AUSTRALIA REPORT SAYS WEB RULES SHOULD BE RELAXED

Australia is planning an overhaul of its online gambling sector to try to stem the massive flow of wagers to unregulated offshore Web sites.

Australia allows online gambling on horse races and sports, but it prohibits local companies from setting up online gaming operations which include casino games, such as blackjack and roulette, and poker.

Of the A$18 billion-plus Australians spend annually on gambling, roughly the same amount as alcohol sales, an estimated $700 million or more goes to gambling Web sites based outside the country.

A recent report from the Productivity Commission, an independent, government-funded research and advisory body, said restrictions on the homegrown industry should be relaxed so the sector could be better regulated.

It noted also that the government had little power to ban foreign suppliers.

“In its unregulated form, online gaming is available 24 hours a day, allows credit betting, has no intrinsic restrictions on bet sizes, has no capacity for venue staff to observe and assist people in trouble, reaches new groups of people who may be vulnerable to the medium (including those underage), and may not have any regulatory oversight to ensure probity,” the commission said.

Opening up the sector, the report said, would “increase competition in gambling (with better outcomes for consumers), provide Australian businesses with greater commercial opportunities, and yield governments some additional tax revenue.”

Galaxy expects to complete the exterior of its Cotai megaresort by the end of the year.

Construction cranes to rise again on Cotai

Las Vegas Sands says it plans to relaunch work next month on resort developments in Macau that were halted last year when the company ran into financing problems in the wake of the global credit crisis.

The news comes amid a strong recovery in the Macau casino market after China earlier this year eased visa restrictions for residents of neighboring Guangdong Province desiring to visit the former Portuguese colony, the only place in China where casino gambling is allowed.

The two parcels of land where LVS plans to restart work are situated on the so-called Cotai Strip across from the company’s massive Venetian Macao casino resort and would be linked to the Venetian Macao by glass-enclosed footbridges. At 13.3 million square feet of net developable area, the new complex - which will feature Shangri-La, Traders and Sheraton hotels - is pegged at US$2 billion to complete and would be even larger than the Venetian Macao.

The company disclosed in a filing last month that it had secured financing from banks for $1.45 billion and is looking for $300 million more.

LVS also is seeking to raise as much as US$3.83 billion from an initial public offering in Hong Kong of its Macau assets. Bloomberg reported that the sale of a 23.4 percent stake in Sands China values the unit at as much as HK$111 billion, or 16.6 times next year’s estimated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

LVS plans to use roughly $500 million from the offering, which is planned for this month, to finance the Macau construction, a source with the company told The Wall Street Journal. Much of the additional money is expected to go toward paying down debt and paying off inter-corporate loans.

Construction also continues on a US$5 billion resort in Singapore which LVS plans to open next year.

Another of Macau’s six casino license-holders, Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment Group, says it plans to restart work on a massive new resort casino of its own in the Cotai area after a year-long delay. The 5.9 million-square-foot project, called Galaxy Macau, is budgeted at US$1.81 billion and will feature 2,200 hotel rooms and a 55,000-square-foot casino with 600 gambling tables, Galaxy said. Opening is scheduled for the first quarter of 2011.

TABCORP, SINGAPORE EXPAND PARTNERSHIP TO GROW RACING

Tabcorp Holdings has signed a deal with Singapore Turf Club that will see the two co-mingle their tote pools beginning next year.

Tabcorp entered into an agreement earlier this year that allows for a greater exchange of races between Australia and Singapore, and the new deal is seen as an extension of that agreement.

Tabcorp already co-mingles its SuperTab pool with New Zealand and South Africa.

The new agreement will bring significant benefits to customers in both jurisdictions with bigger betting pools creating more stable dividends, which will make it more attractive to bet into. The respective racing industries could also benefit through returns derived from increased wagering on races.

 “We started working with Tabcorp earlier this year to bring simulcast races to each other’s countries, and the co-mingling of our pools is a natural progression of our partnership. We look forward to working with Tabcorp for many more years to come,” said Yu Pang Fey, president and CEO of Singapore Turf Club.

Tabcorp was successful this year in reversing a 2008 loss, reporting net profit after tax of A$521.7 million for 2009. Tabcorp lost $164.6 million last year after one-time charges relating to its Victorian wagering and gaming licenses.

Chairman John Story said the company had responded well to the global downturn and pointed to the $575 million redevelopment and expansion of Star City casino in Sydney as a sign of the company’s faith in the future.

SCIENTIFIC GAMES IN PHILIPPINES WITH FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT

U.S.-based Scientific Games Corp. has been selected as the exclusive supplier of instant tickets, marketing services and validation systems to the Philippines’ Pacific Online Systems Corporation.

The contract runs for an initial term of five years and includes a two-year extension option.

Included in the agreement is a national rollout of instant tickets in the Philippines after a successful market test. 

“We see tremendous potential in the Philippines,” said Scientific Games President Mike Chambrello, “and we believe Pacific Online will be a great partner to grow instant ticket sales, considering the excellent job they’ve done driving lotto sales through strategic roll-out of new terminals, more aggressive distribution and continuous opening of retail outlets.”

Pacific Online engages in the design, development and management of online computer systems, terminals and software for the gaming industry in the Philippines. It brokers technology from various suppliers and leases equipment to the government’s Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for its online lottery operations in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.