Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Media Man News Update: WWE, Wrestling, Gaming, Movies, Hollywood, Celebrities...

Media Man News Update: Wrestling News Media: Pro Wrestling News: WWE, Wrestling Legends: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Rock 'N' Roll Wrestling Connection...

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Charlie Sheen socially Raw on USA Network...

Social Media Ambassador for Raw’s historic 1,000 episode


WWE® (NYSE: WWE) announced Charlie Sheen, star of the highly anticipated FX comedy series “Anger Management,” as the Social Media Ambassador for Monday Night Raw’s historic 1000th episode live at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST July 23 on USA Network.

Sheen will tweet during Raw, providing up-to-the-minute commentary on the night’s action to his 7.5-million Twitter followers. Sheen has more than 12-million fans combined on the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

WWE fans and Sheen followers can ask the actor questions during the broadcast via Twitter using the #SheenGetsRaw hashtag.

In “Anger Management,” Sheen stars as Charlie, a non-traditional therapist specializing in anger management. He has a successful private practice, holding sessions with his group of primary patients each week, as well as performing pro bono counseling for an inmate group at a state prison. Selma Blair, Shawnee Smith, Daniela Bobadilla, Michael Arden and Noureen DeWulf co-star.

The series premiere of “Anger Management” starts Thursday, June 28 with the first two episodes airing at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

• WWE’s 1,000 episode of Raw on July 23 will debut a three-hour format.

• Follow Charlie Sheen on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @CharlieSheen.

• Follow WWE on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @WWE.


WWE teams with ION for new Wednesday night show...

“WWE Main Event” debuts Oct. 3 on ION Television


WWE (NYSE: WWE) and ION Television announced a new weekly one-hour original series airing 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST on Wednesdays.

“WWE Main Event” will debut on Oct. 3 and feature WWE superstars and divas from the rosters of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown. The new show will be available in 100 million U.S. television households on ION Television, a top-rated general entertainment network that features a broad mix of critically acclaimed series, movies and original programming.

“ION Television is delighted to begin a new partnership with such a successful and well-recognized franchise as WWE,” Brandon Burgess, CEO, ION Media Networks, said in a release. “As a general entertainment network with a solid foundation, ‘WWE Main Event’ is a great addition to our lineup that features something for everyone. We look forward to introducing our ION audience to all of the excitement and drama WWE has to offer as well as welcoming a passionate new fan base to the network.”

WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon said: “WWE looks forward to this new partnership with ION Television. We are excited about producing this new television show, ‘WWE Main Event,’ and bringing our fans to ION Television every Wednesday.”

“WWE Main Event” will feature in-ring action and fit seamlessly in storylines from Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, making Wednesday night appointment viewing for fans. The new series will offer a big arena experience with live audiences like current WWE weekly programs. Check you cable, satellite or dish outlet for channel availability.

• WWE celebrates its amazing 1,000 episode of Raw at 8 p.m. Monday, July 23 on the USA Network. The show will debut Raw’s three-hour format.

• Visit www.wwe.com and www.iontelevision.com.


Roddy Piper Talks 1000th Raw, Cyndi Lauper, Rock & Wrestling...

In a WWE.com Exclusive, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper discussed his return to Raw along side pop singer Cyndi Lauper.

“Cyndi, oh, we have a long history. We weren’t always on the same side, but to be honest with you, it was a true pleasure,” said Piper.

Piper also addressed the comments he made on Raw in regards to the Rock & Wrestling being the saving grace of WWE.

“If it wasn’t for the Rock & Wrestling connection at that time being so big on TV — you know, they were all cheering [Hulk] Hogan and booing Piper — I don’t know if wrestling would have gotten the huge launching pad that it did,” Piper explained.

“It’s very surreal to think that you were apart of the beginnings of it but I was and I’m proud of it.”

Piper was also asked to address Raw’s 1000th episode which will be coming up, July 23rd.

“The fact that a wrestling program called Raw could be the longest running television show in the history of television, bar nobody — nobody can now say we’re not on the map,” stated Piper. “We’re for real. I have worked all my life to make that happen, along with a lot of other guys that have worked just as hard or harder.”


Brock Lesnar May Be At 1000th RAW...

As noted last week, Lesnar is advertised for RAW on August 13th, the Monday before SummerSlam. He is currently not advertised for any other shows before that.


Sid Vicious Returns To WWE RAW...

Sid Vicious thanked the fans for the ovation he received on RAW tonight, writing on his Twitter, "Thank you for the huge pop on #RAW! Much respect to all of my fans! #MasterAndRulerOfTheWorld ... Off for now. Love being backstage at #RAW. Tweet you tomorrow. Again, THANK YOU EVERYONE!"


Raw social media highest since April...

Monday's WWE Raw episode scored 186,954 in social media activity, which was the highest since April 23 for the episode leading into Extreme Rules hyping Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena. Raw was up 17 percent in social media activity compared to last week's show and topped the yearly average by 14 percent.

Raw still ranked #3 on cable TV, trailing "Love & Hip Hop Atlanta" on VH1 and "Teen Wolf" on MTV. Raw has not taken the top spot on Monday nights since April 9. [ Data Source: Trendrr.TV ]


World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. : WWE® Names Casey Collins EVP of Consumer Products
06/26/2012


WWE (NYSE: WWE) today announced the appointment of Casey Collins as Executive Vice President, Consumer Products. Collins will oversee WWE Global Licensing, Home Entertainment and Publishing. He will report directly to WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon.

Prior to joining WWE, Collins was Executive Vice President, Global Licensing & Entertainment at MGA Entertainment, where he oversaw the entertainment, consumer products, retail development and promotions divisions. Before joining MGA Entertainment, Collins spent 10 years at Lucasfilm Ltd., where he was responsible for the management of Lucasfilm's domestic and international licensing and retail merchandise programs.

Collins also spent time as Director of Worldwide Licensing & Motorsports at World Championship Wrestling, Inc. (WCW), where he built and managed WCW's worldwide consumer products program. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business from Florida State University and did post graduate work at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


Kenn Doane Alleges John Cena Had An Affair With A Married WWE Diva...

Kenn Doane, who appeared as Kenny of the Spirit Squad and Kenny Dykstra for WWE from 2006 to 2008, blames an affair between John Cena and Mickie James for ruining his relationship with the former Diva and costing him his job. Speaking to SEScoops.com on the ordeal, Doane reveals that Cena was having a second affair with a then-WWE Diva who was married to a man not involved with the professional wrestling industry.

Doane says he discovered James had been cheating on him with the Cenation leader when he caught her searching online rumors of her act of infidelity with the query "Mickie James dating John Cena."

"Upon confronting her about it, "She stared at [the computer] for like legit two minutes and I'm looking at her like "Did you forget how to read? Say something, WTF." She got up and ran into the other room crying saying she was sorry and she felt bad and admitted to it."

While recalling the matter, Doane says Cena was having an affair with a second WWE Diva.

"I don't have John's number so I call his diva 'road' girlfriend. I ask her if she knows anything about it and she says she had a feeling because John recently dumped her and she is over him now," Doane says.

Cena's sexual escapades were not solely limited to WWE Divas as he was simultaneously involved with 'ring rats'. Doane details, "Got one diva who is married to a guy outside of the business but she sleeps with Cena, then we got Cena who sleeps with rats (groupies, girls not in the biz, girls in the lobby waiting for an invite upstairs) and this married diva, and now my girlfriend."

Following weeks of inactivity stemming from the affair, Doane was transferred to the SmackDown brand on June 17, 2007, as part of the WWE Supplemental Draft. Doane reveals that the married Diva was transferred from Raw to SmackDown as well after being dumped by Cena.

"Following weeks I'm off TV and off the road until I get sent to SmackDown. Ironically, John's former Diva got sent too," Doane recalls. "So now we're on complete separate schedules and when there is a joint pay-per-view I'm off the road that day too and get flown in on a Monday for a Tuesday Smackdown. Yeah complete B.S. I get jobbed out then they take me off the road more and fire me."

Two WWE Divas transferred from Raw to SmackDown in the 2007 WWE Supplemental Draft—and the entire year—Torrie Wilson and Victoria. Wilson was in the process of divorcing Billy Kidman. Victoria has been married to a man not affiliated with the professional wrestling industry since 1998, matching Doane's claim.

On November 10, 2008, WWE announced Doane had been released from his contract. While discussing his termination with John Laurinaitis, he was informed that his decision to speak publicly on Cena and James' affair will determine whether WWE offers him employment again in the future.

