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CEO of PokerTrip Enterprises,
Infinity Gaming Magazine caught up with Jon Friedberg, the man who services for the forthcoming Nevada online gambling business
first Affiliate for Online Gambling in Las Vegas
oâ€™s company is the first to secure a license to supply affiliate
Q: Thanks Jon for speaking to us, firstly can you tell us whom you are and Q: There is only some 3 million residents in Nevada, is that amount of a little of your company?
residents going to limit your effectiveness?
JF: I am the CEO of PokerTrip Enterprises, Inc. We operate the two leading JF: Yes, absolutely. This is commonly mentioned by industry professionals information and community websites surrounding the poker industry www. AllVegasPoker.com and www.PokerAtlas.com .
Q: Your company is the first to be given a license to offer affiliate services to the legalised online poker operators in Nevada, can you explain to our readers around the world exactly how difficult it was to obtain the license?
as a major limitation of the online gaming opportunity in NV. Personally, I am very optimistic, but time will tell how many of these people are interested in online gaming.
Q: What is your opinion on online poker becoming legal on a federal level? JF: I think it would be nice, but I have no idea if it will happen anytime
It was a pretty long and detailed process. From the time I put my pen to the application paperwork to the time we received the license, it was approximately 8 months. The process required a lot of personal and business background checking, tons of paperwork, and a few hundred hours of legal work.
soon. Honestly, I stopped reading all of the news headlines about federal regulation because there are just too many rumours and uncertainties surrounding the issue.
Q: Does that mean you can offer affiliate services straight away to poker
it allow you to offer your services to two states that may offer legal online poker. Such as say, California and Nevada joining up together?
JF: Yes, as soon as the online gaming sites launch in Nevada.
Our marketing affiliate license grants us the ability to offer affiliate services in Nevada.
Q: Are you aware of the limits of the license you have, for example will JF:
Q: Can you tell us if this is the first time your company is involved in affili- Q: Personally how do you think that online poker will progress in the US? ate business or do you have a history of affiliate services? JF: I think it will progress slowly as it has to date, however I feel that proper legislation, regulation and taxation is beneficial for the industry as JF: This is the first time my company has been involved in the online gam- a whole. ing affiliate business. We have conducted similar business in the bricksand-mortar poker industry, but not yet online.
Q: What are going to be the main challenges for your company and other possible affiliate companies entering the Nevada market place?
JF: I think the biggest challenge for affiliates and online gaming operators will be finding enough customers to provide the critical mass necessary for the sites to have liquidity. There are less than 3 million residents in Nevada, so the challenge will be to convert as many of them into online players.
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Shouldn’t Casino Customer Service Be Easy? By Martin R. Baird
Think for a moment about the casino business. It’s the best of all worlds, right?
I also explained that it doesn’t mean that service is less important, just harder to do sometimes.
Casino employees work in some of the most beautiful structures ever built. We now have casinos that make guests feel like they’ve traveled to new and exotic places. Casinos are where all the beautiful people come to have fun and relax.
A person from craps had a guest who thought blowing cigar smoke in her face brought him good luck. He blew smoke all through her shift. And how about the person from housekeeping who couldn’t understand why a guest would continue to throw ashes and cigarette debris on the floor after a clean ashtray had been placed within easy reach. Anyone who has spent time on a casino floor has seen these situations all too often. But in order to stand out in a very competitive industry, casino employees simply must overcome these situations and find ways to provide the kind of service that makes guests want to come back.
Well, if casinos are so wonderful, how difficult can it be for employees to be nice and smile? How hard can it be for them to provide that all-important stellar customer service? Unfortunately, it can be very hard. The public has this mistaken notion that working in a casino is an easy job. The truth is, a casino can be a beautiful place for the guest but when it comes to working and providing great service, it can be very challenging. As I present customer-service training programs at casinos, I hear many stories that exemplify why casino work isn’t always easy. I want to share some of these war stories and explain how it’s still possible to provide great
How can they do that? Let’s start with a simple but crucial premise. Everyone who works at a casino must understand that the guest who just walked through the door is the most important person in their business. The customer or guest is the key to the casino’s success. Everyone also needs to understand that they are directly affected by the kind of experience guests have while they are on the property. People who work for tips know they couldn’t pay their bills if it wasn’t for guests. The problem is casino employees don’t always see themselves in an accurate light. For example, I watched a beverage server one night and she didn’t smile once. As I continued to observe, I never saw her thank the guests for their tips. I talked with her later and asked a couple of questions. She told me that she always smiles but people just don’t know how to tip. As I asked more questions, I realized that my view of her and her view of herself where not the same. Co-workers, managers and supervisors need to help people see how they can improve and how a change for the better will help them and their guests. The next point about customer service revolves around one simple fact: when people come to a casino to be entertained, they hope to walk out with more money than they brought but they often don’t. Notice I didn’t say win. Win doesn’t have to mean leaving with more money. People can have a great experience and lose money and still feel like a winner. Floor people sometimes miss that point. They forget that they’re in the entertainment business and that they have a leading role. Even though a guest is losing money, each employee has an opportunity to help them feel like a winner. Casino jobs are not easy. Nevertheless, guest service must be a priority. Casinos need to give every employee, from senior management on down, the tools they need to help make the next guest’s visit so incredible that they remember more than just the beautiful building. They remember the great people they met and the wonderful time they had.
service under difficult circumstances. My first story involves table games. A dealer listened to what I had to say during training and then point-blank asked me how I would smile and do all that other customer service stuff in a particular situation he once faced. He went on to explain that an unpleasant guest sat at his table. The guest was losing all night and the more he lost, the more he drank. After sharing a few choice words with the dealer, the guest got sick all over the table and the dealer. I told the dealer he was right. That situation didn’t make great service easy.
Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based consulting firm to the global gaming industry that is dedicated to helping casinos improve their guest service so they can compete and generate future growth and profitability. Robinson & Associates is the world leader in casino guest experience measurement, management and improvement. For more information, visit the company’s Web sites at www. casinocustomerservice.com and www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com or contact the company at 208-9912037. Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.
Sportingbet set to agree takeover for £530 million
Movers inside the company are Jamie Hart taking over responsibility for the sportsbook and gaming platforms, while Jürgen Reutter assumes the role as head of mobile. The changes are believed to be linked with the move by William Hill to seek a price for the 29% stake in William Hill Online owned by Playtech. William Hill has until next month to activate a call option for the stake, and the decision is likely to hang on the price. Each party will appoint a bank to determine a price, and if their valuations are markedly different, a third independent bank will be asked for an assessment. Valuations have ranged from £300m up to £493m. William Hill Online, one of the biggest online gambling operations in Europe, in April reported a 29& rise in operating profit to £38.3m, buoyed by a 370% rise in customers using mobile devices.
William Hill has increased its proposed offer for Sportingbet, valuing the online gaming company at £530m. The offer from the British bookmaker and GVC Holdings includes the recently announced 48.9p a share in cash from William Hill, and 0.0475 new GVC shares per Sportingbet share. William Hill submitted a £350m proposalwith GVC in September but it was rejected by Sportingbet’s board as undervaluing the company. In a statement on Tuesday, Sportingbet said it had agreed to work with William Hill and GVC toward a firm offer, which if made, the board would unanimously recommend it to shareholders. William Hill had been required to announce a firm offer for the online gaming company by 5pm today, but the Takeover Panel has extended this deadline to 5pm on November 13. William Hill is after Sportingbet’s Australian business, which accounts for 90pc of its profits. GVC, which last year bought Sportingbet’s Turkish business for £113m, would take on the more politically sensitive, unregulated operations.
William Hill confirm Playtech buyout
The management changes came as William Hill reported a 26% year-on-year increase in third-quarter operating profit, driven by the summer of sport that included the London Olympics and the European football championships. Operating profit from its online division rose 42% in the 13 weeks to September 25, compensating for lower demand on the high street, pushing up retail net revenues just 3 per cent. “The Olympics and Paralympics captured the public’s attention but appear to have reduced customer visits in retail. However, there were compensating factors, particularly the strong margin growth across all channels,” said Ralph Topping, chief executive. “We’ve had a good performance in football, including a strong Euro 2012 in July. It’s also pleasing to see signs of improvement in horseracing margin trends.” William Hill is also looking to buy Sportingbet in a joint deal with GVC Holdings, and this week had a £530m cash and shares offer provisionally agreed by the Sportingbet board. Following on from the announcement from William Hill on the buyout of Playtech in its online business, Mor Weizer the chief executive of Playtech, issued a statement in response. Mr Weizer said, “Playtech continues to engage in constructive discussions with William Hill regarding the future of the joint venture, one of the most successful ever in online gaming.” He continued “WHO is a key driver of William Hill’s overall success and, as a major supplier to WHO & the wider business, Playtech is dedicated to maintaining its close working relationship with William Hill to support its continued growth. “In the event that the option is exercised Playtech is committed to the smooth handover of the 29 percent stake in order to ensure a seamless transition & support WHO’s growth going forward. “WHO has been a phenomenally successful & transformational partnership for William Hill & Playtech, consistently achieving double-digit growth year on year. Current trading is very encouraging & regardless of William Hill’s as yet undetermined final decision on the call option, we look forward to working with WHO & maintaining our very positive relationship. Playtech ……believes t h a t there is significant continued growth potential for WHO.”
William Hill has confirmed it is considering the buyout of the minority stake in William Hill Online held by Playtech. Also from the PLC listed UK Boomaker reported that Henry Birch would step down as chief executive of William Hill Online with immediate effect, leaving the day-to-day running of the business to Andrew Lee, managing director.
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iGaming USA News
Republican Heller sticks with online poker bill states lotteries & horseracing. A spokesperson for Senator Reid remained uncompromising, said in a statement:
Republican Dean Heller & Democrat Harry Reid, although having a well
publicised spat last month over the lack of progress of the latter’s online poker legalisation initiative, Heller still appears to view a post-election legalisation drive as possible, & says he is prepared to work with Reid on it. Even thou the Republican Party are against online gambling. During an interview this week with a Las Vegas publication, Heller said that federal legalisation could benefit the Nevada gambling industry, & reiterated that he continues to support the concept. The consensus in the industry is that the lame duck session after the presidential election & just before the Congressional session ends is now the best bet for Reid, who has tasked Heller with drumming up more Republican support for the initiative. “I have no doubt when this race is over, Senator Reid & I will sit down & say, ‘Okay, we got this behind us now, let’s work together & get this done.” Heller said. “And I have no doubt that it needs to get done by the end of the year. And I fully support working with Senator Reid in making that happen.” He continued. Heller added: “No doubt, we’re wearing different uniforms & we will be for the next 26 days. But I have no doubt, no doubt, we get past this election & Senator Reid & I are going to sit down & put the past behind us. Nevada can’t afford anything different.” Reports that the federal government would not levy taxes on licensed operators under the Reid proposal, which he co-authored with Republican Senator Jon Kyl. Instead the Reid-Kyl bill suggests imposing a 16 percent “online poker activity fee” from which the federal government would keep 2 percent for administration costs, distributing the remainder to individual states & tribal gaming. The bill would specifically exclude & make illegal other forms of internet gambling not already exempted from federal law. Such as fantasy sports,
“We’ve been waiting for months for Senator Heller to provide Republican votes to pass an online poker bill but that support never surfaced.” “Last we heard he wanted the House to move first on a bill so this change of heart is surprising. Senator Reid has always recognized that this bill is critically important for Nevada’s economy & he will continue to fight for bipartisan support to pass this bill.” Heller is currently fighting for his Congressional position against Democrat challenger & veteran online gambling supporter Shelley Berkely
MGM does deal for new Macau development
SJM announce new casino development
Holdings has been given the greenlight to build a new five-star caMGM Resorts International says it has signed a long-awaited land deal SJM sino resort in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, the company anto build a new casino resort in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling market. MGM China Holdings Ltd. said it has signed a land concession contract with the Macau government for a plot in the Cotai district. Cotai is an area of reclaimed land that’s earmarked for all future casino expansion in the Asian gambling hub.
