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08/08/2003 No.26
he Good Gambler
The Editor or one of our professional correspondants make regular contributions to coverage of the gambling world.
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Casino News

Believe when you see it!

A minimum size of 5000sq ft for new casinos, a limit on the number of gaming machines that casinos may install and a clarification of the role of regional planning bodies in the siting of the largest casinos were announced by the DCMS and ODPM today. These proposals, on which views are invited, will form part of the new framework for gambling regulation to be set out in the Gambling Bill.

The Minister with responsibility for Gambling, Lord McIntosh and Planning Minister Keith Hill set out the plans for the UK's casinos in a position statement. In the statement they look to people to give their views on the proposals ahead of the draft Gambling Bill undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny in the autumn.

The plan for a minimum table gaming area of 5000sq ft for casinos is to head off the possible proliferation of smaller high street casinos. This is a larger size than Sir Alan Budd's Review Body suggested – but is seen as a necessary measure to control a potential rise in the number of small casinos that are harder to police.

A similar approach has been taken with the number of jackpot machines casinos will be allowed to operate, with a limit of three per gaming table in casinos that have up to 40 tables and are under 10,000ft in size. Lord McIntosh, explaining the thinking behind these decisions, said: "The licensing regime for casinos must strike a clear balance between bringing gambling further into the mainstream leisure industry and ensuring fairness to participants and the protection of children and the vulnerable. "Our proposals for the minimum size of casinos and numbers of gaming machines will not however affect any plans to open up resort-style casinos - it is just important that they are not situated on every street corner.

More Stanley News - Rumours of a bid for the casino operator Stanley Leisure sent traders clamouring over one another to get their hands on the group's shares yesterday. By the end of the session, the stock was the best performer in the FTSE 250 index, up 15p to 347.5p. Among those buying into the stock was talk that Leonard Steinberg, Stanley Leisure's chairman and biggest shareholder, is looking to take the group private. They reckon he is very disappointed with the group's stock market valuation and is considering a bid at around the 425p level.

Given he already owns about 20 per cent of the company, Mr Steinberg is certainly in a good position to table a management buy-out bid. In fact there were murmurs that corporate action could be on the cards at Stanley Leisure last month, when Mr Steinberg stepped back from his post as executive chairman to take his first non-executive role at the casino and betting shop operator for almost 50 years.

There were, of course, sceptics regarding the prospects of an MBO. Sector analysts, on the whole, poured cold water on the talk, noting that Mr Steinberg is now 66 and is more likely to be looking to reduce his stake in the, group given his age, rather increase it through a buy-out. One argued: He was more likely to launch a bid two years ago, when Stanley Leisure traded at six times earnings, rather than today, when it is a lot more expensive at around 13 times earnings." The group's shares took a pasting in April, following a profit warning caused by the worst Cheltenham Festival for bookmakers for more than 20 years. Hence when it came to the company's full-year results last month, it managed a mere 10 per cent rose in profits. Also to blame for the poor show were large losses by the group's casinos to several high rollers.

Now then!!!!! I am not allowed to offer share advice but I can say that this all B...S..t. Stanley have done badly because they have screwed up very big time in running their casinos, forget Cheltenham. Of course Mr Steinberg is welcome to his opinion and if he determined to buy the whole business he can if he has the finance. I say the biz is over valued because its crap. So make your play.

And last - Sky TV company SSSL, which enables broadcasters and companies to run interactive services, made it clear that any games on the platform which could be considered gaming under the 1968 Gaming Act would not be allowed from July 21 2003. This effectively prevents operators from running the lucrative roulette-based services, dice games, card games and any game which has been classified as a banker's game by the 1968 legislation.

Interactive gaming and gambling was meant to be addressed in the gambling bill, which was launched with much fanfare last year. However, the government has now admitted that this bill is being split up so the much-needed legislation is expected to be delayed by up to a year.