"When Johnny Ace called me to fire me I asked him if this is why I'm getting fired," Doane recalls. "He told me we don't have anything for you and depending on whether you choose to discuss this issue will determine on if your allowed to come back in the future."

Doane ultimately concludes that he wants to be open and honest.

"Going forward I have no reason but to speak the truth and to make all this up would be absolutely insane. I'm not saying you have to believe anything I say but that is the truth," he says. "WWE portrays Cena as this big hero and savior to all of us but truth be told that is a character he plays much like me as a cheerleader. When watching wrestling, know you're watching a show and not real life situations or scenarios. We are basically live comic books brought to life and make short action movies for you to enjoy." (Wrestling INC)


The Amazing Spider-Man Video Game Now On Sale: Get 'The Amazing Spider-Man' for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS & Nintendo 3DS!...

If your spider-senses are tinglin’, it’s because "The Amazing Spider-Man" video game has web-slung its way onto retail store shelves today in North America, and will be available in Europe on June 29. From Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc., and Marvel Entertainment, "The Amazing Spider-Man" video game serves as an epilogue story to this summer’s upcoming blockbuster feature film, heralding Spidey’s return to a free-roaming Manhattan as players take the role of a young Peter Parker discovering his newfound powers and super hero responsibilities. "The Amazing Spider-Man" video game is available on the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system, the Wii system from Nintendo, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS handheld systems.

"Dee Brown and his team at Beenox have completely revamped 'The Amazing Spider-Man's' proprietary game engine to deliver a fresh, innovative gameplay experience for the fans," said David Oxford, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Activision Publishing, Inc. “With the adrenaline rush from just swinging through the city and the new zoomed-in camera angle opening up a whole new perspective in realistic detail, 'The Amazing Spider-Man' allows gamers to BE Spider-Man like never before.”

Go beyond Sony Picture Entertainment’s Columbia Pictures’ feature film and find out what happens next in "The Amazing Spider-Man" video game. Set against an original story crafted by Hollywood writer Seamus Kevin Fahey ("Spartacus: Vengeance," "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," "Battlestar Galactica") that picks up immediately after the events of the movie, "The Amazing Spider-Man" video game delivers a brand-new, immersive and cinematic adventure allowing fans to truly harness the power of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Players will experience numerous choices in navigation and combat with the debut of the innovative Web Rush gameplay mechanic, pushing Spider-Man’s abilities to the limit against classic Marvel villains that are re-imagined exclusively for the game, such as Scorpion, Felicia Hardy, Rhino, Iguana and more.

“'The Amazing Spider-Man' video game is the ultimate fan tribute to Spider-Man and Manhattan,” said Andreea Enache-Thune, SVP, Games & Digital Distribution, Marvel Entertainment. “We’re thrilled with all of the content and collectibles Activision and Beenox have packed into the game’s free-roaming Manhattan setting, and we can’t wait for fans to web-swing around the city and start saving the world.”

"The Amazing Spider-Man" video game also features fan-favorite talent, including "Evil Dead" and "Burn Notice's" Bruce Campbell taking the role of an “extreme action” reporter who provides death-defying challenges that only Spider-Man can accomplish. And for fans that pre-ordered the game from Amazon, Stan Lee himself is available as a playable character for the first time ever.

Developed by Beenox for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system, Wii and Nintendo 3DS, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is rated “T” (Teen – content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older) by the ESRB. The Nintendo 3DS edition features several unique mini-games that use its touch-screen abilities, including the exclusive Vigilante Mode using StreetPass. Additionally, Beenox is working on a Windows PC version of the game planned to launch August 10, 2012, which will be available on Steam and integrated with Steam achievements. The Nintendo DS version of the game was created by developer Other Ocean, is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older – content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older) by the ESRB, and follows the exact same storyline in an entirely different platforming adventure.

For more information on "The Amazing Spider-Man" video game, please go to http://www.TheAmazingSpiderManGame.com, and be sure to check out the game’s Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/TheAmazingSpiderManGame (Marvel)


Social Gaming Supplier of the year!...

NextGen Gaming, the independent game studio of the recently formed NYX Gaming Group incorporating NYX Interactive and NextGen Gaming, celebrate landmark eGR B2B Award.


London, May 21st, 2012:

NextGen Gaming is the proud recipient of the inaugural eGR Magazine B2B Award for Social Gaming Supplier of the Year, presented at a lavish dinner event at London’s Wembley Stadium on 10th May 2012. Now in their third year, the awards celebrate the best service providers and B2B operators in the online gaming industry.

The judges recognized NextGen’s unique fully hosted social gaming application which provides Operators with all the tools required to run and operate a play for fun slot site on Facebook, with the Operator managing their marketing. Debuting at the turn of 2012, NextGen have now licensed multiple applications including Trophy Slots, Slots Villa and Slots Point. NextGen’s Social application is fully graphically configurable and offers a swift route to market for any Operator keen to explore the Social space with the finest, mature and proven Slots available anywhere online, including hit titles such as Doctor Love, Mad Mad Monkey and 2012’s Merlin’s Millions Superbet. The platform includes full access to operational back office and reporting of KPI’s, full player data ownership, the lobby, games, integrated Facebook credits and key social features such as leaderboards, levels and badges, gifting, bragging; everything an Operator needs to go Social.

“I’m delighted the judging panel recognized the pioneering and unique product NextGen Gaming have presented to the market in offering the only B2B solution featuring real gamblers games within Facebook” said Sales Director David Johnson, who received the award on behalf of NextGen.

“We’re seeing Operators take the view that Social Media is a crucial marketing tool allowing them to get an in-depth understanding of their player behavior in preparation for specific market sectors opening, drive down CPA costs and to monetize their players outside of the Social environment. Only NextGen Gaming provide the opportunity for Operators to market the same premium Slots in both the Social and real money wagering world.”

Johnson continued ”The award justifies NextGen’s efforts at continuing to provide the best in Slots content via whichever medium our partners’ desire, with titles now available across the Social, Mobile, App Store, Online & land based markets. All delivery variants stay true to NextGen’s core of providing advanced Slots technologies such as true reel bounce, multiple feature sets and rich, bespoke sounds, which offer players true gaming excitement. We look forward to the release of further NextGen Gaming titles across all platforms in the coming months.”

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International box office: Madagascar 3 stays in top spot...

For the third straight week, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted remained No. 1 around the world, according to The Hollywood Reporter, drawing $30.1 million from 44 territories for a total of $365.9 million. The animated comedy features the voices of Ben Stiller (Meet The Fockers), Chris
Rock (Grown Ups), and Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator), as Alex, Marty and Melman trying to get home to New York via a circus.

At No. 2, Snow White And The Huntsman drew $22.6 million in 60 territories, with its strongest earnings coming from France, Japan and Australia. The action fantasy takeoff of the fairy tale, costarring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, has a total of $261.7 million worldwide.

In third place, Pixar's animated Brave, a family-friendly tale about a warrior princess, debuted in 10 markets to earn $13.5 million. In Russia it took 42 percent of the market with $5.6 million, it came in second in Australia with $3.6 million, and in China it took $2.2 million for 17 percent of the market, featuring the voices of Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson.

Ranking fourth is Ridley Scott's Prometheus, taking $12.7 million from 61 territories. The sci-fi/action film has grossed more than $577.3 per date on the foreign circuit.

Finishing fifth was Men In Black III, which grabbed another $10.5 million from 75 markets, with Japan in the lead. Director Barry Sonnenfeld's sci-fi 3D comedy costars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin.

Notable films include the No. 1 film in the UK, The Five-Year Engagement, the romantic comedy costarring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, which collected $1.8 million; the No. 2 film in Mexico, Tim Burton's Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp for $2.6 million, and The Dictator, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, which debuted in France, pulling in $1.9 million.

Due to the Euro Cup, attendance in theaters is soft across Europe, with the box office seeing between 45% and 70% decreases. The games head into the finals this week and another slow weekend is ahead.


Former AFL star Ben Cousins guilty plea...

Former AFL star Ben Cousins has been fined a total of $800 for drug possession.

The 33-year-old pleaded guilty to three charges after one of the charges was downgraded from intent to sell or supply methamphetamine to simple possession.

Cousins was fined $500 plus $66 costs for possession of 4.56 grams methamphetamine.

He was also fined $150 each for possession of one gram of cannabis and a smoking implement.

Perth Magistrate Steven Heath took into account Cousins' early guilty plea and the fact he had no prior drug convictions.