MGM said it is paying $161.4 million for the land, including a down payment of $56.2 million. The company plans to build a resort that includes a 1,600room hotel, 500 gambling tables and 2,500 slot machines. The deal means MGM will be able to compete with rivals that have already expanded in Cotai, including Sands China.
nounced this week.
SJM, Macau’s largest casino operator by gaming revenue, said in a statement issued late on Friday that the approval came after it won a government land grant for a 70,468-square-metre (17.4 acre) site on the Cotai Strip. Ambrose So, SJM’s chief executive, described the new casino as a “milestone” development” for the firm as it will be its first venture on the developing strip, which already houses rivals Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment.
The new resort will include 700 gaming tables, 1,000 slot machines and a hotel with 2,000 rooms. Construction is expected to take three years. The announcement came a day after MGM China Holdings – said it had received the go-ahead for a new $2.5 billion casino. Macau’s gambling revenue in September increased 12% year-on-year to 23.87 billion patacas ($2.99 billion), official statistics have shown. The city posted a 42%t rise in gambling revenue in 2011 compared to 2010. Semi-autonomous Macau, the only part of China where casino gambling is legal, overtook Las Vegas as the world’s gaming capital in terms of revenue after the sector was opened up to foreign competition in 2002. Six firms are licensed to operate casinos in Macau, which was handed back to Beijing in 1999.
People Are People and Training is a Powerful Force Around the World By Martin R. Baird
So what can you do to make both of them happy? How can you help casino employees enjoy their jobs and how can you help customers look forward to coming to your property to play? On a more basic level, how do you make people happy? What can you do to help them have a better day, week, month and life? Let’s start with casino employees. Here are a few things I hear from frontline staff and I’m learning that they are important to gaming employees around the world. Note to executives: these are things you need to keep in mind as reinforcement to training. They will encourage your employees to keep giving 100 percent. First, they want to be appreciated. They want to feel as though they are more than just a punch bag for the guest and management to use eight to 10 hours at a time. Most casino employees feel like they are little more than meat thrown to the crowd to keep it moderately happy. The kind of appreciation most often mentioned is little Key #6: You Need to Start With An Accurate Perspective things like saying thank you and letting people know they’ve done a good job. Any personal gesture that tells people they are important and recognized as a human being goes a long way toward helping them feel more satisfied. Next, they want to have fun. They always ask for picnics or parties – any type of group activity that they can share with each other and, sometimes, their families. Family “buy-in” and support are critical to long-term employee happiness. Nothing could be worse than to work a tough 10-hour shift and then go home and hear how much your significant other hates where you work and what you do. Ouch, that really hurts!
Several years ago while I was in Athens to speak at a conference, I had dinner with the general manager of a Greek casino where I do employee training. I was thinking about this the other day and realized that the lessons I learned from her are still valid today. This lady has worked in or with casinos literally around the world. She started as a dealer in the United Kingdom for a very high-end club that was featured in a James Bond movie. She talks intelligently about what it’s like to work in Dubai. One of her most challenging jobs was running a casino in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war. Then the subject of employee training came up. We talked about the weeklong “Train the Trainer” program I rolled out at her casino and I explained how “it” happened in the middle of everything, between the second half of day two and halfway into day four. A light magically went on in the employees’ eyes and the value of quality customer service began to sink in. She noted that before the training, her employees were resistant to or neutral about customer service. She joined the training during the last two days but she could see the difference in her staff. Then we started talking about people in general and the phrase “people are people” came up over and over. Talking with her, I realized that this is so true. When she talked about casino employees in distant lands, I could match them to staff members at a casino in the U.S. that had similar challenges. It really struck home with me that gaming is global and the people who work in that industry are very much the same. But the ultimate common denominator was this – no matter where you are in the world, gaming affects two large groups of people and, ultimately, training has a critical impact on both. You have the players (in my world, they’re called customers or guests) and then you have the people who work at the casino. These two groups have a symbiotic relationship. They both need each other for success.
Finally, they acknowledge that they have short attention spans. In other words, they eventually forget about the nice gestures if too much time passes. Appreciation and fun need to happen frequently enough that people have consistent and constant reminders that they are important to your success. Now, if you think these pointers are just for your employees, think again. They also can work wonders for that other important part of your business, your customers. Guests want to feel appreciated and I guarantee you that they want to have fun. The more they get of both, the happier they are. Training and reinforcement help your employees make sure life is good for your customers. And that fulfills their symbiotic relationship. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from the Athens casino general manager. She broadened my horizons. It’s nice to know that casino employees are truly the same anywhere in the world and that they face the same challenges. Its encouraging to know that training can be a positive and powerful influence no matter where a casino is located. After all, people are just people.
Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based consulting firm to the global gaming industry that is dedicated to helping casinos improve their guest service so they can compete and generate future growth and profitability. Robinson & Associates is the world leader in casino guest experience measurement, management and improvement. For more information, visit the company’s Web sites at www. casinocustomerservice.com and www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com or contact the company at 208-9912037. Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.
