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Archive for February, 2010

 

Proposal for Hawaiian Casino Rejected by Lawmakers

Feb 26, 2010
Hawaii Gambling

A proposal to allow gambling on the popular tourist destination was rejected by local lawmakers and will not progress past this stage. Had the proposal been passed, the state may have been able to raise up to $86 million per year in gambling revenue. The state is currently expected to face a $1.2 billion deficit.

Los Angeles Times: No dice: Lawmakers in Hawaii kill proposals for casino in Waikiki or on Hawaiian lands

According to a recent decision on the part of lawmakers, the sunny isles of Hawaii will not be seeing gambling any time soon. The bill that came under fire would have allowed a casino in the tourist center Waikiki. There will not be a vote on a second measure allowing gambling on Hawaiian home lands.

Public testimony on the gambling measures was overwhelmingly negative, leading the House Finance Committee to scuttle the idea Wednesday night. Hawaii and Utah are the only states that don’t permit any form of gambling and Hawaii’s population seems particularly passionate about keeping it out.

Gambling interests pitched casinos as a way to help rejuvenate the state’s vital tourism industry. In addition, casinos would allegedly bring $86 million a year in tax revenue to the state which is currently facing a projected $1.2 billion deficit.

Opponents of the bill argued that a casino would eat up tourist money, tarnish the state’s family-friendly image and increase crime.

The New York Times: Hawaii: Lawmakers Say No to Casinos

On Wednesday state legislators killed a bill that would have allowed a casino on the tourist filled island of Waikiki, Hawaii. A second measure allowing gambling on Hawaiian homelands will not get a vote after the House Finance Committee scuttled the idea.

Knowing that the state is facing a ghastly $1.2 billion deficit, gambling interests pitched casinos as a way to help rejuvenate the tourism industry. They also claimed that casinos would bring $86 million a year in tax revenue to a state. Opponents cited a decrease in tourist money, and the tarnishing of the state’s family-friendly image along with increase crime as reasons to keep casinos out.

Star Bulletin: Lawmakers fold their hand on casino bill

Overwhelming public opposition killed a push to establish gambling in Honolulu last Wednesday. State House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro said a move to legalize casino gambling is dead in the water in the Hawaii Legislature this session.

The Committee on Finance rejected a casino gambling bill yesterday after public testimony proved to be against the idea overwhelmingly.

Due to Hawaii’s current economic downturn, the committee held a public hearing on the bill, calling for a 5-year casino license to a gambling operation in Honolulu and creating a wagering tax. John Radcliffe, gambling interests lobbyist, said one casino in Waikiki could generate $522 million in income.

In addition to the Honolulu Police Department, the Honolulu Prosecutor’s and state Attorney General’s offices opposed the bill.

Opponents to the bill made claims that the allegedly inevitable rise in crime would outweigh the benefits of gambling. They also said that legalizing gambling would send the wrong message to Hawaii’s children.

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Canadian docs dismiss online gambling plans

Feb 25, 2010
Gambling Doctor

Loto-Québec recently announced plans to move their operations online, and hopes to have an internet gambling website up and running by the end of the year. Public health officials are up in arms about the idea, insisting that online gambling presents a significant health risk to Canadians. A coalition of anti-gambling doctors have called for a one-year moratorium on the internet gambling plans while they talk about the potential health risks it produces.

Montreal Gazette: Let’s pass on online gambling, MDs say

Backed by the Canadian government, Loto-Québec announced Feb. 3 that it will launch an internet gambling website by the end of the year. Their intention of is to compete with the thousands of foreign-based internet gambling sites that already target Canadian players. The company hopes to divert $50 million a year in gambling revenues into back into the country.

Public health directors are against the plan, along with the country’s association of addiction rehabilitation centers who called the plan a recipe for disaster.

Richard Lessard, director of Montreal’s public health department, asks: “Should we really be accelerating the development of online gambling or slowing it down?” Lessard called for a one-year moratorium on the launch of this and all similar gambling sites.

“There are not just economic benefits to be had, but negative impacts that have not been properly accounted for. We are convinced that by creating a legal secure site, we will create new players. You don’t have to be a marketing expert to see that.”

The doctors who are speaking out against online gambling in Canada want the government to set up a committee of experts, which they say should include people from the ministries of justice and public safety, to explore the implications of online gambling and figure out how to deal with its negative impacts.

According to the Institute national de santé publique, almost five per cent of the Canadian population is classified as a “problem gambler”.

CBC News: Loto-Québec online site a health risk

Public health officials across the Canadian province of Quebec asked lawmakers on Thursday to reconsider their plan to introduce online gambling.

Loto-Québec is expected to launch its online gambling site in September. The lottery corporation has estimated that the venture will bring in more than $50 million in revenue by 2013.

The corporation also hopes that the new gambling site would work to subdue the 2,000 gambling sites already online, many of which operate illegally and are unregulated by the province.

Health officials, however, are concerned that online gambling presents a severe health risk. Dr. Richard Lessard, Montreal’s public health director, believes it is much easier for a person to become addicted to gambling if they play on the internet.

“It’s too soon to go online,” Lessard said. “We think there should be a moratorium on the implementation of online gambling, and during that one year or more period, we think there should be an expert committee to analyze the impact on health in particular.”

The financial benefits of online gambling are overshadowed by the negative impact that gambling has on health, he said.

CJAD Radio Canada: Minister says public health officials are wrong

Minister Raymond Bachand is not out to fight the Quebec’s public health officials, but he certainly disagrees with them.

“We respect their opinion,” he insists, but he does not agree with public health director’s request to put Loto-Quebec’s upcoming internet gambling project on hold while a committee studies its effects on society.

Quebec’s public health directors say that some dissenters might be underestimating the social impact that online gambling has.

Minister Raymond Bachand admits that some Canadians suffer from gambling addictions, but insists that it’s less than one percent. Instead, Bachand focuses on the amount of gambling that’s already online. “There’s a world-wide phenomenon,” he says, “but it’s not by putting our heads in the sand and allowing only illegal sites to operate in which anybody can go and play that we’re going to solve the problem.”

The province stands to earn $50 million through online gambling over the next three years.

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Debate of Gambling in Alabama Continues to Escalate

Feb 24, 2010
Alabama bingo

Governor Bob Riley of Alabama continues to go on an escapade claiming that Bingo machines in a new local entertainment center are actually illegal slot machines. Rallies are being held over the issue and in a recent rally against the facility, Riley was drowned out by cries of “Let us Vote.”

Bloomberg Business Week: Bingo proponents drown out Ala. governor at rally

Gov. Bob Riley attempted to address casino opponents gathered in front of Alabama’s Statehouse, Monday, but was drowned out by the shouts of casino supporters. Shouts of “Let us vote” made hearing Riley say electronic bingo machines are illegal slot machines difficult.