This was despite the Brownlow medallist's very public battle with drug addiction over the years.

Cousins' lawyer, Michael Tudori, said the former West Coast Eagles premiership-winning captain had made 'a huge error in his judgment' and was 'remorseful and regretful' for his actions.

He said his client wanted to apologise to the court, the public and Teen Challenge, the drug rehabilitation clinic in the south coastal town of Esperance where he was arrested at the airport with 4.56g of methamphetamine on March 27.


News Corp Expected To Announce Split Plans On Thursday...

The News Corp board will meet tomorrow to discuss the plan to separate its TV and film operations from the print ones, with advice from Goldman Sachs and Blair Effron of Centerview Partners. Assuming there’s no last-minute hitch, the arrangement will be made public on Thursday. Then the waiting game begins; it could take as long as a year for the split to actually take place. The thinking is that News Corp investors would receive shares in a new entity housing the publishing and education assets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and book publisher Harper Collins. Rupert Murdoch would continue to control about 40% of the votes at both companies and serve on each board as chairman. Decisions regarding management have yet to be firmed up, but I hear that Murdoch likely would remain CEO of entertainment-focused News Corp while someone else would run day-to-day affairs at the print company. Possibilities for that job include Dow Jones Managing Editor Robert Thompson, Dow Jones CEO Lex Fenwick, and News International CEO Tom Mockridge.

Investors blessed the deal Monday, sending News Corp shares up 8.3% to $21.76. Fitch Ratings, a debt analysis firm, said that the split would “have no impact” on the company’s ‘BBB+’ rating with a Stable Outlook. Other analysts also applauded. Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett said that the two entities would have a combined value of $26 a share, up $2 from his current price target for News Corp. Nomura Equity Research’s Michael Nathanson says the two stocks would be worth “at least” $24, up from his present $23 target. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger stuck with his $22 target. Half of News Corp’s value comes from its cable networks and “Even in optimistic scenarios, which we question due to audience erosion at (Fox News Channel) and cost pressures at FX, this segment alone is not enough to power the stock to attractive upside.” (Deadline.com)



E3 download: Six gaming trends to expect over next six months...

Gamers play Alien’s Colonial Marines from Sega on the third day of the E3 video game extravaganza in Los Angeles. Credit: Frederic Brown / Getty Images

It’s game over for this year’s E3 but what’s the final score?

We put the question to Yves Guillemot, the chief executive of Ubisoft Entertainment, a French company he co-founded in 1986 and guided to its current ranking as the world’s third-largest game publisher (after Activision-Blizzard and Electronic Arts) with franchises such as “Assassin’s Creed,” “Rayman Raving Rabbids,” and “Splinter Cell.”

From his perch in Montreuil-sous-Bois, an eastern suburb of Paris, Guillemot has built a reputation as an astute trend-spotter who was nimble in capitalizing on the Wii and DS craze then heard a hit in the dance-game craze and delivered “Just Dance,” a franchise that has sold more than 28 million copies.

Here are six major trends that will affect the games players will see in the coming months.

1) THE SECOND SCREEN: “Video games played on home television sets will increasingly incorporate another mobile screen,” Guillemot said.

Nintendo’s Wii U console, scheduled to launch later this year, will have a tablet controller toward the end of this year. The 6.2-inch touch screen will be used to display game information that’s not on the big TV screen.

A good example is Ubisoft’s “Zombiu,” which uses the Wii U GamePad touch screen as a way for players to access their inventory and pick locks or to use as a motion detector or minimap. A reviewer from Kotaku went so far as to say, “It’s the game that made me finally see the potential of the Wii U’s special second screen.”

Microsoft, with its SmartGlass software, will make use of existing touch screen devices, including iPads and smartphones. Users who download an application on the devices can turn their tablets or cellphones into a game controller or a screen that can display “companion content” for other forms of entertainment. Think team stats during a live sports game, or actor bios during a movie.

Sony has similar plans for its PlayStation Vita handheld game console.

2) NON-STOP GAMING: “The game doesn’t stop,” Guillemot said. “You’ll be able to pick up the game continuously, anytime and on multiple devices.”

Game developers are creating game “experiences” that let players check into their game from their cellphones, tablets, Web browsers or consoles. Players can configure their teams on a tablet, buy new uniforms on a cellphone and play a match on a console or computer. Progress in the game is saved in the “cloud,” so players can pick up where they left off, regardless of which device they last used.

3) SOCIAL GAMING: It’s not just for Facebook anymore. Game developers and console companies are building plenty of social hooks into their products, Guillemot said. Nintendo on Sunday announced Miiverse, a social network for players of its Wii U console. The Sims City, coming out in February 2013, will let players affect the outcome of neighboring cities operated by friends. Cultivating a crime-ridden, smog-filled city, for example, will boost the crime and pollution in their friends’ cities. The franchise, which had always been single player, will let players form alliances and trade resources – much like real cities.

4) ASYNCHRONOUS MULTIPLAYER GAMING: Having a social experience is great. But not everyone has the luxury of being able to play together at the same time – so-called “appointment gaming,” where guilds get together at a specific time, for example, to stage a raid.

So developers are cooking up ways to get players to interact without having to pick up their controllers at the same time, Guillemot said. A player can leave messages or a challenge for another gamer to pick up when they log in. Or, to complete quests, they can send help requests that friends can respond to at a later time.

This is a common staple in Facebook games, where players check in for a few minutes at a time, often not at the same time. Now, that feature will be increasingly built into other types of games, Guillemot said.

5) COMPANION GAMING: No, that doesn’t mean a “Women of Warcraft” dating site. It’s a term that was thrown around in great profusion at E3 this year and it refers to developers creating “side content” for major franchises.

One example is “Ghost Recon: Commander,” a social game released on Facebook at the same time Ubisoft released ”Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.” Progress in the Facebook game helped players unlock new weapons in the main console game, for example.

Developers can also explore separate story lines, say of a minor character, in mobile versions. Or configure a football team on an iPad app that they can later use to play in the console game. The idea is to have players engage in the game wherever they happen to be.

“We want you to be able to play on any screen that’s nearest to you,” Guillemot said.

Of course, the “companion content” has to be appropriate for the device, he cautioned. It may not be ideal, for example, to be playing a full-featured console game on a cellphone.

6) FREE GAMES: Game publishers are increasingly enamored with so-called “freemium games” that give players a limited version of the game for free, but charge for extras.

For players, that can be both good and bad. The nice thing is that people can get a taste of a game before they decide to spend money on it. How many times have you paid $60 for a game, 0nly to discover that you hate it once you’ve had a chance to play it for 15 minutes?

The downside, of course, is that players can wind up spending a lot more than $60 over time — paying 99 cents for a power-up here, $2 for a weapon there, and so on. For some, the price tag can add up to hundreds of dollars. This is why Nintendo has refused to pursue this model, referring to it as a “gotcha” scheme for players.

That said, if players can exercise some self-restraint in clicking the in-game “buy” button, the good news is that there will be more choices available to players than ever before. (L.A Times)


ION Preps Weekly WWE Wrestling Show...

ION Television has teamed with WWE for a new weekly one-hour original series. WWE Main Event will debut October 3 and air on Wednesday nights at 8 PM. It will feature WWE stars from the rosters of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, including in-ring action and storylines.

The new show provides WWE with a show on a broadcast network for the first time since Friday Night SmackDown left MyNetworkTV in September 2010 and gives the wrestling federation weekly programs on Monday (Monday Night Raw on USA), Wednesday (WWE Main Event on ION) and Friday (Friday Night SmackDown on Syfy). “As a general entertainment network with a solid foundation, WWE Main Event is a great addition to our lineup that features something for everyone,” ION Media Networks CEO Brandon Burgess said.


Telstra accused of tracking Next G internet use...

Telstra has been accused of tracking the internet use of its Next G mobile phone users and sending their internet history to a company in the United States.

One of the telco's customers discovered that when he visited a website using his Next G network in Australia, a server in the United States would visit the same address almost instantly.

Telstra says it is collecting the information for use in a new internet filter product, but internet users are outraged and are demanding the Australian Privacy Commissioner investigate.

The tracking was confirmed by Mark Newton, who up until late last year was one of the longest serving technical engineers at Australian internet company Internode.

When he saw rumours on a network administrator email list that Telstra was sending the URLs from Next G internet use to a company overseas, he set up a test.

"In real time, information about the URL that I was visiting was being sent offshore so that that offshore data centre could then make that second request," he said.