Resorts World Bimini Bahamas Unveils New Boutique Casino at Bimini Bay
Resorts World Bimini Bahamas, the multi-million dollar, luxury gaming facility set to open in North Bimini in the first quarter of 2013, unveils stunning renderings showcasing the highly anticipated venue. The casino is being launched by a partnership between RAV Bahamas LTD., developer of Bimini Bay Resort & Marina and Rockwell Island Beach Estates and Genting Malaysia Berhad (“Genting Malaysia”). The10,000 square foot world-class casino located within Bimini Bay Resort will introduce an entirely new concept to the destination and feature stateof-the-art gaming including popular table games, slots and a sports book within a modern South Beach décor, a sleek entertainment bar and a restaurant lounge. “With interiors showcasing a unique, chic, and modern design, the casino is ideally positioned within the resort enjoying serene vistas of the turquoise waters and the resorts mega yacht marina,” says Dana Leibovitz, President of Resorts World Bimini Bahamas. “We are also already considering additional entertainment amenities for phase two of the casino that will further make Bimini Bay a distinctive destination.” The addition of the new casino will positively impact and enhance the tourism economy of Bimini by creating new employment for 130 Bahamian
residents, this does not account for the many additional jobs that will be created in the resort and other indirect employment opportunities made available throughout the island. “This new casino is the first step in our plans to develop and showcase Bimini as a world class leisure destination. The benefits to the local economy will be vast as we continue to expand our business with Resorts World Bimini,” states Leslie Bethel, Chief Operating Officer of RAV Bahamas. Additional developments for the destination conveniently located 48 miles just off South Florida’s coast include a new high-speed ferry service offered by Balearia’s Bahamas Express, which will launch in mid-November 2012. Resort World Bimini and Bimini Bay Resort & Marina are also actively Beach front homes with an adjacent protected bay lot/slip combination. Rockwell Island privileges to spoil residents further with extravagant amenities such as a state-of-the- art wellness center complete with meditation garden, spa, swimming pool and sports facilities. Conveniently situated adjacent to Bimini Bay, just 50 miles from Miami, Florida, Rockwell Island Beach Estates features private marinas and is accessible via boat or private aircraft.
The 6th International Gaming Awards welcomes Galaxy Entertainment Group as a Sponsor
Clever Duck Media are delighted to announce Galaxy Entertainment Group as a gold Sponsor for the 6th International Gaming Awards
Ceremony (IGA), the biggest and the best gaming industry charity event. The ceremony will be held on the 4th February 2013 at The Brewery in London and attended by Gaming Movers and Shakers from around the globe. Colin Thompson, organizer and co-founder of The IGA said “We are delighted to have one of the largest integrated resort operators in Macau on board as a major sponsor of this year’s awards. To be aligned with a brand as well regarded and world-renowned as Galaxy Entertainment highlights the global influence and reach of The IGA.” More information about IGA sponsors SPONSORS The International Gaming Awards Nominations will close on 18 October 2012. More information on Nominations The International Gaming Awards the most memorable evening of the year with its main focus to support truly deserving charities: Care International and Children with Cancer. More about our charities HERE
iGaming News in brief Rank announces Shaa Wasmund to join Board
Pouncy, who briefly addressed the judge in the courtroom, fought back tears as she said she was sorry for her crimes and knew they were wrong when she did them. She apologized to her husband, who was in the courtroom, and her 3-year-old son for putting them through the situation. “I wish I was stronger,” said Pouncy, who said she wishes she had initially just told people no. Pouncy’s defense attorney, Tommy Spina, said Pouncy was not a ring leader in the conspiracy and acted on the orders of others. “She was just a puppet and an attractive young lady they used,” he said to the judge.
The Rank Group has announced that experienced digital media professional Shaa Wasmund is set to take a seat on its board as a non-executive director from the begining of November. Rank the land based and online gambling firm said that 40-year-old Wasmund has had a ‘distinguished digital career’ in advising ‘both start-ups and large corporations’ and is an ‘international speaker on the topic of digital media’. Wasmund has received ‘many industry accolades for her services to small business’ including from the Institute of Directors and Management Today and is the founder of the Smarta.com independent online small business resource and the Smarta Business Builder enterprise software service. “With her extensive experience in digital media, I am delighted that Shaa is joining the board of Rank and I look forward to working with her,” said Ian Burke, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Rank.
Gambling lobbyist gets three years probation A federal judge sentenced Jennifer Pouncy, the last of three people who pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers to pass gambling legislation, to a much lighter sentence than those who worked alongside her. Chief Judge Keith Watkins sentenced the former casino lobbyist Wednesday to three years probation. The Montgomery woman, who was the first target in the investigation to cooperate and to plead guilty, could have served as much as five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors requested a sentence of two years in prison. Pouncy, 36, admitted offering one state senator $2 million in exchange for his vote on pro-gambling legislation and to working with a casino developer to authorize $100,000 for another state senator in exchange for his vote. Watkins said her actions undermined government and people’s confidence in government in this state, and he was not minimizing the seriousness of her crimes, but he said she has suffered humiliation, lost earnings, was the first to cooperate with federal investigators, and provided substantial assistance that helped lead to the guilty pleas of two other defendants, lobbyist Jarrod Massey and Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley.
Spina said she was the mother of a young son in a double-earner family where she was the “bread winner” and was trying to keep a $60,000-a-year job. She currently works for an agency that deals with veterinary products, he added.
