Aspinall to float online gaming firm on AIM

Damian Aspinall, the colourful son of the late zoo owner, John Aspinall, is to float his online gaming business on the alternative investment market through a reverse takeover of an existing cash shell.

Mr Aspinall’s Gaming Ventures International (GVI) will be bought by Gaming Investments, a former property company, for an initial consideration of 224 million shares, issued at 15p. The new company, to be renamed Aspinalls Online, will have an initial valuation of £45m. Mr Aspinall is also proposing to raise £5m before expenses to provide the enlarged group with working capital.

Mr Aspinall said GVI, of which he is executive chairman, was the first profitable internet business to float on the Stock Exchange. It registered profits of £3.5m last year. Mr Aspinall said: “Being a public company will give us greater access to capital and greater credibility.”

After its expected admission to AIM on 11 June, the new Aspinalls Online will develop a series of themed casinos, targeted at different geographic markets. It will also launch a betting section, offering wagers on sporting events and financial spreads, as well as a VIP club for invited high-rollers and related content, including a tipster service.

Mr Aspinall admitted that his family name would be an advantage in building the business. “The key here is, there are a lot of online casinos, but very few of them are reputable,” he said. “If you go and play at ‘’, you don’t know if they will steal your credit card or whether you will get your money.” He said the reputation of the Aspinall family, which has operated bricks and mortar casinos for 40 years, would lend a sense of trust with online customers.

Once the reverse takeover of GVI is complete, 62 per cent of the new company will be owned by the Aspinall family, of which he will have a 35 per cent stake. The new placing will account for 12.5 per cent of the share capital, with the rest controlled by shareholders of GI and GVI.

Analysts place bets on online gambling

Online and interactive TV gambling will grow tenfold if the government allows the National Lottery to go interactive, it was claimed today.

The takings from on-screen betting will rocket from £47m to £4.3bn by 2006, according to the market analyst, Datamonitor.

“We expect lotteries to come on to interactive platforms – using products such as interactive scratchcards – by 2003,” said Jacob Hayler, a Datamonitor gambling analyst.

Casino gaming is unlikely to move on to interactive television but its popularity is expected to boost online gambling.

At present, 46,000 people use interactive television for gambling. Almost all of this type of betting is on sporting events. By the end of next year, that figure will have grown to more than 2m.

Analyst Internet ban is likely

A federal ban on Internet gambling is likely to pass this year after years of online gaming opponents trying and failing to push through a prohibition bill in Congress, a top Internet gambling analyst told a group of casino insiders Friday. “Unless the industry speaks with one voice, prohibition will become a reality,” Sebastian Sinclair, president of Christiansen Capital Advisors, said during the American Gaming Summit.


The announcement followed last week’s reintroduction of a bill by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, to outlaw Web casinos by making it a crime to accept credit cards, checks and wire transfers for Internet bets. A similar bill passed the House but failed in the Senate last year.Past versions of prohibition bills created exceptions for certain industries that created an “unholy alliance” among lotteries, racetracks and credit card companies, Sinclair said.


An all-out ban that removes those exceptions will appeal to a growing number of gambling foes who are likely to mobilize an attack on Internet gambling following a recent court decision that favored the industry, he said.In November, a federal appeals court in Louisiana upheld an earlier dismissal of a lawsuit brought by gamblers who lost money in Internet casinos.


In a controversial decision, a three-judge panel said the gamblers failed to prove that the online casinos and their credit card processors violated the Wire Act — the primary federal law that addresses online wagering.The ruling went on to note that the Wire Act specifically outlaws sports betting and not casino-style gambling — a decision that contradicts an existing interpretation offered by the U.S. Justice Department.


Tony Cabot, a leading Internet gambling expert and an attorney with Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas, said a prohibition bill still won’t hamper the spread of Internet gambling.The online gambling industry, among the Internet’s most lucrative businesses, will generate from $3 to $6 billion this year, according to analysts’ estimates.Cabot believes that figure can only go higher because of efforts by major U.S. credit card issuers over the past year to block Internet gambling transactions, an effect similar to the restrictions proposed under the Leach bill.The bill won’t be able to prosecute operations outside the United States — where most illegal sites now operate, he said.It also won’t prevent entrepreneurs from seeking loopholes, he added.


Last year’s bill defined gambling as a “game determined predominantly by chance” — an interpretation that leaves open the possibility of offering online games with an element of skill, such as poker, he said.That version of the bill also left open an exception for lotteries that would have opened the floodgates to online lottery jackpots with prizes “unheard of today.”


“You could take that exception to the Leach bill and within three months go online with Powerball.”

Powerball lotteries are multi-state contests that typically collect bigger jackpots than single states because they can attract more bettors.Skill-based games played for prize money already are flourishing on the Internet, Cabot said. Last month, for example, players of the popular action video game “Half-Life” competed online for a total of $500,000 in prizes.


