News: Top Ten based on weekend estimates (USA)...

1. The Dark Knight Rises (Legendary/Warner Bros) Week 2 [4,404 Runs] PG13
Friday $18.0M, Saturday $25.6M, Weekend $64.0M (-60%), Cume $289.0M

2. Ice Age 4 3D (Fox) Week 3 [3,869 Runs) PG
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $13.3M, Cume $114.8M

3. The Watch (Fox) NEW 3,168 Runs) R
Friday $4.5M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $13M

4. Step Up Revolution 3D (Summit/Lionsgate) NEW [2,567 Runs) PG13
Friday $5.0M, Saturday 3.9M, Weekend $11.8M

5. Ted (Universal) Week 5 [3,129 Runs) R
Friday $2.1M, Saturday $3.0M, Weekend $7.3M, Cume $193.6M

6. The Amazing Spider-Man 3D (Col/Sony) Week 4 [3,160 Run]
Friday $1.8M, Saturday $2.9M, Weekend $6.8M, Cume $242.0M

7. Brave 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 6 [2,551 Runs] PG
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.6M, Weekend $4.2M, Cume $217.2M

8. Magic Mike (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,075 Runs] R
Friday $800K, Saturday $1.0M, Weekend $2.5M, Cume $107.5M

9. Savages (Universal) Week 4 [1,414 Runs] R
Friday $480K, Saturday $742K, Weekend $1.7M, Cume $43.8M

10. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) Week 9 [853 Runs] PG13
Friday $363K, Saturday $614K, Weekend $1.3M, Cume $38.3M


The Critics’ Top 10 Greatest Films of All Time...

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
4. La R├Ęgle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)
5. Sunrise: A Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
8. Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)


The Directors’ Top 10 Greatest Films of All Time...

1. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
3. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
5. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1980)
6. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
7. The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
8. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
9. Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)
10. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

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