Echo CEO leaves along with Senior Exec The Echo Entertainment board and management which owns Sydney’s “The Star casino”, has been caught up in political wars in the Boardroom, which culminated this week in the resignation of its chief executive, Larry Mullin, followed by the abrupt departure of a high-profile director, Brett Paton. The senior ranks of Echo have been split by a brawl between the newly installed chairman, rugby supremo John O’Neill, and Mr Paton – and a separate war between its two most senior executives, Mr Mullin and finance chief Matt Bekier. According to reports in Australia, Mr Mullin tried to sack Mr Bekier this month but Mr O’Neill intervened in favour of Mr Bekier, who is now a candidate to take Mr Mullin’s job. Echo said yesterday that Mr Mullin would ”complete his time with the company” and step down early next year. Speculation that Mr Mullin was effectively sacked was reinforced yesterday by the chairman’s comments that formal discussion about his CEO’s departure started only last week. Mr O’Neill denied the company was in a state of turmoil, which would risk playing into the hands of its main suitor for the business, James Packer’s Crown. ”There will be people joining dots that really don’t make sense,” Mr O’Neill said. ”There is no chaos around the board table.” Mr Mullin’s departure means that, in the space of a year, Echo will have lost its chairman, John Story, chief executive in Mr Mullin, and The Star casino chief Sid Vaikunta, who was sacked for inappropriate behaviour earlier this year. The saga is playing out against the background of Mr Packer’s campaign to gain control of Echo and to garner a piece of the Sydney casino market. Mr Packer’s Crown has 10% of Echo and has sought approval from regulators to increase its holding to 25 per cent. Genting is also seeking permission to buy more than 10 per cent of Echo. The departure of Mr Paton is considered to be one of the last obstacles to Mr Packer getting his hands on Echo through the back door without making a full takeover bid for the companyto utilising our Italian licence to expand the profile of the brand and to grow the business in another regulated market.’
Gaming USA News GeoComply partner up with MaxMind
No rush to replace Lipparelli at the GCB GeoComply has announced the signing of an agreement that will see it partner with MaxMind Incorporated to develop a suite of anti-fraud solutions for the iGaming industry. GeoComply recently opened an office in Nevada while MaxMind, which is based in Massachusetts, is a provider of IP intelligence and online fraud detection tools. The pair stated that they were quick to strike up a partnership due to their existing relationships with regulators and gaming providers. “We have been witnessing a much greater demand for a full know-yourcustomer and anti-fraud solution within the gaming industry, particularly with operators and suppliers looking to launch online gaming projects in the United States,” said Anna Sainsbury, Chief Executive Officer for GeoComply. “Our anti-fraud capabilities, now enhanced by MaxMind, will allow us to better serve our customers with secure spoof-proof location technology to address their regulatory and legal obligations.” Although rules on player location may vary between jurisdictions, GeoComply stated that thwarting fraud issues including bonus abuse, money laundering and payment problems ‘are essential to protecting the integrity of a business as well as its bottom line’. “We are always looking for ways our data can solve business problems across industries,” said Peter Saczkowski, Business Development Manager for MaxMind. “MaxMind’s proven fraud detection tools combined with GeoComply’s existing location solutions will give Internet gaming stakeholders the assurance they need to safely conduct business online.”
Penn National to buy part of Maryland Live Casino
Replacing Mark Lipparelli the chairman of the state Gaming Control Board will not be a rushed job said Gov. Brian Sandoval, Lipparelli is stepping down tomorrow. He said he is gathering a list of candidates and has told board members A.G. Burnett and Shawn R. Reid they will have to conduct the next meeting in October without its third member and Chairman. Sandoval said Burnett and Reid would be considered for chairman of the agency that regulates the casino industry in Nevada. “Both are well respected, and the current chairman is complimentary of them,” Sandoval said.
Penn National Gaming, which has invested $9.5 million to fight the expansion of Maryland gambling to Prince George’s County, has entered into negotiations with the owners of Maryland Live, the state’s largest casino, to acquire a significant minority stake in the Cordish Cos.’ Arundel Mills operation, according to two state officials familiar with the talks. Neither the Cordish Cos., a spinoff of which owns the Maryland Live! casino, nor officials of Penn National, which operates 27 gambling and racing venues in the U.S. and Canada, have made any official statement to confirm or deny the deal, which would require state approval.
There are two decisions to be made — one to name a third member and the second to select a chairman. Lipparelli served as a member of the board starting in January 2009 and was named chairman by Sandoval in January 2011. The salary of the chairman is $145,986, and the pay of the two other members is $125,741.
Gaming USA News
Steve Wynn thinks online poker bill has no chance Steve Wynn said in a recent interview that Harry Reid’s efforts to legalise online poker at the federal level was unlikely to pass the House of Representatives. Then he indicated to the television talk show Ralston Reports that he prefers federal law rather than a state-by-state legalisation, but only with online poker. Describing the Reid-Kyl federal initiative as “intelligent,” Wynn noted that the online poker-only proposal specifically made most other forms of internet gambling illegal, clearing up any confusion. “It stops other forms of gaming & makes them specifically prohibited on the internet, but it does allow poker, which is an American game,” said Wynn, adding: “I think Harry is right on the bill. I think the people who are in favor of the bill have an intelligent position.” Perhaps inevitably, Wynn was asked for his view on US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Republican anti-online gambling position, but did not appear to regard this as particularly relevant, saying rather confusingly that legality was an issue for individual states! Wynn, who prior to Black Friday was moving toward online poker through an alliance with Pokerstars, a venture subsequently dropped, remains in favour of internet poker & does not seem to feel threatened by the internet in terms of competition with his land enterprises. “Idon’t feel threatened by the internet,” he told the Ralston Report. “I think that people who come to Las Vegas come for a total experience. I think playing poker on the internet is something they’re doing anyway. They’ve been doing it for years illegally, legally, I don’t know.” “But I think the debate is by & large a waste of breath at this point. I don’t think the bill has the legs to get through the House of Representatives at this moment. I think the problems facing our government in Washington are so much more severe, that have such a greater priority for the welfare of working people in America.”