"It means if you go to abc.net.au on your Next G internet connection, both Telstra and the US company knows about it."

Mr Newton says he had no idea such information was going offshore.

"Australians should know when their private data is collected, what that data is going to be used for and who it is going to be disclosed to," he said.

He says he has emailed Telstra, asking why it is sending internet address data to a third party.

"Privacy protections in the United States are very, very minimal. There are almost no controls at all on what an American company can do with private data that’s been gathered from consumers," he said.

Privacy concerns

Users on the Australian broadband forum Whirlpool also want to know why the information is being sent, who it is being sent to, and why they were not told about it.

No one at Telstra was available for an interview, but in a statement the company admitted it was sending data overseas.

Telstra said it was building a database for one of its new products which will allow parents to block their children from accessing certain websites.

It is working with US company Netsweeper, which is building the database for the filter.

Telstra says the product will be "opt in", but Mr Newton says its current data collection strategy is not.

"It's being collected and then sent to the US company without anyone being told about it. And I have a problem with that. And I think anyone who has concerns about privacy should also," he said.

Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says he has asked Telstra to provide more details.

"Any item that's out there on the web has to have its unique address or it can't be found. And I don't want to overstate or overplay this because at the moment it's just really quite ambiguous as to what’s even occurring," he said.

"But, potentially, profiles can be built of people out of the places that they go and the things that they look at online, or the people that they're in contact with. These things are possible. These are live debates." (ABC News)


Jobs purge at The Star casino...

The Star casino has shed up to 100 key management staff in the wake of the Sid Vaikunta scandal as it desperately seeks to rebuild its tattered reputation -- and there are threats of more to come.

Rocked by a string of lurid allegations, Echo Entertainment Group, which runs the casino, has shown at least 70 management staff the door in Sydney, along with a number of staff who perform various strategic roles across the gambling group also being made redundant. Former chief financial officer Murray McCall is the biggest head to roll in the mammoth shake-up.

Friends of Mr McCall, who was poached by The Star from New Zealand casino group SkyCity in 2009, said he was stunned by the decision, especially considering he took the reins of the casino as acting managing director following Mr Vaikunta's dismissal.

Mr Vaikunta was sacked on February 2 after allegations of sexual harassment made against him by two staff members. He denies the allegations.

It is understood The Star has reported Mr McCall's departure to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Tough rules governing the casino's licence mean the authority must be notified within two weeks if a "special employee" has their position terminated. "Since the departure of the former Managing Director (Mr Vaikunta), there is no suggestion The Star has not been fully compliant with notification requirements in relation to special employees ceasing to have functions," an ILGA spokesman said.

Other staff who have been let go include event manager Alexandra Bull, who had been with the casino since 1997, and events and tournaments manager, Darka de Vries.

Casino insiders have been told the cull, which began with six senior staff removed on the day the failed musical An Officer and a Gentleman premiered in May, has not finished.

One source said the redundancies have been carried out across the board: "No one is safe; whether you are in gaming or marketing, your head is on the chopping block."

The purge comes after months of bad publicity and declining profits at The Star. The casino has issued two profit warnings this month. Turnover for 2012 is expected to be as low as $270 million, down from $347 million in 2011.

Government relations manager Brad Schmitt, who confirmed the bloodletting, said the redundancies were part of a plan to streamline the business by removing the duplication of roles caused by the company's demerger from Tabcorp. He maintained the

redundancies were planned long before the profit warnings with "numbers built up for the relaunch of The Star and busy Christmas period".

He also denied suggestions his position was at risk as The Star looked to mend its fractured relationship with the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, telling The Sunday Telegraph he had just received a pay rise.

Mr O'Farrell's former chief advisor, Peter Grimshaw, was accused of running a personal vendetta against The Star. (The Daily Telegraph)


Russell Crowe to play Rupert Murdoch in film...

Russell Crowe is reportedly in line to play Rupert Murdoch in a film.

The 'Gladiator' star is tipped to take on the role of the media mogul in a movie based on 'Good Times, Bad Times', the memoirs of former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans.

A source told the Daily Star newspaper: ''You have to be brave to play someone like Murdoch. Russell can do it.''

Colin Firth is believed to be up for the role as Harold, but no deals are yet in place.

Leon Lecash, creative director of what's it all about?, which is making the movie said: ''The film will be a drama, either for the big screen or television. It is very early days as the option deal with Harry was only just completed.

''No actors or even writers have been signed up yet.''

The film will focus on then-Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher's dealings with the Australian tycoon.

Evidence is said to suggest she manipulated rules to facilitate the deal for Murdoch to buy The Times newspaper in 1981 in return for favourable publicity for her party.

Leon added to the Evening Standard newspaper: ''Murdoch went to Chequers to talk about the deal, which was never brought to the attention of the Monopolies Commission.

''Harry had suspicions that some intimate contacts were taking place between Murdoch and Thatcher, with late-night whisky drinking in Downing Street when Murdoch was let in by the back door. This type of stuff came to light recently when Sir Bernard Ingham's notes were released under the 30-year rule. Much of what Harry wrote about Murdoch when they fell out in 1983 is so prescient he has said he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.''


Casino Hires Robert De Niro as Celebrity Flack...

You talkin' to me?

A casino in South Korea hopes you'll be listening!

The Paradise Walker-Hill Casino in Seoul, South Korea, has announced that it has hired actor Robert De Niro to serve as a paid celebrity spokesman for the casino.

The casino, which is South Korea's oldest and is open to foreigners only--meaning no South Koreans are allowed in--is located in the Sheraton Walker-Hill Hotel, a luxury hotel in Seoul that is popular with tourists and foreign business people.

Large ads featuring De Niro plugging the casino have already begun appearing at Seoul's airport and other locations frequented by tourists.

In addition, the casino announced, television commercials with De Niro promoting the casino were filmed in New York City last month.

The TV spots will not air in the USA.

One of De Niro's most famous movie roles was in the film "Casino," in which he played Ace Rothstein, a character based on real-life mob associate and Stardust Casino executive Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal.

De Niro, like many other American celebrities, does not appear in any commercials or ads in the USA, but does appear in foreign advertising.

Several celebs in recent years, however, have flacked for casinos that advertised in the USA.

Among them are singer Kenny Rogers, whose hit song "The Gambler" permanently linked him to the pastime in the eyes of the American public.

For years, he has shilled for the Barona Casino, an Indian casino near San Diego.

And former professional wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura served as a celebrity spokesman for Bet U.S., an online sportsbook and casino based in Costa Rica.

In addition, baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson once briefly served as a paid celeb shill for an online casino, until Major League Baseball told him to nix the deal or be banned from baseball. (www.gambling911.com)


Marvel Entertainment Movies: Amazing Spider-Man, Thor 2, The Avengers Et Al Boost Popularity Of Marvel Slot Games...

The Media Man agency reports that Marvel themed online slot games across the network, and featured at partner, PartyCasino.com , are boosting the popularity of the superhero themed online slot games. Bwin.Party currently offers The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, with more expected to soon hit the popular gaming and entertainment website destination.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Star Casino hosts Renae Ayris - Miss Universe Sydney, Australia - 22nd June 2012

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The Star Echo Entertainment Brands Hotels Miss Universe Fashion Models World Casino Directory Sydney



Our take on things...

Echo Entertainment is apparently more about entertainment than gambling these days, casino tie in or not, and tonight its party time at The Star. This is most assuredly worth taking a gamble on. There's a strong chance that by the time you stop parting you would have had an absolute blast.

They have hosted countless international acts and acted as home to the Hollywood and Las Vegas stars where they come down under to Sin City Sydney.

Seems a nature that the new Miss Universe Australia, Renae Ayris, and friends should be in the celebrity mix to show their faces on a Friday night at The Star.

They continue to push the celebrity card, and then there's the nightclubs, bars, slots, games and The Darling - the 5 star hotel. It's all there for the taking. Work hard and play and party harder.

Promo...

News on Miss Universe Australia...

Danver and photography lover from Perth has been crowned Miss Universe Australia.


Renae Ayris has been voted the nation's most beautiful woman and presented with a $30,000 Temelli Jewellery crown at a black tie event in Melbourne (9th June 2012).

She narrowly edged out Melbourne woman Mary Vitinaros, who was named runner-up.

The night saw some of Australia's most beautiful women take to the stage in swimwear and evening gowns before judges declared a winner.

Melbourne's hopes of a local winner were buoyed when two of the final five included Melbourne woman Mary Vitinaros and Victorian Julia Perrott-Clarke.

