NEW CASINOS PITCHED FOR ITALY IN BID TO BOOST TOURISM

Italy could get as many as 15 new casinos under a proposal aimed at increasing tourism in the country.

As proposed by Tourism Minister Vittoria Brambilla, the casinos would be located in top hotels, and casinos formerly operating in the Sicilian city of Taormina and in San Pellegrino Terme near the northern city of Bergamo would be reopened.

“The aim is to develop [the sector] and put the south in the same condition as the north, where there are already four casinos,” a spokeswoman for Brambilla said in a Reuters report. “The minister supports a policy of tourism to reactivate the south.”

The plan will need full government approval, and any new casinos likely would require local approval also.

Italy is home to four casinos, all under municipal control, all in the north of the country - at San Remo in Venice, near the French border at Campione, near Lake Como on the border with Switzerland and in San Vincent in the Val D’Aosta region.

Through September of this year the four generated a combined €347 million in turnover, according to news agency Agipro.

POLAND SET TO IMPOSE SWEEPING RESTRICTIONS ON SLOT MACHINES

Poland’s government has approved a draft law that would ban slot machines outside casinos.

If passed by the national parliament and approved by the president, the law will forbid permits from being issued to existing facilities with slot machines, no permits will be issued for new facilities, including casinos, and video lotteries will be banned.

It wasn’t certain if online gambling would be banned, but that also was seen as possible.

Another portion of the legislation would also raise taxes on existing casinos.

Both the parliament and President Lech Kaczynski are expected to approve the legislation.

The new restrictions come weeks after Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government was rocked by a scandal in which several ministers were accused of lobbying on behalf of the gambling industry. Tusk forced some of the ministers to resign in a move that was seen as an effort to shore up his faltering approval ratings in advance of next year’s presidential election, in which he is rumored to be a candidate.

Luxury is the watchword in X.O. Casino’s appeal to high rollers.

The road to Bishkek: Storm opens in Central Asia

It’s safe to say that Kyrgyzstan has never seen anything like this.

Moscow-based Storm International, one of Russia’s largest casino operators before the industry was banned from major cities earlier this year, has extended its X.O. Casino brand to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital and the largest city of this arid, landlocked Central Asian republic of 5.5 million people.

The boutique casino is designed to appeal to high-end gamblers (“well-to-do guests of the capital city,” according to a company release) with an opulent art deco look and feel comprised of mirrored ceilings, stained glass and rich-looking wall fabrics. It offers 12 table games - roulette, blackjack, Russian poker, punto banco - and 30 slot machines.

Storm says the casino is providing 150 local jobs.

“We take partnership with Hyatt as a wonderful opportunity to employ our capabilities,” said Storm CEO Darren Keane. “We have always been targeted at VIP customers, our standards of service and operations are on the highest level, and we believe the partnership will be beneficial for all the parties.”

At the opening ceremonies this fall, held poolside at the Hyatt with a fire and magic spectacle, fireworks and entertainment by popular local rock bands, Keane declared, “This is the most memorable event since the times of Genghis Khan!”

PARTYGAMING BUYS WORLD POKER TOUR

Online gambling giant PartyGaming has completed the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of WPT Enterprises for US$12.3 million in cash and an additional minimum aggregate payment of $3 million over the next three years under the terms of an ongoing revenue-sharing agreement.

The deal includes The World Poker Tour brand, rights to a number of land-based events in the United States and Europe and all other intellectual property rights associated with the World Poker Tour. Party also bought a library of poker programming that is broadcast worldwide and a subscription offering called ClubWPT, which claims 16,500 paying members in the United States.

“We are excited about the opportunities that WPT, a proven marketing channel, will create for PartyGaming, particularly if the U.S. regulates and licenses online gaming,” said Jim Ryan, CEO of Gibraltar-based, UK-listed Party

Said WPTE founder Steve Lipscomb, “Combining two of the pioneers and leaders in the poker and online gaming markets will create a strong vehicle for the WPT brand to continue its global expansion.”

BETFAIR IS SHUT OUT BY NEW FRENCH RULES

The French government has effectively outlawed online betting exchanges under the terms of an amendment to the gambling reforms expected to come into force next year.

In what British newspaper The Guardian described as a “surprise last-minute” codicil to the new regulations, online betting exchanges, where customers bet against each other and can lay odds, don’t appear to fit with one of the policies underlying a more liberalized French gambling regime, which is that all bookmakers must apply for a license and pay a proportion of their revenues to support sports in the country.

In passing the amendment the French Parliament also cited social concerns, referring to a 2007 report by the UK Gambling Commission that estimated the addiction rate of gamblers using betting exchanges at more than three times the national average.

London-based Betfair, the largest betting exchange, claiming more than 2 million customers, disputes those findings, and Managing Director Mark Davies described the French amendment as “discriminatory” and a “slap in the face for the consumer”.

“We will consider our position,” he said.

There have been doubts about whether the French regulations would pass muster under Community law, but the European Commission appears to have given them cautious approval. However, bookmakers are expected to challenge the new rules, which require them to pay 1.8 percent of their revenues to French sports and negotiate separate licenses for each sport they want to offer bets on.

The legislation also is being closely watched by a coalition of British sports governing bodies that hope to persuade their government to introduce a similar levy system in the UK. They argue that bookmakers should be forced to pay to offer odds on their sports, a proportion of which would then be spent on fighting corruption.

DESPITE CHALLENGES, TWC SCORES PROFITS

Casino operator Trans World Corporation reported a US$552,000 profit for the quarter ended September 30 and $2 million for the first nine months of the year.

The results translate to 6 cents and 23 cents per share for the quarter and nine months, respectively, for the publicly traded, U.S.-based company.

EBITDA for the quarter was approximately $1.4 million, down from $1.7 million in the same period in 2008, due in part to anticipated first-year operating losses at the new 77-room Hotel Savannah and the Spa, which opened in January adjoining the company’s Route 59 Casino in Hate in the south of the Czech Republic near the border with Austria.

EBITDA for the nine months was $4.2 million, up 2.2 percent over the same period last year.

Total revenue dipped 7.3 percent to $8.7 million for the quarter as a result of several factors, principally lower consumer spending relating to the economic downturn and lower hold percentages. The same factors were attributed to a decline in nine-month revenues, from $27.5 million in 2008 to $25.3 million.

TWC operates three other casinos in the Czech Republic - in Ceska Kubice and Rozvadov, near the German border, and in Dolni Dvoriste in the south - and manages a casino and nightclub in Croatia, in the Le Meridien hotel in Lav.