Atlantic City gets mobile gambling In the latest evolution of gambling, New Jersey has approved new regulations that will allow Atlantic City casino customers to place bets on smartphones, iPads and other wireless handheld devices. Mobile gambling will be allowed within the boundaries of a casino hotel, including at poolside, in dining areas and guest rooms. It will not be permitted in garages or parking lots. “We are looking forward to having Atlantic City casinos take advantage of
mobile gaming and we see these regulations as one more step in the expansion of gaming opportunities afforded to Atlantic City customers,” David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said in a statement Tuesday announcing the regulations. However, the timeframe for mobile gambling to go live in Atlantic City remains unclear. Casinos will first have to receive final regulatory approval. Lisa Spengler, a Division of Gaming Enforcement spokeswoman, said no casinos have submitted formal proposals yet. The technology will literally put gambling in the palm of someone’s hand. Using wireless devices, customers will be able to bet on slot machines and
table games while lounging at the pool, sitting in a restaurant, relaxing in their hotel rooms or roaming around other parts of the property, except for the parking areas. New Jersey now joins Nevada in legalizing the mobile devices, which are at the forefront of the casino industry’s efforts to appeal to a new generation of tech-savvy gamblers. Mobile gambling is also seen as a way to capitalize on the emerging Internet gambling phenomenon, which still needs legislative approval to become legal in New Jersey. “I think it’s a good thing. It’s nice to see New Jersey at the forefront of new gaming technology,” said Christopher Soriano, a gaming attorney with the Duane Morris law firm in Cherry Hill. “This would be an enhancement for people who may not want to play the traditional table games or slot machines but who are still in the casinos.” Soriano believes that enough safeguards are built into the regulations to prevent abuses, including underage gambling and cheating. He added, though, that casinos may hesitate to introduce cutting-edge technology. “I’m hopeful we would see it by the end of the year,” Soriano said. “I’m somewhat cautious in saying that, because I think everybody will move a little slower in this area, especially the casinos.” Under New Jersey law, customers will be able to gamble on their own smartphones, electronic tablets or on mobile devices issued by the casinos. They must set up mobile accounts to ensure they are at least 21 years old, New Jersey’s legal age to gamble. They would be barred from creating accounts if they are on New Jersey’s list of prohibited gamblers. “Most importantly in this process was the development of regulations that provided safeguards to prevent underage gambling and to continually ensure the integrity and security of mobile gaming in New Jersey,” Rebuck said. The devices would include technology to lock out any gambling once the customers are off the casino property. Mobile gambling represents the latest technological innovation in the casino industry. Revel, Atlantic City’s newest casino, introduced server-based slot machines when it opened in April. Those slots are downloadable and allow the payouts, denominations and game themes to be changed almost instantly with a simple keystroke, avoiding the cumbersome, manual process required for similar changes in regular slot machines. Atlantic City boosters hope mobile gambling is another amenity that will give the resort town an edge over rival casinos in surrounding states. Atlantic City is in the midst of a six-year revenue slump caused by the fragile economy and fierce competition from regional gambling, particularly casinos in Pennsylvania.
and er 2012 b o t c O re 12 befo r e t is Reg
D2 S U E
Asian Gaming & Hospitality Congress 27-28 November 2012, Galaxy Macau
Beyond the Casino – Preparing for the future of gaming and entertainment in Asia Join us for the 5th Annual Asian Gaming & Hospitality Congress - the region’s most in-depth conference on the economic and investment outlook for gaming in Asia. Join pithy debates on legal and regulatory issues affecting each jurisdiction and casino operators’ competitiveness from a regional perspective. Hear from industry experts about tourism, hospitality and entertainment trends, as well as how to appeal to the next generation of China’s luxury and VIP customers. Also, find out what’s next for the merging of land-based casinos and suppliers with online and social gaming companies – all at one event!
Hear from these acclaimed experts: Dr Richard Lehrner Senior Advisor to the Board CASINOS AUSTRIA
Duarte Chagas Legal Adviser DICJ (GAMING INSPECTION & COORDINATION BUREAU MACAU)
Anthony Coles Partner JEFFREY GREEN RUSSELL; Immediate Past President IMGL
David Green CEO NEWPAGE CONSULTING
Dr Hoffman Ma Deputy CEO PONTE 16; Deputy Chairman SUCCESS UNIVERSE GROUP
Paul Bromberg CEO SPECTRUM OSO ASIA
Grant Govertsen Managing Partner UNION GAMING RESEARCH MACAU
Jorge Godinho Associate Professor, Faculty of Law UNIVERSITY OF MACAU
Dan Lynn, CEO, AIRASIA EXPEDIA Robert W. Stocker, Chair, Gaming Practice, DICKINSON WRIGHT Marcus Clinch, Partner, EIGER LAW Martin Williams, Asia Editor, GAMBLING COMPLIANCE Andrew Klebanow, Principal, GAMING MARKET ADVISORS Warwick Bartlett, Chief Executive, GLOBAL BETTING & GAMING CONSULTANTS Shaun McCamley, Senior Associate, IGAMIX MANAGEMENT
Prof Leonardo Dioko, Director, International Tourism Research Centre, INSTITUTE FOR TOURISM STUDIES Ping Lam, Managing Director, LUXURY ASIA GROUP Luis Mesquita de Melo, Patner, MDME Toru Mihara, Visiting Professor & Director Center for Amusement Industry Studies, OSAKA UNIVERSITY OF COMMERCE Ben Cavender, Senior Associate, THE CHINA MARKET RESEARCH GROUP Andrew Scott, CEO, WORLD GAMING MAGAZINE
Day One (Tuesday 27 November):
Macro Economic Predictions, Investment and Financing Outlook, Legal and Regulatory Challenges by Jurisdiction
Day Two (Wednesday 28 November):
Travel and Tourism Trends, Understanding the Customer and the Future for Digital Technologies and Interactivity To register your interest in attending AGHC 2012, please email Beacon Events at info@BeaconEvents.com or contact us at +852 2219 0111. Book now and take advantage of our exclusive 10% discount, don’t forget to mention your VIP code AU681IGM10 during registration. Cocktail Drinks Sponsor
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Macau Gaming news Melco get green light for casino at Studio City project
Adelson unveils new Macau resort “The Parisian”
Melco Crown Entertainment the main shareholder in the Studio City project in Macau will be able to apply for a casino, said Francis Tam Pak Yuen, the Secretary for Economy and Finance.