Inside the Statehouse, proponents of pro-electronic bingo casino legislation decided not to seek a vote in the Senate. They didn’t have the required 21 out of the 35 senators’ votes. If passed by the Senate, legislation won’t take effect unless approved by the House and then by Alabama voters in a statewide referendum.

The legislation would tax, regulate and protect 3 facilities that were shut down under the threat of raids by the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. It would also allow 2 dog tracks, additional casinos and 4 new casinos.

More than 1,000 people overflowed the Statehouse lawn and spilled over onto the Capitol lawn during the Governors speech. Riley and his wife were surrounded by a dozen uniformed and plainclothes officers as they tried to speak over the shouting of casino proponents.

CBS News: Bingo Rallies

It was a spirited and tense day in front of the Alabama State House as 2 rallies ran – 1 for and 1 against bingo. The pro bingo crowd’s cries delayed an appearance by Gov. Riley. After the crowd calmed the governor addressed his loyal supporters.

Many Alabama residents believe that if gambling is allowed, crime, poverty, unemployment will increase. Others believe allowing gambling in any form will destroy Alabama families. Others turn to the Bible for their beliefs on gambling.

The pro bingo rally message is simple, they just want a chance to vote on the matter. One of the main reasons supporters want to see electronic bingo facilities stay open is because for many, it’s their livelihood. The gambling facilities provide communities with hundreds of jobs, if nothing else. A lack of support in the Senate kept the Bill from reaching the floor.

AL.com: Bingo forces clash in competing rallies on the State House steps

More than 1,000 protesters for and against bingo are amassed on the steps of the Alabama State House trying to out-shout each other. Bingo supporters chant “Let the people vote,” while opponents chant, “Enforce the law.”

Gov. Bob Riley was supposed to speak at 12:30, but it’s unclear whether he will appear as hundreds of protestors swamp the steps and both sides try to shout each out other in a chaotic clash.

Employees of the state’s major bingo casinos went to the State House to show support for bingo legislation being considered this session. They began arriving at 10 a.m. and have a rally set for 2 p.m. Anti-bingo protestors arrived for their rally simultaneously.

Many people are proponents to the many gambling facilities because they depend on it. The different gambling centers throughout Alabama provide hundreds of jobs to local residents and are a financial staple to society.

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Ladbrokes watch as profits plummet

Feb 23, 2010
Ladbrokes Sportsbook

Ladbrokes, one of the UK’s largest , reported a 28% fall in profits for 2009 over the previous year. They blame the economic climate which kept punters from betting, and the unusually snowy winter which kept bettors from heading out to the 2,700 betting shops that Ladbrokes operates across the UK.

The Wall Street Journal: Ladbrokes’s Net Tumbles

The UK gambling company Ladbrokes PLC reported a significant drop in 2009 profits amid the economic downturn.

The sportsbook reported last year’s net profit down 63% to £74.4 million from £200.7 million in 2008. Revenue fell 10% to £1.032 billion.

Revenue suffered from winter weather, with snow and ice across the UK keeping customers at home. Another contributing factor was a strange year for the Premier League, which saw fewer draws in matches than usual. Draws are a bookmaker’s secret weapon, as most bettors wager on one team to win.

Chief Executive Officer Chris Bell says they are putting their hopes on the soccer World Cup in South Africa this summer. “Far from me to make the prediction that the World Cup will balance the economy … But it’s a huge tournament.”

Ladbrokes is watching carefully for changes to US gambling laws. “We are prepared,” Bell said.

BBC: Ladbrokes profits hit by recession

UK sportsbook Ladbrokes blames the economy for a 28% fall in profits for 2009. Last year it made £191.3m ($301.5m), down from the £265.6m it made in 2008.

Sales in the UK fell by 28%, as bettors cut back on spending in the recession.

The company says the football World Cup this summer is a good opportunity to increase profits and attract new customers.

Ladbrokes also hopes to increase profits through the upcoming launch of a new spread betting service, which will let punters to bet on stock markets, shares and currencies.

The company’s chairman Peter Erskine admits “2009 was a challenging year for Ladbrokes.”

“We were impacted by the deteriorating economic environment… however, Ladbrokes continues to be a profitable and cash generative business.”

The New York Times: Ladbrokes Profits Slump

Britain’s largest sportsbook Ladbrokes reported a 28% drop in last year’s pretax profits. The figure reflects recent economic conditions and bettor-friendly results hitting margins during the third quarter.

The company, which has operates more than 2,700 betting shops across the UK, said their 2009 pretax profits fell from 265.6 million in 2008 to just 191.3 million pounds.

The figures are still ahead average forecast for pretax profit, which stood at 166 million pounds according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 19 analysts. Ladbrokes is also facing the loss of CEO Chris Bell who will step down in early summer, and are currently looking for a replacement.

Shares in Ladbrokes closed last week at 151.9 pence, valuing the business at 1.4 billion pounds.

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Top Level Football Teams in China Punished for Gambling Scandal

Feb 22, 2010
Gambling Scandal

Match fixing and bribing the referees are among the charges laid against two of China’s Super League teams. As a result, the teams are being punished and relegated. Players, officials and a soccer boss are reported to have been involved in the scandal.

BBC News: Two football teams relegated from China’s Super League

China’s Football Association has decided to relegate 2 teams from the Super League to its 2nd division in a corruption scandal. According to official Chinese media, the teams were accused of being involved in match-fixing and gambling. The Chengdu Blades, one of the relegated teams, is owned by Sheffield United.

Sheffield United bought a majority stake in Chengdu Blades in 2006, hoping to develop football in China and unearth new talent. The team was promoted to China’s Super League the following season and became a powerhouse in Chinese football.

Chengdu will be relegated as punishment for alleged match-fixing. The club allegedly bribed an opposing team to lose a crucial game and ensure Chengdu’s elevation to the top flight.

The Team’s chairman, Xu Hongtao, and his deputy have already been detained as part of a widening crackdown on corruption in football. Twenty senior officials and players were allegedly involved, including the former head of China’s Football Association, Nan Yong. Police and tax investigators say players and refs have been bribed to throw games and some players paid up to $15,500 for a place in the national squad.

The Canadian Press: Two top-level Chinese football clubs relegated over match fixing, gambling allegations

Two Chinese Super League clubs have been relegated to the 2nd tier amid a match fixing and gambling scandal that‘s already toppled the head of the country’s soccer association. Guangzhou GPC and the Chengdu Blades were removed from the Chinese Super League after an investigation led officials to believe they were involved in match-fixing.

Charges against those involved in the scandal include match fixing, bribing referees, players paying for places at the national team’s training camp and play time in international competition.

The relegations were the harshest punishment dealt out to clubs to this date. People caught up in the sweeping probe that has netted more than a dozen players and officials, including former soccer boss Nan Yong.

Two new teams will be announced and introduced into the Super League to keep the total number of teams at 16.

