Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | Dec 2007 44 Briefs International Briefs Genting Takes Rank Stake According to a Reuters report, Malaysian gaming giant Genting has taken 9.4% stake in the firm casino and bingo firm Rank Group, with the announcement made on December 3. Genting bought into the British casino market in 2006 when it acquired its biggest player, Stanley Leisure, for 640 million pounds (US$1.32 billion). Combining the business with Rank’s 45 casinos would see Genting become the clear leader in the UK with 91 venues in total. However, analysts say Genting would face a difficult task gaining regulatory approval for such a deal. Rank, which owns the Grosvenor Casino chain, has been tipped as a takeover target since a recent profit warning hit its shares. A ban on smoking and the forced removal of lucrative slot ma- chines has sparked a sharp decline in Rank’s bingo business while a surprise hike in taxes earlier in the year also hit casino profits hard. Media reports say Rank also rejected an offer from Harrah’s to ef- fectively swap the US gaming giant’s UK casinos for a 28% stake in Rank, while Ladbrokes and Singapore’s BIL have been cited as other potential suitors. Tropicana Could Get One Year To Clean Up Its Act The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has recom- mended that the Tropicana Casino and Resort be issued a one year license. That will give the casino one year to try and prove that it is once again running a high class operation. The casino has been under scrutiny over the past year for what former workers consider to be an understaffed and dirty casino. The casino has laid off nearly 900 employees. The casino only had 3,600 employees, meaning the cuts equalled one quarter of all employees. After Columbia Sussex took over the casino on January 3 this year, it slashed the payroll and left the casino in shambles, claims the casino’s main workers union. The Division of Gaming Enforcement has recommended to the state’s Casino Control Commission that the Tropicana only receive a one year license. Most licenses are good for five years, but given the circumstanc- es, Tropicana could get a one year license. The one year deal would allow the casino to improve its conditions before a decision is made whether to allow it to continue operating. Executives for the casino claim that the union is the cause of the problems.They also claim that the Tropicana’s problems are behind it, and that it is once again operating at a first class level. Developers Plan Spain’s Version of Vegas According to a report in the Daily Telegraph :“Europe is set to get its own version of Las Vegas in a desert region of eastern Spain where developers plan to build 32 hotel-casinos, two theme parks, a race- course and stadium over the next decade.” The project, approved in late November by the regional govern- ment of Aragon, also calls for the construction of residential areas, an equestrian centre and a golf course on just over 2,000 hectares of land in the Los Monegros desert. Tentatively called “Gran Escala”, which means large-scale, the development has a 17-billion-euro price tag that will be footed by International Leisure Development, a London-based consortium of investors. The location—half-way between Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s second city—was selected over two other possible sites in Europe because it has good transportation links, favourable tax laws and relatively low land prices. Tourism Minister Pushes for Israel Casino As reported by the Jerusalem Post :“Casino tycoon Sheldon Adel- son, who recently launched the world’s biggest gambling complex, may have given up on hopes of establishing a casino in Israel, but TourismMinister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said he plans to push hard for a legal gambling house in the southern city of Eilat.” Mr Aharonovitch made the announcement at a meeting of the Knesset Economics Committee where he presented the ministry’s work plan for 2008. According to the report:“When Adelson, the world’s richest Jew, launched the Venetian Macau in August, he said after years of trying to open a casino here he had given up due to politics and an exhaust- ing bureaucracy.” According to Mr Aharonovitch, establishing a casino in Eilat must be done together with the building of a special police force that would be active in the casino surroundings and which would work to close down underground gambling institutions. Mr Aharonovitch is not alone in his desire for a casino in Eilat. Eilat’s Mayor Meir Yitzhak HaLevy, Chairman of Mifal Hapayis (the Is- Eilat, Israel