Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | February 2008 44 Briefs International Briefs Superjumbo Casino Talks European aircraft manufacturer Airbus S.A.S. says its in talks to convert one it is newsuperjumboA380 aircraft into the world’s largest flying casino, according to Agence France-Presse . While Airbus would not say who was interested in buying the giant plane for such purposes,it did say that it has held talks with several potential customers about such a deal. The massive aircraft, which entered into service last October, would have more than ample room for a casino, with 50% more floor space than the erstwhile largest commercial aircraft on the market, the Boeing 747. Other potential customers have suggested they may use extra space on the 850-plus-seat double-decker aircraft for shopping facilities or a flying gym, but to date, no one has opted for that configuration. One Middle Eastern customer, however, has already decided to use the massive craft as a personal jet. Ladbrokes Ends Casino Plans Ladbrokes,the leading UK bookmaker,has ditched plans to break into the UK casino market in a blow to government plans to issue 16 new casino licences to local authorities. This month, Britain gave the go-ahead to 16 regional casinos, while finally killing off plans for a Manchester supercasino. Prime Minister Gordon Brown effectively scrapped a blueprint to build a Las Vegas-style supercasino in the English city last July, saying there might be better ways to regenerate the area. Ladbrokes will not be among the bidders to run one of the regional casinos.“We have conducted a review of our casino strategy and have decided to withdraw from the process due to the length of time it would take to generate sufficient return on the capital spend required,” it said. Ladbrokes’ decision raises doubts about whether any of the leading gaming operators will bid for the casinos. The increase in casino duty in last year’s budget,the smoking ban and the removal of lucrative gaming machines, as required under the Gaming Act, have left casino operators nursing damaged businesses. Though much smaller than the defunct supercasino, the licences for the 16 new venues attracted a flurry of bids from local authorities because of the potential for economic regeneration. But the prospect of not even these casinos getting off the ground would be the final humiliation for a policy that envisaged 40 supercasinos in the UK. The plan was embroiled in controversy over alleged ministerial links to US operators and prompted a morality backlash. Ladbrokes had in recent years worked on a strategy for getting back into casinos. Two years ago, it opened a casino in the Paddington Hilton hotel and was not only behind Blackpool’s failed bid for the supercasino but was laying out plans to bid for eight of the new casino licences.Its decision to abandon the strategy effectively kills off talk of Ladbrokes as a suitor for Rank Group, the embattled casino and bingo operator that has seen revenues plunge. Gala Coral, which has 30 casinos, 26 of which it bought from Ladbrokes in 2000, and a market share of 24%, said it was “keeping our options open” about bidding for any of the16 casinos. The UK bingo market was shaken up in 2006 when Harrah’s, the Las Vegas-based gaming operator, paid £279m for London Clubs International, swiftly followed by Genting, the Malaysian gaming operator, buying Stanley Leisure. Holland Postpones Plans to Issue Exclusive Online License Dutch Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin has postponed a vote in that country’s Senate that would have granted the Netherlands- owned Holland Casino a temporary, exclusive online gaming license, citing concerns that the measure would be rejected by the Dutch Senate. HollandCasinohadpreviously beenworkingwith theCryptologic Inc.regarding the design of the online room,with no immediate word issued regarding those plans in the wake of the surprise shelving of the planned vote. Only a few days before the announcement of the postponement, the Ministry of Justice had announced plans to prosecute Dutch banks and financial institutions that processed payments headed to online gambling sites and to create a blacklist of ‘rogue’ online sites, on which the determination of illegally processed transactions would be based. The Dutch plan, of course, ran the risk of running counter to recent European Court decisions in the online gaming industry. The EU has consistently come down against the efforts of governments to protect or enhance gambling-revenue streams by restricting or barring other companies from those nations’ online markets. The impact of existing EU actions against other member countries such as Sweden, Germany and France may have played a part in the Dutch Senate’s lack of enthusiasm for the proposed measure.