The New York Times: Two Top Chinese Clubs Relegated For Matchfixing

Two top-flight Chinese soccer clubs were relegated to the 2nd division after club officials were found guilty of matchfixing and gambling, according to the state media. The Chinese Football Association’s disciplinary committee decided to relegate Guangzhou GPC and the Chengdu Blades.

The president of Chengdu, owned by English Championship side Sheffield United, was arrested last month in an investigation into matchfixing which has seen more than 20 officials arrested or detained, including the CFA’s former chief Nan Yong.

The CFA said 16 teams would still play in this year’s Chinese Super League season, though replacements haven’t been named yet. The season will kick off on the 20th of March, but ongoing police investigations could disrupt those plans.

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Revenue Rises in Vegas While Falling in Nevada

Feb 19, 2010
Las Vegas

Records from December 2009 indicate that the gambling business is once again on the rise. Though revenues fell in comparison to the year before, December was the second straight month on the rise after many months of decrease.

The New York Times: Gambling Revenue Rises in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Strip gambling revenue rose a solid 5.9% in December for the second consecutive month and may be a fresh sign that the casino slump might be coming to an end. According to Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, the amount in bets that Vegas casinos won climbed to $502.2 million in December from a year earlier. Revenue for the entire year declined 9.4%.

Las Vegas Strip Casinos won $5.55 billion last year, down from $6.13 billion the year before. Resort operators in Las Vegas slashed room prices and created special offers to encourage visitors to come, as companies canceled conventions and consumers spent less.

Winnings for all Nevada casinos dropped 3.2% to $859.3 million in December. Monthly proceeds for Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, slid 2.4 % to $753.2 million, according to the board.

Bloomberg Business Week: Vegas Strip Gambling Rises for Second Straight Month

Las Vegas Strip revenue seems to be coming out of one of the worst 2 year slumps its ever seen when analysts take Decembers figures into consideration. Nevada’s Gaming Control Board announced that strip proceeds climbed to $502.2 million in December from a year earlier. Revenue for the full year declined 9.4 %. Baccarat winnings led the casinos gains, particularly at Aria casino.

The Las Vegas Strip won $5.55 billion in gambling revenue over the last year, down from about $6.13 billion in 2008. Resort operators were forced to make special budget deals to encourage tourism and it appears that their efforts paid off. Some times less really is more.

Nevada’s State casino revenue dropped 3.2% to $859.3 million in December. Monthly proceeds for Clark County, which includes downtown Las Vegas and the Strip, slid 2.4 % to $753.2 million, according to the board.

According to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, roughly 36.4 million people visited Las Vegas last year, a 3% decline from 2008. Convention attendance tumbled a nasty 24% and average daily rates at Vegas hotels dropped 22% to $92.93.

KXNT: Gaming Revenues Show Record Decline

Nevada gaming revenues dropped 10.4% in the year 2009, the largest annual decline in state history. State Gaming Control Board figures show casinos netted about $10.3 billion last year, compared with $11.6 billion in 2008. It’s the lowest single-year total since 2003.

Las Vegas Strip casino revenues were off by 9.4% last year, and Clark County as a whole saw a decrease of 9.8%. In what might be a modest sign for optimism, new figures show Strip casino revenues increased in December for the second straight month in a row. Weak gaming numbers continue to drive the state’s budget shortfall, and total gaming tax revenues are down by more than 5% for the first seven months of the current fiscal year.

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Playtech acquires Virtue Fusion

Feb 17, 2010
Playtech

The online gaming software giant Playtech has purchased the internet bingo company Virtue Fusion in a deal worth up to £36 million. Virtue Fusion currently supplies more than 20 groups with online bingo services. The deal is expected to push Playtech to the forefront of the international online bingo industry.

Reuters UK: Playtech buys online bingo firm Virtue Fashion

The internet gambling software giant Playtech just acquired the online bingo company Virtue Fashion in a deal worth up to £36 million. Playtech aims strengthen its presence in the international bingo market.

Playtech will make an initial payment of £29 million pounds in cash, with an additional performance-based payment of up to £7 million in early 2011.

The company says that bingo is one of the fastest growing facets of the online gambling world, and that the the deal will provide them with cross-selling opportunities.

Virtue Fashion currently has more than 20 licensees, including well known brands like as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power. They saw a turnover of £12.3 million in 2009.

Playtech’s shares have lifted 21% in the last three months. Shares were up 2.1% to 477 pence after the merger was announced, valuing the company at about £1.15 billion.

London Evening Standard: Bingo king Al Haig sells Virtue to Playtech for £29m

Land-based bingo halls in the UK might be struggling, but millions of pounds are pouring through online versions of the game, where bingo is one of the online gaming industry’s fastest growing markets.

Internet bingo entrepreneur Al Haig recently became £25 million richer after selling his Virtue Fusion bingo business to Playtech for an upfront cost of £29 million, with more cash to follow if the business does well.

Virtue Fusion creates online bingo platforms for household names such as Ladbrokes and Sky. Playtech also works in the online gaming business, putting together software for internet casinos, mobile phones and TVs. Virtue Fusion had turnover of £12 million and saw a profit of £3.8 million last year.

Bob McCulloch, Virtual Fusion’s chief executive, is also expecting a pay-out from the deal, and intends to stay with the business for at least two years.

Playtech’s chief executive, Mor Weizer, said the acquisition will make his company a leading player in the international bingo market.

Proactive Investors UK: Playtech snaps up online bingo developer Virtue Fusion for £29 million

Online gaming software company Playtech is acquiring Virtue Fusion, a developer and licensor of internet bingo products, for an initial price of £29 million in cash, up to a potential £36 million depending on the performance of Virtue Fusion in 2010.

Playtech said the acquisition will transform it into a global leader in online bingo market, complementing its current position in the internet poker and casino industries. The deal is also expected to be earnings accretive in 2010, and will generate “additional cross-selling opportunities”.

In 2009, Virtue Fusion generated £12.3 million in revenues and adjusted EBITDA of £3.8 million, marking a significant increase compared to 2008 revenues of £8.1 million and adjusted EBITDA of £2.3 million in 2008. Playtech is paying a premium price to gain a firm position in the bingo sector, which according to the company is one of the fastest growing online gaming segments.

Virtue Fusion typically sees more than 6,000 concurrent players on their platform. They licence their online bingo products to more than 20 groups, including Paddy Power, Vigrin and William Hill.

“For Playtech, the acquisition significantly enhances its own bingo offering, brings new licensees and enhances its relationships with a number of existing licensees. It also positions Playtech as the leading supplier in all of the key product segments in the online gaming industry, with very substantial liquidity in each of its player networks,” Playtech stated this morning.