Ms Perrott-Clarke won the crowd over after facing a controversial question from former news presenter Naomi Robson about her views on gay marriage.

"I believe that everyone should have equal rights whether it be marriage or any other factor," she responded.

"Everyone has their own opinion and if it doesn't infringe on anyone else's rights then I think it's a great thing."

Shouting her final reply she ended by saying.

"If they are in love, then they should celebrate that love and if that means marriage, then they should get married because it's amazing."

The response saw her named 4th runner-up.

Strutting their stuff in evening gowns in front of a crowd in the hundreds in the Melbourne Sofitel's Grand Ballroom the finalists wowed the room.

The panel responsible for naming the winner included actress and model Annalise Braakensiek, actor Vince Collosimo and fashion designer Wayne Cooper.

The West Australian girl will now represent Australia at the international Miss Universe competition.

Thirty-three national finalists battled it out for the title, with the winner to go on to compete in the international Miss Universe pageant in December.


More news...

Everything is a blur - Miss Universe...


When Miss Universe Australia 2012 Renae Ayris received her tiara at Melbourne's Sofitel on Friday night she had the added thrill of accepting the title from her friend - 2011 Miss Universe Australia Scherri-Lee Biggs.

Ms Ayris said it was watching Scherri's experience as Australia's Miss Universe that inspired her to enter the pageant this year.

"I've always watched but last year I followed it really closely because Scherri was in it, she's actually a friend of mine," Ms Ayris said.

"I was so excited for her to hand me over the crown."

Dressed in a navy and silver cocktail dress by Perth designer Ruth Tarvydas, the 21-year-old blonde looked bright and fresh on Saturday despite having not slept a wink the night before.

The life-altering announcement still hadn't sunk in when she fronted the media for her first official press call as Miss Universe Australia.

"I'm so overwhelmed still, everything is just a blur from last night," Ms Ayris gushed.
"I'm going to wake up one morning and say,"Wow I'm Miss Universe Australia'."

The Miss Universe competition was the model's first time in a beauty pageant, but she has taken a shot at fame before.

She is an avid dancer who auditioned for a role in Baz Luhrmann's Academy Award-winning film Moulin Rouge!.

"I got down to the very last cut but I was too young," she said.

Being crowned Miss Universe Australia will open up other avenues to Ms Ayris.

As part of her duties she will be acting as the charity ambassador for Operation Smile, a children's medical charity dedicated to improving the lives of children in developing countries born with facial deformities.

Another official responsibility will be to represent Australia in the international Miss Universe pageant in December.

"I'll try my best to do Australia proud," Ms Ayris said.

There have been two Miss Universe title-holders from Australia, with Kerry-Ann Wells claiming the title in 1972 and Jennifer Hawkins in 2004.

Wrap Up...

The Star's tag line is 'There will be stories', and its a sure bet Star will keep living up to that if tonight was any indication. A casino matched with Miss Universe Australia, a media pack with snappers all trying to get the models attention, so you can just imagine.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Packer's stake in the Sydney pie - 17th June 2012

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They are the so-called whales, fabulously rich gamblers jetted into town to be pampered by their eager hosts. Often demanding, sometimes quirky and superstitious, they attract the very best and attentive service, and enjoy the trappings of the high life, often gratis: six-star luxury accommodation, fine dining, live shows, top-brand shopping.

They can win or drop millions of dollars at gaming tables on a single visit. Wagers of several hundred thousand dollars are not uncommon. Occasionally, as much as $1 million is bet on a hand of cards. Baccarat is a favourite game.

Predominantly ethnic Chinese, their money also buys discretion and exclusivity. Little is ever revealed by casino operators about their identity or their gambling habits, but in a single year, at Melbourne's Crown casino alone, these VIP punters turn over an extraordinary $30 billion - around $600 million a week.

''It's simply another world,'' says an insider, still agog after a decade's involvement in the industry.

It's a world, too, that is fast expanding, as China's exploding wealth and the rising prosperity of nations such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, spawn a new and vast generation of high rollers.

That reality, and the intensifying competition for their business, lies at the centre of a stoush over control of the Star casino, one that has several elements, commercial and political, and which is flavoured by a hint of hoary Melbourne-Sydney rivalry. At its core is James Packer's ambition to retain his dominance over VIP gambling in Australia by having a key say in Sydney's newly rejuvenated casino business.

The Packer-controlled Crown group enjoys 75 per cent of the nearly $1 billion of annual casino revenue generated by high rollers in Australia through its internationally acclaimed Yarra River complex and its Burswood casino, in Perth.

But the once dowdy northern cousin, the Star, tarted up with a $900 million facelift, is aiming more aggressively at the same VIP market, a threat magnified by Sydney's standing as Australia's gateway for international tourism.

Packer's response has been fierce and multi-pronged, with Crown taking a 10 per cent stake in the Star's owner, Echo Entertainment, and applying to the regulator to be allowed to move to the takeover threshold of 20 per cent.

Simultaneously, the Packer camp has waged a public relations war against Echo over the latter's lacklustre recent performance to the point of forcing out its chairman, John Story, while pushing for its own boardroom appointee, the former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett.

Packer's pitch has been for a united Australian front in the quest to wrest bigger numbers of the region's high rollers, and he has wowed tourism chiefs, and the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, with a proposal for a 35-storey luxury hotel at Barangaroo.

Apart from a potential public backlash, the snag is that Packer wants the hotel to include exclusive gaming salons for high rollers. But the Star holds the state's only casino licence and would need to agree to a hybrid arrangement that split its facilities between its current site and Barangaroo.

O'Farrell, unimpressed by the recent sexual harassment scandal at the Star, has appeared to revel a little in the Star's discomfort by publicly praising Packer as a ''shrewd and successful businessman'', while acknowledging that the Crown push ''is starting to look like a political campaign''. While Packer's ultimate objective is clear - gaining the Star's licence - he faces stern resistance from an Echo board that accuses him of seeking control of the company on the cheap, by denying a premium to its shareholders.

They appear to be daring him to launch a full takeover bid, something that could be in the offing once Packer offloads his remaining media interests. The sale of those, which indirectly include a 25 per cent stake in Foxtel, could raise close to $1 billion.

The longer game plan could be his positioning for Crown's own casino licence in NSW when the Star's exclusivity expires in 2019.

''Everyone concedes that Crown has been the key venue for high rollers in Australia,'' says a close Echo observer. ''They've worked hard and put a lot of effort into that market.

''But the upside for Star is enormous. Sure, you could tackle that market through some joint venture or tie-up with Crown, so in that sense Packer is absolutely right. But Star doesn't need Packer to do that.''

As for Packer's push for new blood in the Echo boardroom, he adds: ''Why on earth would you agree to put a competitor on your board?''

Echo is confident that it can offer a similarly impressive high roller experience as Crown's by coupling the Star with Echo's Queensland casinos, the soon-to-be upgraded Jupiter sites on the Gold Coast and in Townsville, as well as the Treasury in Brisbane.

''The truth is,'' suggests one stockmarket analyst, ''Packer might need Star more than Star needs Packer.''

But that's if the Star gets it right. There are plenty who see Crown's management expertise as vital in finally raising the Star to the high roller firmament. And they offer as evidence the Star's recent admission that the collapse of a Macau-based junket operator (businesses that scoop up high rollers and deliver them to casinos throughout Asia) had cost it $7 million in forward commissions and potentially another $23 million in unrecoverable high roller debts.

Echo, which has portrayed the losses as teething problems, unveiled on Friday details of a $450 million capital raising that will be used to strengthen its balance sheet and lend weight to its high roller push. But the announcement was accompanied by a downgrade in its profit outlook, further fodder for its critics.

The Packer camp argues that its agitation is on behalf of all Echo shareholders, who now include the Singapore casino group Genting, which has built a 4.9 per cent stake, along with Macquarie Bank, whose similarly sized holding on behalf of various investment funds would appear to be a punt on profitable future resolution. Standing steadfast, too, has been Perpetual Investments, with 8 per cent, which has backed Echo's board in rebuffing the Packer demands.