Sheldon Adelson announced plans to build a scaled-down replica of the Eiffel Tower as part of a new US$3 billion gambling resort in Macau.
This was the first time a government official had given a positive on the project, after a string of statements to the contrary.
The Las Vegas Sands chief spoke publicly for the first time about the new development as he opened a Sheraton hotel in the second phase of his latest US$4.4 billion resort, the Sands Cotai Central, itself only five months old.
Mr Tam said the government had already agreed that Studio City could apply for a casino in 2006, when the original investors in the project requested it.
“The Parisian”, as it will be known, will add hundreds more gambling tables and hotel rooms to the former Portuguese colony at a time when China’s economy is contracting and revenue from high-rolling gamblers is slowing.
Mr Tam also admitted that some of the new 2,000 live gaming tables to become available until 2023 under the 3% average yearly growth rate cap to be introduced next year, could go to Studio City.
Adelson dismissed concerns that the southern Chinese territory’s boom days were over, saying “we would not be expanding if we did not think there was a future here”.
Melco Crown only bought into Studio City last year, but it has always said the project would include a casino.
Sands China already operates three casinos in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling centre and the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.
Earlier this year, the government revised the land concession contract for the project, but still didn’t include any casino facilities in it.
Adelson gave no indication of when “the Parisian” would be built, but said it would cost US$2.5-$3 billion, include 3,000 hotel rooms and feature a “50% scale-to-scale” replica of France’s most famous monument.
According to some analysts, the Studio City casino will be allowed under a service provider agreement.
Las Vegas already boasts a replica of the 320-metre (1,050 foot) tall tower, but Adelson said his creation would be better as its legs would be freestanding instead of passing through other buildings.
This method has previously been allowed for gambling facilities in new hotel-casinos that are not fully-owned by a gaming operator, as it is the case of Studio City. Because the land has been granted to companies that don’t have a casino licence (or are not fully-owned subsidiaries of a concessionaire), the inclusion of gaming facilities in the land contract could have raised legal issues. However, in such cases, the request to include a casino can therefore be made separately from the land concession request, and by a licenced gaming operator. The gaming licence holder needs to request government approval to operate gambling facilities as a service provider at those properties. This is the kind of arrangement that allowed the Ponte 16 and L’Arc casinohotels to accommodate gaming facilities
“The Parisian” is one of several major resorts on Adelson’s drawing board, with further expansion planned in Europe, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. He said he would also invest in Taiwan if the government legalised casino gambling. Las Vegas Sands Corp. earlier this month said it had chosen Madrid as the preferred location for a huge integrated gambling, hotel and conventions resort, dubbed Euro Vegas.
IGA6 gain support from Gaming Standards Association
The International Gaming Awards (IGA) the “Oscars of the Gaming Industry” www.gaming-awards.com is delighted to announce the support from the Gaming Standards Association. The Gaming Standards Association (GSA) is an international trade association that creates benefits for gaming manufacturers, suppliers, operators and regulators. GSA facilitates the identification, definition, development, promotion, and implementation of open standards to enable innovation, education, and communication for the benefit of the entire industry. More on http://www.gamingstandards. com/ This year’s International Gaming Awards will be more sought after than ever, as the industry seeks to distinguish excellence in a highly competitive marketplace. The International Gaming Awards provides an invaluable benchmark for technology companies, iGaming operators and casino resorts , and are the only to do so at International level.
About IGA: It is the Global networking event bringing global Online and Offline Gaming together! The Awards seek to reward excellence in all areas of our industry, not limited to commercial success alone – The awards this year included accolades for Best Operator companies as well as those operators who take social responsibility seriously. International Gaming Awards 2013 set to attract even more industry heavy-hitters and raise more money for worthy causes. It is our industry “Oscars”, when all nominees turn in to the stars for the night! There is no fee to take part; all we ask is that your entry be accompanied by a donation to our chosen charities.
The global gaming industry most successful brands are set to be acknowledged at a glittering gala ceremony at the extravagant Brewery in London on 4 February 2013. This year’s categories are designed to reflect changes in markets and technologies, but retain their focus on recognising excellence across the gaming industry and focus on social responsibility. Nominations are open till 18 October 2012. After 18th October 2012 the Judging panel will review all nominations and finalists will be published on official website www.gaming-awards.com The Judging panel comprises of leading international industry professionals, specialized journalists, analysts and consultants will judge entries in 21 categories, winners will be announced on the night of the ceremony. Meet the Judging panel: http://www.gaming-awards.com/ judges.htm The International Gaming Awards supported by generous Sponsors Cammegh Ltd, Playtech, Betsoft, Bally Technologies and Empire Casino Recruitment & Consultancy. More about our sponsors on http://www.gamingawards.com/sponsors.htm
Please donate generously
Gaming UK News
Grosvenor first in UK for Pinball Roulette
Bodog closes to UK customers Bodog have closed their online site to players in the United Kingdom and Europe, who will now be unable to access the poker rooms. In addition to this, the main UK Bodog casino website has temporarily closed for the overhaul, with new sign ups not being accepted. A partner brand of Bodog is reported to have said in a statement that the website will also be removing a number of features, including the sportsbook, racebook and poker rooms. UK customers have been left feeling confused, as the BodogEU website recently shut down and redirected their online traffic to Bodog.co.uk. The freeze on this website has resulted in many UK players feeling dissatisfied with Bodogs treatment of them. In addition to this, Bodog removed their services from 20 European countries earlier this year; including some Eastern European areas, parts of the Middle East and Belgium. BodogUK stated that upon the sites relaunch there would be no poker features available. They instead wanted to focus more on traditional casino games, such as baccarat, and live dealer games. If players are not satisfied with this service any more than Bodog informs them that they can cash out and leave with their funds.