“As with poker, network player liquidity is an important element for bingo operators. By linking the operator’s bingo rooms across the network, Virtue Fusion can facilitate more frequent games being offered and higher prize values and jackpots for the same individual stake. Both Playtech and Virtue Fusion’s existing licensees will therefore enjoy the benefits of increased liquidity when their networks are combined.”

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Loto-Quebec Will Offer Canadians New Online Gambling Opportunities

Feb 16, 2010
Loto

Canadian gambling law continues to liberalize and as a result, online gambling will be made legal and offered most recently in the Province of Quebec. The lotto and internet poker rooms are the first to be offered. Loto-Quebec will team up with other companies to cover a larger part of Canada.

The Montreal Gazette: Loto-Québec goes online

Loto-Québec will offer Quebecers online poker and sports betting at a site that should be live this year in order control a new, beneficial stream of revenue. Plans received the blessing of the Quebec cabinet, which intends to “cannibalize illegal gambling sites” and see a common electronic platform created for Loto-Québec, B.C. Lottery Corp. and Atlantic Lottery Corp., which covers Canada’s 4 Atlantic Provinces.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the 3 corporations providing rules governing the new games. Quebec and its partners will need high betting limits to compete with existing online operations. Even with high limits, it’s not sure that the new sites will succeed in luring players from older sites. The number of viable players is a big concern at the moment.

At a media conference in Montreal, the main focus was on legitimacy, regulation and protection that provincially run online gambling would offer consumers. Online games could generate as much as $50 million in new revenue for Quebec in 2012.

CBC News: Loto-Québec to offer online gambling

Quebec’s lottery corporation will launch its first online gambling service this September. Loto-Québec hopes it will add millions of dollars to its coffers by 2013. Allowing Loto-Québec to join the lucrative online market could earn the province $50 million over 3 years, according to Finance Minister Raymond Bachand.

Social costs regarding young adults are particularly grim, suggested Danielle Doyer, the Parti Québécois ’s social services critic. She accused the Liberal government of ignoring the costs in favor of financial gain. Loto-Québec, however, argues that Quebeckers already have access to more than 2,000 online gambling sites that are “illegal and unregulated.”

The site will require players to verify their age, limit their weekly account replenishments and allow players to “self-exclude at all times.”

He also cited a public health study that showed no increase in problematic gamblers in Quebec between 1996 and 2002, suggesting the proportion of the population addicted to gambling always remains the same, regardless of the number of gambling outlets.

The Canadian Press: Quebec loto commission to join B.C. and Atlantic Canada online gambling venture

Quebec’s lottery commission plans to offer online gambling by this fall. On Wednesday, the Quebec government announced that it is allowing Loto-Quebec to set up poker and sports betting sites online. Loto-Quebec will join lottery commissions from British Columbia and Atlantic Canada to provide a common platform for online gamblers.

According to Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, online gambling is already widespread and government coffers could benefit greatly from the continuously growing market. He says he expects the government to receive around $50 million in dividends from Loto-Quebec’s online venture after just three years.

The lottery commission promised to take steps to limit underage players from taking part.

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Singapore Uses Casino & Theme Park as Tourist Bait

Feb 15, 2010
Resorts World Sentosa Opens in Singapore

Singapore’s first casino opened its doors to the public on Sunday. It targets foreigners, who are exempt from paying the steep entrance fee levied on locals. The casino is part of a massive resort that also includes a Universal Studios theme park, plus several hotels and restaurants.

The Washington Post: Singapore’s first casino opens on Chinese New Year

Singapore’s first casino opened on Sunday as part of a plan to increase tourism revenue. The day was Lunar New Year, an important day on the Chinese calendar.

The new Resorts World Sentosa was built by a unit of Malaysia’s Genting Group at a cost of $4.7 billion. It is in fact the first of two new casinos that hope to transform Singapore’s current reputation as a manufacturing and banking centre.

Genting’s Singapore resort is more than just a casino. It also houses a Universal Studios theme park, plus several hotels and large convention centre.

The facility is on Sentosa island, and its opening marks the end of the government’s longstanding opposition to gambling. It will, however, remain quite strict. An admission fee equal to about $70 is required of all guests, as part a government campaign against gambling addiction. Further restrictions include a bar on entry to anyone under 21, a ban on bank cash machines on the casino floor and a blacklist of gamblers with known addiction problems.

During the opening ceremony, Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay made a statement alluding to possible US expansion. “Going forward, we are actively looking at the U.S. because the last financial crisis has brought some pain, but at the same time we see great opportunities there, in terms of buying into existing resorts that (are) down on their luck.”

Bloomberg: Genting Opens Singapore’s First Casino, Plans U.S. Expansion

Genting Bhd. opened Singapore’s first casino on Sunday as Lunar New Year celebrations began. Chairman Lim Kok Thay said the group may also expand operations to the U.S.

“We are actively looking at the U.S. and we see great opportunities,” Lim told during the opening ceremony. “Singapore’s project would be a good model for our future investments going forward.”

The new $4.7 billion Resorts World Sentosa casino houses 530 tables, 1,300 slot machines, and a 12-table poker room. The resort also includes an adjoining Universal Studios theme park.

“We will be the most exciting gaming resort in the world,” Lim said.

Genting, Asia’s largest publicly traded gambling operator, opened the casino in the wake of a global financial crisis that began in 2008. It will be followed by Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s $5.5 billion casino complex in Singapore later this year.

Singapore’s new casinos are expected to encourage economic growth this. The country hopes to attract 17 million visitors and triple annual tourism revenue to S$30 billion by 2015.

NPR: Singapore Tries Luring Foreigners As Casino Opens

Many foreigners and a few Singaporeans flocked to card tables and slot machines Sunday at 12:18 p.m. — the lucky hour when Singapore opened the doors of its first casino.

Singapore is banking on the Resorts World Sentosa to lure tourists and expatriates, and hopes to do it while maintaining their hard-earned reputation as corruption-free.

The line reserved for foreigners had grown long by the midday opening, while only a few Singaporeans were ready to pay the steep entrance fee.

The casino is part of the new Resorts World Sentosa, built by Malaysia’s Genting Bhd for $4.7 billion on a small island just off Singapore’s coast.

The opening will be followed by Las Vegas Sands’ Marina Bay Sands in May. The government hopes the casinos will increase the country’s GDP growth by 1% and add 35,000 jobs.

“They recognize they have to evolve,” said David Cohen, an analyst with consultancy Action Economics in Singapore. “Some of their traditional industries are no longer going to be competitive as Singapore climbs the ladder into a higher income, higher cost location.”

After long debate, government decided to go ahead with the casino projects for their economic benefit while implementing measures to minimize social harm. Locals must pay huge entry fees, and more than 34,000 residents — including those on welfare, in bankruptcy, with criminal records or flagged by family members — are barred from the casinos.

