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Latin America’s first cable television channel dedicated to poker is scheduled for launch this month with a menu of programming covering major international tournaments and providing expert information and advice and a special poker news channel.

In an interview with online news site Yogonet, partners in the channel, Gregorio De Luca, creator of Poker Sports, as it’s called, said he has exclusive rights with Argentina’s Cablevision network through the end of this year and will broadcast into Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico and even as far as Spain, reaching a projected 20 million viewers. He said also that talks are under way with a company called Media Blue Europe, based in Italy, to bring the channel to Italy, Germany, France and England.

The company’s 24 hours of poker programming will be a first for Latin America. The news program, Poker Sports News, which De Luca calls the “backbone” of the channel, will have three daily editions and will be run by Yogonet.

World Poker Tour, After Dark, the Europe Open Poker Classic, the World Series of Poker, EPT, the Latin American Heads Up Series and Conrad Poker Tour all will be covered. Original content will include shows titled “Perfect Hand, High Rollers Latinoamérica” and “Poker Pro”.

“We bring a sporty spirit to this signal,” De Luca said, “because we firmly believe that poker is a sport more than a game. In fact, all the cable operators that have hired our signal are putting us in the sports segment.

“We have an American look,” he added, “because [poker’s] essence and greatest development took place in the United States, and we understand that the visual part of poker is identified with that country.”



POLITICAL SPEECH WON'T MATTER TO GAMING IN ECUADOR

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Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa wants the country free of casinos and other gambling venues, but experts don’t expect that desire to acquire the force of law.

For one thing, it would contradict a recent decree that extends a requirement that legal casinos connect for auditing purposes to the central computer of the government’s Internal Revenue Service.

An attorney specializing in the industry, Joffre Campaña, said that in the absence of the political will to close them, casinos will continue operating. “One thing is the official speech and another one is the action of the government,” he told the Vistazo news service.

Interestingly, he considers the connectivity requirement, which allows the government to monitor the industry as never before, “is a magnificent opportunity to legalize the laundering of assets.” Laundered cash, when declared to the government, is supposed to go to the state, he said, “which becomes an entity that tolerates and knows what is going on but does not have the decision to stop it.”

Without more comprehensive regulations, Campaña added, a perfect scenario for money-laundering could result.



PINNACLE SELLS OFF ARGENTINA CASINOS

U.S. casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment has completed the sale of its Argentina operations for about US$40 million.

The company sold to a consortium of Argentine companies. The assets consisted of one larger casino and several small casinos in the country’s Patagonia region.

Pinnacle President and CEO Anthony Sanfilippo said the company’s investments in Argentina were fruitful, but the sale allows the company to focus on higher-priority initiatives. Pinnacle is currently developing a casino and resort in the United States in Baton Rouge, La. The $250 million property is expected to feature about 1,300 slot machines, 50 table games and a hotel with 100 rooms.

The company recently closed its casino in the U.S. city of St. Louis and currently operates seven casinos in the U.S. states of Missouri, Indiana, Louisiana and Nevada. Pinnacle opened its latest casino, River City, in the St. Louis area, in March.



BALLY DESIGNATES KEY MANAGEMENT FOR THE CONTINENT

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Slot giant Bally Technologies has named Ricardo Regner the company’s director of Latin America, responsible for managing the regional sales force and overseeing all gaming equipment sales and recurring-revenue products throughout the region, excluding Mexico.

“Ricardo has been a valuable member and a key contributor to Bally’s international growth. His extensive experience in management and sales in the region, along with the industry knowledge he has acquired at Bally, will allow him to excel in his new responsibilities,” said Derik Mooberry, vice president of North America Game Sales.

Regner served the last two years as Bally’s director of South America and was responsible for successfully restructuring the sales and operations teams on the continent. Prior to joining Bally he was sales and marketing regional manager for Boston Scientific Argentina, a subsidiary of Boston Scientific Corp., a developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices. He has held numerous management roles for various technology companies in Argentina.

Bally also announced a new director of systems sales for Latin America, Mariano Sosa.

Sosa most recently was Latin America systems manager for International Game Technology. During his five years at IGT he was responsible for creating and overseeing systems business units in Mexico and Argentina. He also was in charge of developing new business opportunities and support systems sales while establishing policies and procedures to operate and manage each business unit.

Before joining IGT, Sosa was IT regional manager for Electronic Data Systems, now a division of Hewlett-Packard.

“We are confident that Mariano’s extensive sales and IT experience in the industry and in the region will enable us to elevate our sales efforts and help us expand Bally’s systems presence in Latin America,” said Vice President of International John Connelly.