No one would dare suggest that the prevailing obstacles are insurmountable for the Packer camp, which has assembled an impressive roll call of political heavyweights. They include the former federal government minister Mark Arbib and former ALP national secretary Karl Bittar, as well as the former Liberal senator and federal communications minister Helen Coonan, a Crown director. Networking is also the name of the high roller game across Asia, and Packer's interests in Macau in partnership with Hong Kong-based tycoon Lawrence Ho provides a handy conduit for introducing more high rollers to his plush Australian salons. Their business is becoming increasingly vital as growth in the domestic gaming market tails off. While local punters contribute more in terms of profits, the high roller market (despite its skinny margins and greater risk) is growing more strongly, demonstrated by Crown's figures. In the latest corporate reporting period, revenues from local gaming in Melbourne grew by 5 per cent while those from its VIP program were 34 per cent stronger, albeit from a lower base.

Tourism chiefs recognise the potential should this trend be replicated in Sydney, drawing ever greater numbers of big spenders willingly pumping money into the local economy. The boss of the Tourism & Transport Forum, John Lee, sees the Bangararoo development as upping the ante in Sydney's claim for higher tourist numbers, just as Singapore's so-called ''integrated resorts'' have pulled a flood of new visitors to the city-state. He says the Packer plan has merit and would add to the harbour precinct's ''tourism offering''. But intensifying competition for VIP punters has not just triggered a casino ''arms race'' in Australia, but one that is region-wide.

At its epicentre is Macau, the only city in a country of more than 1 billion people permitted to run casinos and the site of several billion-dollar developments.

Having already eclipsed Las Vegas, the territory's 30 casinos are expected to rake in revenues of more than $US40 billion in 2012 (about 10 times the gaming revenues of Australia's 13 casinos), of which high rollers can be expected to account for 70 per cent.

Singapore is fast establishing itself, too, as a key high-roller destination. The 31 VIP salons of the $5 billion Marina Bay Sands, for example, already draw 60 per cent of that complex's gaming revenues.

The widespread assumption is that - notwithstanding the Chinese economy's recent slowing - the premium gambling pie has years of expansion ahead, and the chairman of Marina Bay's Las Vegas parent company, the US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, identifies a growing new class of gambler.

''We are constantly surprised at who they are, the number of people, how they come out of the woodwork and how many there are in the world,'' he recently told Singapore's Straits Times. ''There was a time, 10, 15 years ago, that people thought that in the entire world, there were as few as 150 VIP players. We sometimes get that in a few days, a week or two weeks. So the word plateau, in terms of Asia, is not in our vocabulary.''

But the breadth of competition is likely to demand more creative ways for luring gamblers farther south than Singapore, a fact that could affect the sort of inducements offered to ''whales'' by local operators, such as the extent of ''loss rebates'', where casinos cover a portion of a high roller's losses.

Packer's remedy of a united front also calls for better support from governments to maintain tax and other advantages, which could be extended to faster visa and customs clearances for high rollers to match the efficiency of Singapore.

The Star's ''fate'', meanwhile, may not be determined for some time, with no guarantee that a takeover bid will materialise to unlock the stalemate.

But some ponder a deal that would see some of Crown's interests in Macau passed to Genting, providing Packer with the financial muscle to swallow Echo. At the moment, its link to the Ho Group demands exclusivity in Asia and, as one analyst noted: ''Who would want to rock that boat?''

But another gaming expert based overseas thinks otherwise, wondering if Packer might, in fact, prefer to be the big fish in the smaller pond. "If I was Packer, and if I had the option of cornering the Australian market or keeping a 30 per cent stake in one of six operators in Macau, I'd probably corner the Australian market. It's as simple as that." (Fairfax Media)

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Gambling on advertising billboards in Sydney NSW; Packer and Singleton: You Bet, by Greg Tingle

Profiles

Advertising James Packer John Singleton Crown Limited Politics Sydney Australia



With the 'Mad Men' TV series all the rage in Australia, Hollywood and all points in between, we thought the timing was excellent to bring you up to speed on some roadside advertising news in Sydney, Australia.

A mega cashed up company part-owned by media tycoons James Packer and John Singleton has started to cash in on major Sydney motorways, headed up by the M2 motorway.

Construction work on advertising billboards owned by Packer and Singleton's firm first started about 12 months ago and some campaigns are already up and running beautifully.

The firm is not disclosing its full client or campaign list, as you would expect - not that anyone else could likely give them much of a run for their money.

These are not any average billboards... they cost about $500,000 each all told, "Packer and Singo" are looking for strong return on investment and are looking to stand out from the pack.

The concession to erect billboards over the M2 was purchased by Manboom, a company owned by JP, Singo and Robert Whyte, from the M2's owner, Transurban, back in 1998. Talk about forward planning.

For more than a decade Manboom was unable to erect signs over the road because of road blocks from local councils! The M2 passes through three council areas and only one, Hornsby, would permit advertising billboards.

But in 2007 the then planning minister, Frank Sartor, amended legislation that stripped away councils of the right to determine policies for signs over motorways. The Department of Planning became the sole consent authority for motorway advertising.

The Media Man agency strongly suspects that a strained economy (and diluting council coffers) lessened council opposition to the advertising proposal put forward. You know... "Money talks and BS walks", whispered a Media Man insider.

It is not clear how much income Manboom makes from the concession to advertise over the congested M2. The firm has in place an annual payment deal with Hornsby Council, the Hills Shire and the City of Ryde in return for its signage rights.

It also pays for public benefit works commissioned by Roads and Maritime Services.

Transurban's spokesman said months ago: "The installation of advertising signage will fund improvements to the aesthetics and operation of bridges on the motorway, including new bridge facade cladding.

"The project will deliver safety improvements to the motorway and a designated source of ongoing funding for safety enhancements to the motorway," he said.

"The use of advertising signage provides an important alternative source of funding for infrastructure improvements and enhancements."

The M2 is in the middle of a two-year upgrade.

The former RTA last year opposed four of Manboom's 15 proposed signs on safety grounds. It cited a fear about "sign clutter" and a concern the angle of one billboard would distract motorists.

The Department of Planning upheld the RTA's concerns about the four signs.

Some studies say billboard advertising helps keep drivers alert, whilst others suggest they are a dangerous distraction. Readers - what do you think? A gamble with safety or a gamble on the investment?

Its a safe bet that Packer, Singleton and Whyte have done their sums.

In the meantime plenty of other Sydney councils are watching the project closely to see if they may be able to also benefit financially from extra advertising on their roads.

*the writer owns shares in Crown Limited, Network Ten and Virgin.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Echo chairman bows to Packer pressure - 8th June 2012

Profiles

Casinos Australian Casinos The Star Echo Entertainment Crown Limited Crown Casino Crown Melbourne High Rollers Casino Whales Gambling Fairfax Media World Casino Directory



Echo Entertainment chairman John Story has resigned from the board of the casino operator due to James Packer's efforts to remove him.

"The board of Echo has formed the view that the ongoing disruptive campaign ... for the removal of Mr Story was damaging to the company, and that it was in the best interests of shareholders that Mr Story not contest the resolution," Echo said in a statement today.

Mr Story wanted the issue to be put to shareholders but accepted the view of the board, Echo said.

Mr Packer is the largest stakeholder in Echo's rival casino operator Crown, which holds a 10 per cent stake in Echo.

Echo shares rallied on the news, rising as much as 4.7 per cent to $4.50, before easing back to $4.44 in recent trade. The shares are up about 24 per cent in 2012, mainly because of speculation that the billionaire wants a bigger stake.

Echo is worth about $3 billion, roughly half the size of Crown.

Crown shares, 48 per cent owned by Mr Packer, were recently down 15 cents, or 1.8 per cent for the day, at $8.21, and up just 1.7 per cent for the year.

Echo shareholders were due to meet in July to consider Mr Packer's request that Mr Story be removed from the Echo board, and that Jeff Kennett, the former Victorian premier, be appointed. A meeting may still go ahead to consider Mr Kennett's nomination.

Mr Packer’s move is aimed at giving Crown a piece of the lucrative Sydney casino market.

Echo owns the only casino licence in Sydney, and operates the Star. It also owns the Jupiters casinos on the Gold Coast and in Townsville, and the Treasury casino in Brisbane.

Crown operates the Crown casino in Melbourne and the Burswood casino in Perth.

John O'Neill, a non-executive director at Echo and chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union, has been appointed acting chairman of Echo. AAP


Echo chairman bows to Packer pressure - 8th June 2012...

Update Echo Entertainment chairman John Story has resigned from the board of the casino operator, blaming James Packer's efforts to remove him.

"The board of Echo has formed the view that the ongoing disruptive campaign ... for the removal of Mr Story was damaging to the company, and that it was in the best interests of shareholders that Mr Story not contest the resolution," Echo said in a statement today.