“It’s a way to mitigate and ameliorate, to have the goodness without all the badness,” said Lim Hock San, chairman of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

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Palm Beach Princess may head to Haiti to aid relief workers

Feb 12, 2010
Palm Beach Princess Casino goes to Haiti

The gambling cruise ship, Palm Beach Princess, may be headed on a journey that differs greatly from its regularly beaten path. The ship may be headed to Haiti to provide aid and shelter to the relief workers that are currently working on the disaster-ridden island nation.

CBS News: Gambling Ship Headed to Haiti

Our area’s gambling cruise ship may be headed to Haiti. The Palm Beach Princess is now sitting at its berth at the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach. The ship’s website indicates that cruises are suspended until further notice.

Port Director, Manny Almira, said the company that owns the Princess, has told him it will move the ship to Haiti in the next week in order to provide housing for aid workers there. The Princess has been having engine problems and labor troubles, recently. The company is bankrupt and regulators have given the Princess until fall to make major safety improvements to the ship.

Ocean Development decided to halt operations due to expenses. They are in negotiations to charter the boat as a recreational floating hotel to entertain relief workers in Haiti. The company hopes to resume a gambling cruise with a different boat in the future.

ABC News: Palm Beach Princess Headed to Haiti?

The Palm Beach Princess may be headed to Haiti. WPBF 25 News was informed that the day-cruise casino ship is ending its run at the Port of Palm Beach to entertain Americans in Haiti. The crew has been given the option to go to Haiti or quit.

The Princess’s officials told say they’re looking into sending the ship elsewhere “so that government workers in Haiti — U.S. volunteers — may have a place to sleep, have a hot meal, rest.”

In December, the ship’s certificate of compliance was revoked and it could no longer carry passengers in US waters after it failed to make repairs to its main engine, which failed during a trip. It has been operating with two auxiliary motors since.

The Palm Beach Post: Port-au-Princess? — Casino ship may become Haiti relief hotel

Captains of the Palm Beach Princess casino ship made a dramatic announcement to the crew Wednesday morning: We’re going to Haiti. They plan to go to the earthquake-ravaged nation next week to assist the international relief effort, most likely as a floating hotel for aid workers.

Foreign crew members may serve out their employment contracts in Haiti — one-year agreements that pay, at most, a few hundred dollars a month, plus tips — or pay their own way back home. “They are looking for the crew to resign, and if the crew resigns, it doesn’t pay the ticket — this is what they are looking to do,” said Mauro Sebben, the disgruntled co-owner of the ship.

The Princess has sailed only intermittently since the main engine died in September. Since then, it’s been dogged by crew strikes, layoffs and complaints of poor service. One of the boats co-owners intends on parking the ship in Haiti and providing shelter while at the same time freeing itself from having to pay for tugboats on a daily basis.

Princess managers have offered few details about their Haiti plans and what commitments they might have obtained there, other than to say in an interview last week that they were exploring a deal with a government and a humanitarian relief fund, neither of which they would name, to offer lodging for relief workers.

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Aussie Hackers Attack Government over Net Filter Plans

Feb 11, 2010
Great Firewall Reef of Australia

A group of cyber hackers calling themselves simply Anonymous launched a massive denial-of-service attack on two major Australian government websites yesterday. The attacks were in response to an announcement from December in which the government revealed plans to filter the internet, blocking sites related to pornography, online gambling, and other “unwanted” content.

PC World: Australian Parliament Web Site Attacked

The website of the Australian Parliament site was struck with a denial-of-service attack on Wednesday, two days after a hacking group called Anonymous threatened attacks in response to the government’s plan to filter the internet.

During yesterday’s attack, the Web site was hit by 7.5 million requests per second. By noon, the Parliament’s Web site was down.

The hacking group Anonymous put out a press release on Monday, complaining about plans announced back in December by Australian Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy which would reqire ISPs to block illegal and “unwanted” content, including online gambling and pornography.

“The Australian Government will learn that one does not mess with our porn,” Anonymous said in its press release. “No one messes with our access to perfectly legal (or illegal) content for any reason.”

“No government should have the right to refuse its citizens access to information solely because they perceive it to be ‘unwanted,'” the group continued. “Indeed, the only possible interpretation of ‘unwanted content’ is content that the government itself does not want to be seen.”

BBC News: Australia websites hacked in porn filter protest

A group of computer hackers attacked official websites in Australia yesterday in a protest against the government’s proposed internet filter targeting pornography and online gambling sites.

The Australian parliament’s website was down for almost an hour after being disrupted a group calling itself Anonymous. The hackers did not infiltrate government security, but instead swamped government computer servers.

A statement attributed to the group said they believe that the Australian government should not be allowed to control what its citizens view on the internet.

The government intends to introduce the mandatory internet filter system by early 2011. The filter block a list of banned websites, including those containing child abuse material.

Alastair MacGibbon, formerly of the government’s High-Tech Crime Centre, said that internet hackers like these are difficult to combat, but he said that compared to most Western nations, Australia was “well prepared” for the attack.

International Business Times: Anonymous group protests against Australian Government filter

In response the Australian Government’s proposed internet filtering project, a group under the name Anonymous attacked two major government websites yesterday.

Both the Australian Parliament House website and Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website were hit by the attacks. The websites became sluggish and stopped responding under the pressure.

According to the Attorney-General’s office, Anonymous used a distributed denial-of-service attack. The Australian Parliament House website was down for about 50 minutes. It is now fixed but is still acting sluggish.

The Department of Defence Cyber Security Operations Centre continues to monitor the situation closely.

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China’s Online Gambling Witch-hunt Intensifies

Feb 10, 2010
Online Gambling Crackdown in China

China is planning a major crack-down on all the most relevant online gambling sites that are used by the nation’s nationals. This hunt will not involve just the online casinos and other gambling facilities, but the banks and websites that support the industry as well.

Reuters: China Plans Online Gambling Crackdown

According to a post on the Ministry of Public Security’s website, China plans to crack down on the online gambling industry and the banks and websites supporting it. The hunt will “concentrate on covering major cases of online gambling, and knock out domestic and foreign groups that organize online gambling, and severely punish the criminal elements.”

The crackdown will be carried out between February and August by 8 government bodies including the Supreme Court, Propaganda bureau, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Underground banks, third-party payment platforms, and website operators will be severely punished.

China banned YouTube in March 2009, when a Tibetan exile film documenting the injuries and death of a Tibetan protester was published. The government blocked Twitter, Flickr and Facebook last summer.

Global Times: Net gambling crackdown a boost for lotteries

A major crackdown on online gambling is being planned by China’s Ministry of Public Security. The 8-governmental department joint campaign will run from February to August and “focus on major and severe online gambling cases and severely punish the criminals.”

Online gambling is a crime thriving through internet development. It’s caused huge sums of money to flow from China, disturbing the nation’s social and economic order. Gambling is forbidden on the mainland and those charged with gambling crimes face up to three-years in jail, according to the criminal law.