Given the federal government’s position against Internet gambling, casino operators are still unlikely to test the boundaries of the law, Sinclair said.They also disagree on whether to legalize Web casinos, which could hurt their ability to position themselves against future competition.


“Legalization is not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he said. “Unfortunately that ‘when’ is going to be quite some time.” Media companies like Disney, Vivendi and News Corp. that have already dabbled in interactive entertainment may pick up the ball where casinos have left off, he said. “Entertainment companies are not subject to the same kinds of regulations” as casinos, he said.

A Casino Smoking ban is a winner

Last night I ate the best pizza in Sydney. I was in an unfashionable Calabrian restaurant in the suburbs, where boomboxed cars burned doughnuts in the street outside. Since six weeks before the Olympics, New South Wales law has said people can’t smoke inside restaurants. Every few minutes, a tattooed player at the pool table, or a burly tradesman in his working clothes wolfing pizza, or a tizzed-up, bare-midriffed ragazza would go out to the footpath to smoke. It was as if it had always been this way.

There were no “smoking police” tapping them on the shoulder to move outdoors. There were no complaints from management, and there were certainly none from the many family groups and stray yuppies eating inside.

From July1, Victoria will get an overdue taste of the same when the Bracks Government implements a similar ban. But there may be one interesting difference. Steve Bracks says the ban may not apply to the casino and pubs. For all the welcome support Bracks has given to efforts to reduce smoking, he has apparently been blindsided on this one and is taking early steps in the familiar political game of trying to be half-pregnant. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s immortal line from Pumping Iron, somebody has given him the bad advices.

The gaming tables in all but two small high-roller rooms at Sydney’s casino have been smoke-free from day one of the NSW ban. Half of the poker-machine areas are also nominally smoke-free, although some smoke drifts across the magic line from the smoking areas. Jupiter’s in Queensland and Burswood in Perth have indicated they will soon move to smoke-free main gaming areas. So has casino management outside Melbourne lost its financial marbles?

Sydney’s casino is not on the skids. High-rollers still roll in. The same sad scene of mass robotic “fun” greets the visitor. But there’s one difference. Sydney casino staff and patrons get a greatly reduced dose of passive smoking. For staff, this is of great occupational health significance. For litigation lawyers, it’s money gone west.

A March 2000 report for the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority found gambling machine players were almost twice as likely to be smokers as those who never played, and that gambling smokers spent twice as much on tobacco as smokers who didn’t gamble. But Sydney’s experience shows that if you ban smoking, it makes little difference: the mug punters keep on coming – and go outside to smoke. Importantly, for some in a gambling trance, this might be a critical break that pours a shock of cold water on their addiction. I’m out of here.

The most intriguing data, however, comes from a January 2000 Auspoll study commissioned by none other than Philip Morris. Only 14per cent of smokers said they would attend gaming clubs more if smoking was banned, and 60per cent said it would make no difference. But an astonishing 48per cent of non-smokers thought they would attend more. Given that there are three times more non-smokers than smokers, banning smoking would appear to mean a jackpot of new gamblers might pour into casinos.

So if Bracks’ baulking at banning smoking in the casino is anything to do with appeasing the Packers and his Treasurer, someone has led him up the path. It reeks instead of a diet of spin put on smoking bans by the tobacco industry. The big losers in smoking bans are the tobacco industry. Workplace smoking bans cut 24-hour smoking by 20per cent, which translates into hundreds of million of dollars forgone and a reduction in smoking unparalleled by any other strategy.

$1m Casino Poker Stakes

5/11/2001 (By BOB HART, Herald Sun) MELBOURNE has a new major event: the southern hemisphere’s first $1 million poker tournament will be held at Crown casino in January, 2003.

The world’s best and richest players will enjoy subsidised two-week stays in Crown Towers.

The tournament will be called Aussie Millions. The winner will walk away with at least $500,000 and a trophy.

The prize pool will be no less than $1 million, probably closer to $1.5 million.

“And this is just the beginning,” Richard Longhurst, the casino’s executive general manager, said yesterday.

“Our aim, within a couple of years, is to offer a first prize of $US1 million.”

Entrants will require $10,000 in stake money and will play until one – the tournament champion – remains.

The prize pool will be shared among the 10 finalists.

“This will strongly position Melbourne, and Crown, on the world poker circuit,” Mr Longhurst said.

“Between now and 2003, many of the world’s top players will visit, as our guests, to see what Melbourne has to offer.

“Melbourne has a slow spot, a two-week gap, between the end of new year festivities and the start of the Australian Open tennis.

“That’s an ideal time for us to hold the tournament. We want to brand Crown, and Melbourne, as having the biggest and the best of everything, and that certainly includes poker.”