Mr Story wanted the issue to be put to shareholders but accepted the view of the board, Echo said.

John O'Neill, a non-executive director at Echo and chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union, has been appointed acting chairman of Echo.

In a statement released this afternoon, Mr Packer welcomed the appointment of Mr O'Neill as acting chairman.

Mr Packer also dropped his efforts to seek a meeting of Echo shareholders his plan to get former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett onto the board of rival casino operator Echo Entertainment.

Echo jumps

Mr Packer is the largest stakeholder in Echo's rival casino operator Crown, which holds a 10 per cent stake in Echo.

Echo shares rallied on the news, rising as much as 4.7 per cent to $4.50, before easing back to $4.44 in recent trade. The shares are up about 24 per cent in 2012, mainly because of speculation that the billionaire wants a bigger stake.

Echo is worth about $3 billion, roughly half the size of Crown.

Crown shares, 48 per cent owned by Mr Packer, were recently down 15 cents, or 1.8 per cent for the day, at $8.21, and up just 1.7 per cent for the year.

Echo shareholders were due to meet in July to consider Mr Packer's request that Mr Story be removed from the Echo board, and that former Victorian premier Mr Kennett be appointed. That meeting will now not proceed.

Mr Packer’s overall move is aimed at giving Crown a piece of the lucrative Sydney casino market.
Echo owns the only casino licence in Sydney, and operates the Star. It also owns the Jupiters casinos on the Gold Coast and in Townsville, and the Treasury casino in Brisbane.

Crown operates the Crown casino in Melbourne and the Burswood casino in Perth.

Genting interest?

Separately, Echo Entertainment's board has not had any discussions with Singapore gaming operator Genting, which revealed today it had built a stake in the company, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

Analysts have speculated that Genting is preparing for an acquisition, having built up a war chest of $S3.9 billion ($3 billion), and said Echo's casinos were in cities where Genting had attempted to win licences in the past. AAP, with BusinessDay, Reuters

News

Australian business press digest: June 7...

Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)
--The possibility of John Story resigning as chairman of casino operator Echo Entertainment Group was discussed this week during investor meetings in a bid to negate a campaign by billionaire James Packer to have him removed. "The basis of the proposal was the concern that James Packer was threatening to do damage to Echo on an ongoing basis  it wasn't a concern in relation to my chairmanship, it was about diffusing the situation," Mr Story said. Mr Packer's Crown Ltd, a rival casino operator, currently owns 10 percent of Echo. Page 23.

--A report by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that large resources companies are looking to spend their cashflow on growth, while their investors would prefer capital returned due to concerns over falling commodity prices and rising project outlays. "What has surprised is the disconnect versus the rest of the market  to turn that around, it is going to take a realignment of expectations between the industry and investors," Jock O'Callaghan, mining leader and PwC, said. Page 25.

--Private equity firm Castle Harlan has been sued in the United States by an investment firm over what the latter alleges was a "quick-flip" sale of Norcast Wear Solutions to Australian foundry and engineering firm Bradken. Bradk en acquired the Canadian firm for A$217 million, after Castle Harlan purchased the business from Pala Investments for A$190 million only hours earlier. Pala lodged a case in the Federal Court against Bradken last month, claiming that the firm had participated in bid rigging. Page 25.

--James Warburton, chief executive of free-to-air broadcaster Ten Network, yesterday warned that there would be no short-term rebound in television advertising revenue. "We must be smarter [about programming costs] and we must drive our average hourly costs down," Mr Warburton said. The company yesterday announced a A$200 million capital raising, which would be used to pay down debt and cover the cost of new programming. Page 26.

THE AUSTRALIAN (www.theaustralian.news.com.au)

--Qantas Airways has dropped more than A$600 million in value this week after chief executive Alan Joyce announced a 91 percent drop in underlying pre-tax profit to between A$50 million and A$100 million. The unexpected announcement, which sparked a plunge in Qantas shares to A$1.125 yesterday from A$1.42 on Monday, has led some to question how much longer Mr Joyce will be leading the airline. Page 23.

--Margaret Jackson, former chairman of Qantas Airways, yesterday said that the airline's board decided to present to shareholders A$11 billion takeover bid for the company by the Airline Partners Australia consortium in late 2006 because "it was deemed to be a good offer". "The aviation industry at the time was going through an unusually favourable environment," Ms Jackson added. Qantas' current market capitalisation is approximately A$2.6 billion. Page 23.

--Bruce Gordon, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Gina Rinehart have all banded together to inject A$84 million into a capital raising designed to ease the debt burden on Ten Network. The free-to-air broadcaster is looking to raise A$200 million to invest on programming and provide flexibility. "Given the uncertain revenue environment and our strategy of investing in programming renewal, the board felt it was important to strengthen our balance sheet at this time," Mr Murdoch, chairman of Ten, said. Page 23.

--Marius Kloppers, chief executive of BHP Billiton , yesterday rebuffed calls for the resources giant to return more capital to shareholders, with speculation mounting that the company will scrap its five-year capital expenditure goal of A$82 billion. "I have to tell you that my baseline demeanour against a volatile current backdrop is to be very conservative  conservatism stood us in good stead in the global financial crisis and  will stand us in good stead as we try to create long-term value in this current environment," Mr Kloppers said. Page 23.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (www.smh.com.au)

--The former head of the Brown Brothers winery and current chairman of the Australia's First Families of Wine awareness group, Ross Brown, yesterday criticised major retailers for filling store shelves with copycat brands. In an address to a First Families event, Mr Brown reportedly declared that some retailers were acquiring surplus wine and putting a label on it to make it more alluring to customers. "I call them hollow logs  they are just a label which has none of these values that traditional family wine companies bring to the market," he said. Page B1.

--Fund managers have expressed outrage after investment bank Macquarie Group recently announced it would more than double the yearly fees for distributing products on its investment platform. "You've basically got to pay up to stay on board  ultimately what it means is I've got to pass it on - so the end user will suffer," said Winston Sammut, director of Maxim Asset Management, which has pulled its fund from Macquarie's platform. Page B3.

--Tony Haggarty, managing director of Whitehaven Coal, yesterday said the miner's Ferndale joint venture with Coalworks would not be impacted by an investigation by the Independent Corruption Against Commission into former New South Wales minister Ian Macdonald's granting of mining rights. "I don't see how [the inquiry] could affect the standing of the tenement  that omelette would be extremely difficult to unscramble," Mr Haggarty said. Page B3.

--Fears over the ability of Reed Group to survive have increased as subcontractors who are owed money by the construction firm are being asked to join a class action against the New South Wales government. The news comes after the state Department of Education revealed that it did not owe anything to Reed for construction contracts relating to Building the Education Revolution projects. Page B3.

THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

--Global miner BHP Billiton is preparing to drastically restructure its A$20 billion expansion of Port Hedland's outer harbour after yesterday announcing that it would prefer a staggered development of the Western Australian port due to the state's "pretty hot" economy. "We probably feel that dramatically upping your workforce requirements and so on, and your capital spend right now is not what we want to do, particularly because we are kind of fully committed over the next two years on our capital spend," chief executive Marius Kloppers said. Page B1.

--Broadcasters, mobile phone network operators, emergency services and other users of Australia's wireless spectrum have been asked to help update the methodology used for allocating spectrum. Oeter Haris, secretary of the Federal Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, yesterday said that the renewing of Vodafone Hutchison Australia and Telstra's mobile licences earlier this year "was not - for all participants - very elegant". Page B2.

--The Star casino in Sydney has sued 10 high rollers, including a businessman with connections in Macau and a Thailand property developer, in the New South Wales Supreme Court in a bid to recover A$23 million. The legal action comes after Echo Entertainment Group, owner of The Star, last week wrote off almost A$30 million associated with the collapse of SilkStar Global Marketing, a casino marketing firm targeting high rollers. Page B3.

--Australian Securities Exchange-listed gold junior Indochine Mining has become an investment target for global investment fund BlackRock, which acquired 9 percent of the company for A$5.2 million, it was revealed yesterday. The holding was acquired through a placement where BlackRock purchased 65 percent of shares on offer. Stephen Promnitz, chief executive of Indochine, predicted the spot price of gold to push beyond US$1800 an ounce before the close of the year. Page B4. Reuters

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Star sues high rollers over debt - 7th June 2012

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The Star casino is suing 10 high rollers in an effort to recover $23 million in bad debts.

Court records show The Star filed claims against the 10 in the New South Wales Supreme Court in late February.