Some people believe the crackdown will help boost the welfare lottery and sports lottery, run by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the General Administration of Sport respectively.

APF: China to crackdown on online gambling

China will launch a 6-month crackdown on online gambling, saying the country loses copious amounts of cash through the growing industry. Gambling has been outlawed in China since 1949, but that hasn’t stopped a thriving underground industry.

Authorities will clamp down on banks and third-party payment platforms which provide cash transfer services for gambling sites, as well as Internet operators that provide web access services. China has the world’s largest online population with at least 384 million users, according to official figures.

According to official figures, 5,394 people were arrested under a nationwide Internet porn crackdown last year, and 9,000 illegal porn-related sites were shut down.

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Brain Probe Studies Why Gamblers Take Risks

Feb 09, 2010
Brain Study shows connection to Gambling

A recent study examined the behavior of two women who, because of a rare genetic disorder, had lesions on a small part of their brain called the amygdala. The study showed that these women were more likely to take big risks than patients with healthy brains. It may provide insight into why some people are less afraid to gamble than others.

BBC: Patients with amygdala injury ‘unafraid’ to gamble

Some scientists in California believe they have pinpointed the part of the human brain makes people afraid to lose money. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined two patients who had damaged their amygdala, a special area deep within the brain.

The study showed that these patients were less worried about financial losses than the volunteers they were compared with whose amygdalae were intact. They use the term ‘loss aversion’ which describes the avoidance of choices which can lead to losses, even when those losses are clearly accompanied by gains which offset them.

The lead author, Dr Benedetto De Martino, explains things in terms of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, suggesting that many people would rather walk away with the prize they have than risk dropping to a lower level in order to try and win more.

During the study, participants were offered a series of tests to look at whether the chance of losing money had an effect on their willingness to take risks. The study found that healthy volunteers only decide to gamble if the gains were one and a half to two times the size of the potential losses.

Conversely, patients whose amygdalae were damaged were more reckless, playing even on poorer ratios between gains and losses.

John Aggleton, Professor of Psychology at Cardiff University, said: “Most people have been found to have a bias against losses, but this study shows very clearly that when the amygdala is damaged, this “loss aversion” disappears.”

The Independent: Genetic disorder turns risk-averse into gamblers

The brains of people who take big risks while gambling may differently than those of naturally cautious people, according to a new study that may have discovered a neurological basis for reckless behaviour.

The study found that people were more likely to engage in high-risk gambling when a specific area of their brain had been damaged due to a result of a rare genetic disorder. These individuals lacked the natural aversion to losing something of value that many are born with.

Tests on two women who had suffered damage this part of their brain, called the amygdala, revealed that they were less afraid to lose money in high-risk gambling situations compared to individuals with no such damage to their brain.

The amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure deep inside the brain. It is referred to as the “seat of fear” because of its central role in controlling this emotion. It is an ancient area of the brain that existed long before the outer “higher cortex” evolved.

“It may be that the amygdala controls a very general biological mechanism for inhibiting risky behaviour when outcomes are potentially negative, such as the monetary loss aversion which shapes our everyday financial decisions,” said Benedetto De Martino, a researcher at University College London.

Loss aversion behaviour is biologically important because it helps us consider the options involved in potentially life-threatening decisions. Today, it manifests itself in much different ways.

Reuters: Study shows why it is so scary to lose money

A recent study examined two women with brain lesions that made them unafraid to take big risks when gambling. It showed that the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, becomes active when people think about losing money.

The findings of the study were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The report suggests that humans may have evolved to be cautious about the possibility of losing food or other valued possessions.

Benedetto De Martinoa of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and University College of London were exploring why people will turn down big gambles, even when the gamble is likely to lead to an even bigger gain.

“Laboratory and field evidence suggests that people often avoid risks with losses even when they might earn a substantially larger gain, a behavioral preference termed ‘loss aversion’,” they wrote.

“We think this shows that the amygdala is critical for triggering a sense of caution toward making gambles in which you might lose,” Colin Camerera of University College London, who worked in the study, said in a statement.

The study may assist researchers in understanding why some people are more willing to take risks than others.

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Singapore Government Issues Very First Casino License

Feb 08, 2010
Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore

Singapore has issued a license to Resorts World Sentosa, which will put into operation the country’s first casino. Singapore is hoping to broaden its financial horizons with this project and is looking forward to being a popular tourist destination. So far, all seems to be going according to plan.

The Business Times: Casino license puts spotlight on Genting

Investors will be devoting a lot of attention to Genting Singapore shares today, after Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) received a casino license from Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority, Saturday.

RWS gave a strong presentation, Friday even before the awards announcement. In fact, Genting stock gained as much as $0.10 in the afternoon, reaching an intraday high of $1.18. A whopping 275.96 million shares changed hands, making it Friday’s most heavily traded stock on. Genting was also the only gainer among 30 STI component stocks.

Four hotels and more than 20 restaurants and shops have opened at Sentosa’s integrated resort. RWS hasn’t indicated when the casino and the Universal Studios theme park would open. Market watchers are betting the casino will open for the Chinese New Year, which arrives this Sunday.

Bernama Business: Resorts World Sentosa Gets License To Run Casino

The new Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), Singapore’s first integrated resort with a casino, has received a license from the Singapore’s authorities to operate the casino. RWS chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said the award was made possible by the dedicated team, consultants, contractors and government officials, especially on the Casino Regulatory Authority, “which worked tirelessly to set up the regulatory framework within a very aggressive timeline”.

He did not mention when the already completed casino in the resort will start its business. The resort, which is located on Sentosa Island, opened its doors to the public last month with the launch of four of its six hotels including Hard Rock Hotel and Crockfords Tower.

RWS is still waiting for another license to operate the Universal Studio theme park in the resort, dubbed the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Bloomberg Business News: Singapore approves license for first casino

Resorts World Sentosa was issued a license Saturday to operate Singapore’s first casino, according to the city-state’s regulators. Approval was delayed after the Casino Regulatory Authority asked Resorts World for more information about the casino in December.

Resorts World was built by Malaysia’s Genting Bhd for 6.6 billion Singapore dollars ($5 billion). They declined to say when the casino would open. Officials previously stated that they planned to open it as soon as the government issued the license.

The 49-hectare resort opened 1,340 rooms in four hotels last month. They plan to open a Universal Studios theme park by March. The resort is on an island a quarter of a mile (about half a kilometer) off Singapore’s coast.

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Loto-Québec Goes Online

Feb 05, 2010
Loto-Québec goes Online

Loto-Québec, a state company that holds a monopoly over all legal gambling in the Canadian province, just got approval from the cabinet to offer online poker and sports betting services starting this fall. Local players already gamble online at foreign-based websites, and Loto-Québec hopes their new services will funnel some of the money spent back into the community.

The Montreal Gazette: Loto-Québec goes online

Loto-Québec is stepping into the lucrative industry of internet gambling with a plan to provide online poker and sports betting Quebecers at a new site that should go live before the end of the year.

The plan was just approved by Quebec cabinet, which sees this as a tool by which they can “cannibalize illegal gambling” sites in Canada. A new electronic platform will be created for Loto-Québec, B.C. Lottery Corp. and Atlantic Lottery Corp., which covers the four Atlantic Provinces.

Betting limits will be emplaced, especially in the poker part of the site. These limits will have to be high, however, if Quebec and its new poker partners hope to compete with existing online poker operations. But even with high limits, the new partnership is not guaranteed to lure players away from existing foreign-hosted sites

“I question whether there will be sufficient liquidity (number of players) to make the site popular and therefore profitable,” says Michael Lipton, a Toronto lawyer specializing in gaming law.

“The operators out there are miles ahead of these new entrants in terms of the number of games they offer and the liquidity. Some sites may have 20 or 30 million players … and poker games going on 24 hours a day,” he said.

The new site will only be accessible to Quebec residents who are physically within the province. Age verification will be carried out by a third party, using a complex process that could take days to complete. In extreme cases, the player may be required to show up in person.

CBC News: Loto-Québec to offer online gambling

Quebec’s state lottery corporation will launch its first online gambling site in September. It is a move that Loto-Québec hopes will millions of dollars to its annual revenue by 2013.

After Loto-Québec joins the online gambling world with poker and sports betting offerings, they stand to earn $50 million for the province over the next three years.

Critics are of course concerned about the idea of offering online gambling because of the effect it might have on gambling addicts.

“By increasing the offer, we increase the number of players,” said Dr. Richard Lessard, the director of Montreal Public Health. “And as we increase the number of players, the number of players with gambling problems will increase as well.”

Loto-Québec argues that nothing will change, since Quebeckers already have access to more than 2,000 online gambling sites that are “illegal, unregulated and often of doubtful integrity.”

Loto-Québec president and CEO Alain Cousineau says,”This is a way for us to channel the gaming offering in a controlled circuit and environment whose integrity will be beyond reproach,” Cousineau said.

The new gambling site will require players to verify their age, limit their weekly deposits, and allow players to “self-exclude at all times,” Cousineau added.

Loto-Québec is already working with its counterparts in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada to develop the site. The three entities hope to share a common gaming platform that will allow players to enjoy online poker across provincial borders.

CTV News Montreal: Loto-Quebec to get into online gambling business

Loto-Quebec just received approval from the Province’s government to offer online gambling services.

The provincial gambling monopoly will work together with the British Columbia and Atlantic Lottery Corporations to set up an online gambling site this fall.

Online gambling across Canada currently generates more than $600 million every year, but most of this money is fed to foreign-based gambling companies.

It is estimated that Quebecers currently have access to more than 2,000 unregulated online gaming sites, including many that are hosted from the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve.

Loto-Quebec president and CEO Alain Cousineau says his agency has been trying for years to fight foreign online gambling sites, but has instead decided to compete with them.

The Loto-Quebec site will be based on the Swedish national lottery model. “In the first four hours when the Swedish poker got online, they got 20 per cent of the market,” said Cousineau.

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Confucius Sells Lottery Tickets in China

Feb 03, 2010
Confucius Gambling Lottery in China

A new style of lottery tickets has emerged in China. The tickets bear colorful portraits of the ancient philosopher Confucius, along with proverbs form his work The Analects. If the proverbs on a ticket match those drawn by lottery operators, the player wins a cash prize. The new lottery is bringing a lot of criticism by people who find this use of Confucius’ teachings distasteful.

China Daily: Confucius lottery tickets draw ire

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher who encouraged people to seek their fortunes in a noble manner. Ironically, his portrait and words of wisdom can now be found printed on lottery tickets, which are the only form of gambling allowed by the Chinese government.

Last month, lottery vendors in China’s Shandong province started selling these new Confucius tickets which offer a top prize of 300,000 yuan (about $44,000).

The new lottery tickets have enraged bloggers and columnists across the internet who claim that the lottery tickets are tarnishing the image of the wise man who lived more than 2,000 years ago.

Lottery officials are surprised. Tang Nianbing, a manager at Shandong’s lottery center, defended the company against accusations that they are using Confucius to promote sales. “The center is not trying to influence the sale of their lotteries (by using Confucius’ image), ” he said.

“The Confucius-themed lotteries are the country’s most real culture-centered tickets,” wrote Tang in an article that introduced the lottery. “Its cultural content will erect a milestone in the development of our country’s lotteries.”

The Shandong area was home to Confucius about 2,500 years ago. Several different tickets from the Shandong lottery center of are printed with the cultural themes from region.

The Washington Post: Critics question wisdom of Confucius-brand lottery

China’s official lottery is now offering Confucius-themed lottery tickets adorned with colorful drawings of the ancient philosopher. The tickets have promoted discussion over whether the combination of gambling and his teachings is appropriate.

According to the lottery’s website, the Confucius tickets are intended to teach players about ancient Chinese culture, and to help people live a “healthy, wholesome life.” The site also reports that the Ministry of Finance approved the program, which launched last week in Confucius’ hometown of Qufu.

Critics of the program see gambling standing at odds the spirit of Confucius’ teachings. One anonymous critic on a Chinese forum cited a Confucian proverb, “The gentleman sees righteousness, the petty man sees profit.”

This state-run lottery is the only form of gambling allowed in China. A single Confucius-themed ticket costs 10 yuan (about $1.50) and scratching the ticket reveals a quote from “The Analects,” a compilation of the philosopher’s works. The grand prize ticket is worth 300,000 yuan ($44,000) and will read, “Of all rituals, harmony is the most valuable.”

Global Times: Confucius is a brand name in hometown lottery promo

A picture is worth a thousand words in China’s first welfare lottery based on the ancient philosopher Confucius. His picture and words can also be worth 300,000 yuan ($43,936) if they appear on a winning lottery ticket.

A portrait of Confucius along with sayings of the legendary philosopher show up on lottery tickets that went on sale last week in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, located in East China’s Shandong Province.

Each ticket is printed with proverbs from The Analects, Confucius’ most famous work. If the sayings on a player’s ticket match the ones drawn by the lottery center, the player wins cash.

The top prize lottery ticket, worth 300,000 yuan ($43,936), will read, “Of all rituals, harmony is the most valuable.”

China’s lottery center believes these new tickets can help educate people about the wisdom of Confucius, but many commenters think it is distasteful to use the ancient philosopher’s words and portrait for profit.

Tang Nianbing, who works in the marketing office of the Shandong Welfare Lottery Center, believes the tickets are a valuable teaching tool. “Everyone in China knows Confucius and The Analects, but not everyone can recite three sentences from it,” said Tang. “People who buy lottery tickets will have a chance to remember several sentences from The Analects, which is a win-win situation.”