The individuals include a property developer from Thailand, an entrepreneurial Thai businesswoman, and a businessman with high level community interests from Macau.

Echo Entertainment revealed last week that it had written off nearly $30 million following the failure of VIP junket operator SilkStar Global Marketing and the high rollers' bad debts, which has given ammunition to James Packer in the war of attrition against Echo and its chairman, John Story.
As he continued a campaign of daily newspaper advertisements urging shareholders to dump Mr Story and elect Jeff Kennett as a director, Mr Packer yesterday referred to ''poor credit controls at The Star''.

''Echo wrote off $29.9 million associated with the liquidation of a marketing partner and bad debts - highlighting concerns about credit control at The Star,'' the advertisement said.

In its statement to the market last week, Echo said the operator, SilkStar, had gone into liquidation in March owing the casino $7 million. It also revealed some of the international VIP customers introduced to Echo by SilkStar had outstanding debts.

It said it had decided to increase the impairment provision against ''this group of customers'', which it said amounted to $22.9 million.

''Echo will however continue to vigorously pursue all avenues to recover the moneys outstanding from these customers,'' the company said.

Yesterday, an Echo spokesman declined to comment as the matter was before the courts.

Given the value casino operators put on ensuring the privacy of their high rollers, the public court action is a high profile foray into debt collection.

Echo recently went to court and succeeded in gagging the ABC from using information about high rollers' identities which it had obtained.

Echo closed at $4.27, down 3¢ on the previous day. (Fairfax Media)

News

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)
--The possibility of John Story resigning as chairman of casino operator Echo Entertainment Group was discussed this week during investor meetings in a bid to negate a campaign by billionaire James Packer to have him removed. "The basis of the proposal was the concern that James Packer was threatening to do damage to Echo on an ongoing basis  it wasn't a concern in relation to my chairmanship, it was about diffusing the situation," Mr Story said. Mr Packer's Crown Ltd, a rival casino operator, currently owns 10 percent of Echo. Page 23.

--Bruce Gordon, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Gina Rinehart have all banded together to inject A$84 million into a capital raising designed to ease the debt burden on Ten Network. The free-to-air broadcaster is looking to raise A$200 million to invest on programming and provide flexibility. "Given the uncertain revenue environment and our strategy of investing in programming renewal, the board felt it was important to strengthen our balance sheet at this time," Mr Murdoch, chairman of Ten, said. Page 23.

--The Star casino in Sydney has sued 10 high rollers, including a businessman with connections in Macau and a Thailand property developer, in the New South Wales Supreme Court in a bid to recover A$23 million. The legal action comes after Echo Entertainment Group, owner of The Star, last week wrote off almost A$30 million associated with the collapse of SilkStar Global Marketing, a casino marketing firm targeting high rollers. Page B3. (The Sydney Morning Herald / Reuters)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Australian business press digest: June 6

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Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)
New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell yesterday said that the push by casino operator Crown Ltd's to seize control of rival Echo Entertainment Group was "starting to look like a political campaign". Mr O'Farrell also acclaimed Crown chairman James Packer, who is attempting to have John Story removed as chairman of Echo, as a "shrewd and successful" businessman. Page 17.
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Hardware big-box retailer Bunnings is being encouraged to increase its use of e-commerce, with rival home-improvement franchise Masters preparing to unveil Australia's biggest online do-it-yourself store. "Online (hardware) is a growing category. The percentage online has gone up more than other categories such as food and groceries, alcohol and furniture," Phil Harpur, senior research manager at analysts Forrester Research, said. Page 17.
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Campbell Wilson, chief executive of Scoot, yesterday said that the discount airline could lure customers away from rivals such as Jetstar despite the current turbulent economic conditions. "People's desire to travel doesn't change because of the economy, particularly leisure travel. It's just their willingness to pay for it, and so if they can still get a good value option, they will take it, and they will trade to an airline like us that offers very good value," Mr Wilson remarked. Page 18.
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Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, yesterday said it was "absolutely amazing" that the Foreign Investment Review Board's approval was not required for Etihad Airways to increase its stake in local rival Virgin Australia. "Ultimately, Etihad is a plaything of the Abu Dhabi royal family  that means it is essentially sovereign capital and it is taking a significant stake in Australia's second biggest airline  not being subject to [the review board's] scrutiny is ludicrous," he said. Page 18.
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THE AUSTRALIAN (www.theaustralian.news.com.au)
The Reserve Bank of Australia yesterday reduced official interest rates by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent, but some analysts said the decision was insufficient to substantially boost the local economy. Belinda Allen, senior analyst at wealth management group Colonial First State, yesterday said that while the move would generate "some short-term confidence" it would be "hard to see strong gains in the market" until there was a more substantive solution to the European debt crisis. Page 35.
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The International Energy Agency yesterday announced that Australia's A$205.5 billion pipeline of liquefied natural gas ventures may be held up by high costs and various other project risks, which could cause gas prices to surge in 2015. "These projects are likely to face many challenges, including higher capital costs and workforce shortages; they are expected to come on later than announced," the agency stated in a report. Page 35.
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James Hogan, chief executive of Etihad Airways, last night confirmed that the airline was holding discussions with the Foreign Investment Review Board to increase its holding in rival Virgin Australia. "Certainly, we don't intend to become a majority investor. We're keen to have a strong minority stake that strengthens our partnership with Virgin Australia," Mr Hogan said. Page 35.
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Shares in Qantas Airways yesterday plunged by A26.5 cents to A$1.155 after chief executive Alan Joyce announced that the company was scheduled to report its first annual loss since listing on the local stockmarket in 1995. The airline is now worth A$2.6 billion on the market, well below the A$11 billion takeover offer from Airlines Partners Australia that was rejected by Qantas shareholders in 2006. Page 35.
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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (www.smh.com.au)
Analysts NAB Global Markets yesterday warned that Qantas Airways could see its credit rating downgraded by global agencies, after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce predicted annual underlying profit to decrease by 91 percent. Mr Joyce yesterday tried to reassure investors that Qantas "cashflow remained strong" and that "no plans for an equity raising to bolster capital" were underway. Page B1.
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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission yesterday confirmed that there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute Jack W. Flader, the former Hong Kong businessman behind the largest superannuation theft in Australian history. Deb O'Neill, who led a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, said that it was "now the responsibility of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission to investigate". Around A$123 million in funds was scammed through a complicated nexus of foreign funds. Page B3.
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PPB Advisory, the administrators of Hastie Group, yesterday declared that buyers had been found for the collapsed engineering firm's mechanical services division D&E Air Conditioning and its Cooke & Carrick hydraulics business, preventing 408 employees from being made redundant. Craig Crosbie, partner at PPB Advisory, said he expected three more units to be sold off shortly, which would save another 50 jobs. Page B3.
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Warrnambool Cheese & Butter yesterday said reductions in prices for commodity dairy products like skim milk powder had forced the company to lower its profit projections for the current financial year. The cheese and butter manufacturer announced that net profit after tax would be as much as 30 percent lower than last year's A$18.5 million result. Paul Jensz, analyst at researchers Austock, praised management for limiting the earnings downgrade to the extent it did given the market conditions. Page B4.
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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)
Bank of Queensland yesterday announced that it would lower variable borrowing rates by 20 basis points to 6.91 percent, after the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to cut the official cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent. Economists at Westpac Banking Corporation forecast that the central bank would lower rates later this year, with a prediction that the cash rate would be 2.75 percent by the end of 2012. Page B1.
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Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) yesterday announced a six-step program for re-entry into the local brewing sector, which will see the beverage manufacturer compete against global giants like SABMiller and Kirin. According to documents filed with the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday, CCA will initiate export an program for its Fijian beer labels and begin creating strategic partnerships. The company would then use international partnerships to enter the New Zealand market. Page B2.
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Logistics group QR National yesterday announced it would terminate over 500 jobs, mainly from its maintenance and manufacturing departments. "We continue to deal with a raft of legacy issues including higher than required staffing levels, high corporate overheads and bureaucratic structures, after more than 145 years in government ownership," managing director Lance Hockridge said. "Our cost base is too high when compared to competitors and rail industry peers," he added. Page B4.
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The Fair Work Ombudsman yesterday declared that it was inquiring into claims from former Future Building Material Corp employees relating to unpaid superannuation and wages. The building materials firm was established by John Hancock, son of the wealthiest woman in the world, mining magnate Gina Rinehart. Jerome Naidoo, Mr Hancock's business partner, yesterday said he "welcomed the investigation". Page B4.
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Reuters

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