Not everyone agrees. An internet poll conducted on a popular Chinese website showed that out of 1,869 voters, 52.6 percent disapproved of a Confucius-themed lottery. Only 4.2 percent were undecided.

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Gambling Convicts Escape Prior to Caning in Indonesia

Feb 02, 2010
Caning for gambling in Indonesia

Four men were caught playing dominoes in Indonesia and sentenced to 6 canings each on behalf of their sins. The first of the 4 men were publicly caned, but the other 3 escaped prison and fled before they were punished.

The Washington Post: Indonesian gambling convicts escape before caning

Three Indonesian men convicted for gambling escaped imprisonment just before a public caning in the Muslim province, Aceh. Muhammad Rusli, the Local Islamic police chief, said the men fled Saturday during an unguarded bathroom visit minutes before being punished.

The men were caught playing dominoes for 1,000 rupiah ($0.10) per game. They were each to be caned six times at a mosque on Friday.

Aceh banned alcohol and gambling as it adopted Islamic law, after achieving semi-autonomy from the secular central government after a decades-long civil war.

The Jakarta Post: One whipped, three escape corporal punishment

With a Sharia police escort, Syahrul bin Muhammad limped to stage. He was about to receive a public caning as punishment in front of a mosque in Jantho city, Aceh Besar regency, on Friday. Syahrul was one of four arrested for gambling and scheduled to be punished.

He was unlucky. The other three suspects escaped the detention cell at the prosecutor’s office, 15 minutes before they were to be caned.

The four were caught gambling in the village one month ago. They were immediately taken to the public order and Sharia police headquarters together with Rp 100,000 (US$11) in cash and a pack of domino cards as evidence. On Thursday, each was sentenced to six lashes of the cane.

Rusli denied allegations that the detention center’s officers were bribed. He blamed the escape on the officers’ negligence, saying the three suspects escaped after making an excuse to use the bathroom. He learned of the escape just before Friday prayers and ordered his men to comb the city, but the search was fruitless. He promised they will be punished if caught.

MSN News: Rights groups slam caning in Indonesia’s Aceh

Islamic Caning in Indonesia’s Aceh province is a “systematic human rights violation” and is against state law, according to a national human rights group. The group, Kontras, calls for the local administration to “annul physical criminalization” and revise its Islamic legal code. Kontras said laws in the semi-autonomous Aceh shouldn’t work against Indonesia’s international treaty obligations.

Activists noted the province’s Sharia regulations were being applied selectively and affected the poor most. They claimed that rich businessman would never be caned for gambling.

The caned farmer was one of four men who were arrested in December after betting up to 1,000 rupiah (11 cents) on dominoes. The others escaped punishment but he received six strokes of the cane outside on Friday.

This issue is another blow to the Sharia police in Aceh after three officers were charged with gang-raping a woman in custody last month.

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Russia’s First New Casino Opens, Death Sparks Concern

Feb 01, 2010
Oracle Casino opens in Azov City, Russia

A recent change to Russian gambling laws saw the closure of all casinos and gambling halls in the country, with the aim to relocate all legal gambling to four specified “gambling zones”. On Saturday, almost 7 months after the law took effect, the first new casino opened in the Azov City area. Tragically, the death of a prominent Lawmaker as he returned from the opening ceremony sparked concerns over the decision to locate the casino zones far from major metropolitan areas.

Fox News: Russia Casino Opens Under New Gambling Plan

Six months ago, Russian officials shut down all casinos and gambling halls across the country as part of a scheme to limit legalized gambling to four specific areas and relatively remote areas. On Saturday, the first new casino operating under the new plan opened its doors to the public.

About 500 people showed up for the opening of the Oracle Casino in Azov City in southern Russia. Only around 100 visitors seemed to be actually gambling – the rest where just there to check things out. The casino is housed in a large shed-like building situated in the middle of a snowy field, and houses about 200 slot machines and 10 table games.

Azov City is one of four new gambling zones in Russia. It is located about 60 miles from Rostov-on-Don, the nearest sizable city, and 120 miles from Krasnodar.

It is not yet clear how many Russian gamblers will be willing to travel such long distances to gamble, but the casino’s operators are convinced that there is a market. In fact, they plan to start building a four-star hotel this summer.

Casinos quickly spread across Russia’s cities after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, while slot machines found their way into shops, malls, and other public places. The law that brought about the new scheme was signed in 2006, but many people expected that it would never be enforced. The law limits all gambling to Azov City, the Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea, the Altai region of Siberia and the Primorsky region of Russia’s Far East.

RIA Novosti: First casino to open in Russian gambling zone

The first casino in one of Russia’s new gambling zone opened Saturday, more than six months after all existing casinos were forced to close or to relocate their services to one of four designated areas.

Under a law drafted in 2007, which didn’t come into force until July 2009, all casinos and other gaming establishments in Russia can operate only in four somewhat remote areas: the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, south Siberia’s Altai Territory, Primorye in the Far East, and in southern Russia.

The new casino is operated by a company called Royal Time, which based in Russia’s Volga Republic of Tatarstan. It offers a slot machine arcade, a full casino and a seperate VIP hall. A restaurant and a free bar is also available.

Royal Time also intends open a small 11-room hotel by mid-2010. A much larger four-star hotel is expected to be completed in 2017. Royal Time will also operate free busses between the casino and two southern Russian cities: Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don.

The Azov City gambling zone, located on the Azov sea coast some 70 km (44 miles) from Rostov-on-Don, is now far ahead its three “rival” zones. Construction of its second casino is due to begin in March.

The Moscow Times: Lawmaker Killed in Car Crash after Opening of First Casino

A senior Russian lawmaker died this weekend in a car crash as he was traveling home from the grand opening of the first casino to open under Russia’s new “zone” system. The accident promises to strengthen concerns about government’s decision to limit all legal gambling to four remote areas of the country.

Nikolai Kotlyarov was speaker of the Krasnodar city legislature. He and his driver were killed when their Toyota Camry hit a car parked on the side of the Krasnodar-Eisk Highway at around 1 a.m. on.

Kotlyarov was one of about 500 people who showed up for the opening of the new Oracle Casino in Azov City, a gambling zone located about 200 kilometers from Krasnodar and 100 kilometers from Rostov-on-Don, the nearest sizable city.

Casinos and other gambling halls across the country were closed down on July 1 of last year, under a government plan to limit gambling to four specific regions: Azov City, the Kaliningrad exclave, the Altai region in Siberia and the Primorye region in the Far East.

Sunday’s car crash highlights the risks associated with the decision to locate all casinos in remote areas, and draws new attention to the country’s dangerous roads. President Dmitry Medvedev described Russia’s high road-accident rate as a problem, and has resolved to work on making roads safer.

Investigators have already announced that they believe the accident was caused by a violation of traffic safety rules, and an investigation has been opened into the matter.

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