Grosvenor Casino have announced that it is set to introduce 30 new Pinball Roulette machines, an entirely new product developed by Austrian Gaming Industries, across 22 clubs throughout the country. Launching in late October 2012 in selected clubs, Grosvenor is the only casino operator in the UK to launch the new gaming machine this year. The new machines being installed offer a single player Roulette game which is activated by the player using a pinball-style trigger button to launch the ball into the spinning Roulette wheel. The machine is very attractive ensuring it stands out from any other machine at the casinos and is particularly interactive, providing customer’s hours of entertainment. Theo Woolf, Electronic Gaming Manager at Grosvenor Casinos comments: “We are very excited to have the new Pinball Roulette machines launching at our Casinos and feel our customers will really enjoy the interactive nature of the new game. Unlike a typical Electronic Roulette terminal, it gives the player the power of when they wish to spin the ball, giving them greater control over the pace of their game. This machine will be sure to stand out from the crowd and attract attention from customers. We can’t wait to get these machines out to our casinos late October for our customers to enjoy and we’re pleased to say that Grosvenor has agreed UK supply exclusivity with our strategic partners, AGI, until 31st March 2013.” The G Casinos set to benefit from the installation of the new state-of-the-art Pinball Roulette machines are those located in; Bolton, Didsbury, Manchester, Luton, Coventry, Piccadilly, Birmingham, Blackpool, Newcastle, Plymouth, Thanet, Dundee, New Brighton, Stockton and Cardiff. The machine will also be installed in the London Victoria, Southampton, Portsmouth Gunwharf Quays, Huddersfield, Salford and Swansea Grosvenor Casino’s. The new G Casino in Reading, opening in February next year will also feature the new gaming machine
For those wanting to stay with the Bodog brand, then they can attempt to create a new account with the Asian facing website, Bodog88.com. However, the appearance and features of the website are designed to attract the Asian audience. The organisation is set to pour most of their focus on the Asian market, much to the negligence of their UK customers. Robert Gustafsson, the Managing Director, stated There are estimated to be at least 100,000,000 Chinese living outside China and if you then include Thai, Malay and Vietnamese expats, you have more than just a niche market but one that has been ignored by other operators despite being far and away the largest consumer group of casino games on the planet… He added, Bodog.co.uk can offer a totally different product to a totally different audience and while we still offer sports betting, the all-important casino customer will be our main source of revenue.
Gaming UK News
Rank calls out latest results
Les Ambassadeurs up for sale
Rank Group has announced its latest trading update; combining online & land based performances together under the group’s major brands Mecca, Grosvenor, Blue Square & Top Rank Espana. The update covers the 15 week period to October 14 2012 & features a 4% revenue growth driven principally by strong trading in Mecca’s digital channel & Grosvenor Casinos land & digital operations.
Les Ambassadeurs, the famous old London casino, has been put up for sale. The building’s owner, the Crown Estate, is looking to raise £50m by selling the freehold of the casino, known to customers and gaming insiders as “Les A”, which overlooks Hyde Park and charges up to £25,000 a year for membership.
Grosvenor Casinos brand grew total revenue by 8%, with growth across both channels & land venues reporting a 13% growth in spend per visits, which more than offset a 5% drop in customer visits. The growth in digital revenue is encouraging, but comprised less than 3% of the overall brand revenue. The Mecca brand grew total revenue by 1%, with a strong performance from the online business. Meccabingo.com continued to show strong growth at 11%, supported by a £400,000 TV campaign. Mecca’s land venues delivered flat revenue but a 3% increase in spend per visit offsetting a 2% decline in customer visits. Top Rank Espana has held Euro revenue in line with the same period last year, in spite of the worsening economic situation in Spain. In sterling terms, revenue fell by 9% due to adverse foreign exchange rates. Blue Square Bet achieved a 19% increase in revenue partly driven by a £2 million brand awareness campaign including TV advertising. This brand has commenced a transformational project to upgrade its sports products at an expected total capital cost of £3.5 million. This will accommodate an expected shift in sports betting customers to mobile as a device of choice. The investments specifically include: A partnership with the leading sports platform operator, Openbet, for an industry leading sports betting platform; The creation of a faster & more flexible multi-channel experience to support the ‘no nonsense’ brand proposition & to enable Blue Square Bet to offer sports products to over 2 million active customers of the other Rank brands; and Improving the quality, content & range of its sports products The update gives the latest developments on Rank Group’s attempted acquisition of the Gala Coral group, noting that the company is assisting the UK Competition Commission with its inquiry into the proposed acquisition. Gala Coral Group & Rank are continuing their discussions in relation to appropriate amendments to the previously agreed terms in light of the reference to the Competition Commission
The Crown Estate, which owns much of Regent Street and St James’s, has owned the freehold since 1537. The Grade II* listed building with its French classical facade at 5 Hamilton Place in Mayfair dates from the early 19th century and was once home to the Rothschilds. It stands on the site of one of Henry VIII’s hunting lodges. Well known businessman and Topshop owner Sir Philip Green is a customer of Les Ambassadeurs, who famously had a run of luck at the roulette table in 2004, resulting in a win of £2m in a single night. It forced the casino’s then operator, London Clubs International, into a profit warning. A few years later the retail billionaire considered buying the casino with sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley from its new owner, the Indonesian tobacco billionaire Putera Sampoerna. Les Ambassadeurs was opened at Hanover Square in 1941 by businessman John Mills and relocated to Hamilton Place, off Park Lane, in 1950. He ran the casino until 1981 when the leasehold was bought by casino group London Clubs International. In 2006 the lease was sold to the Sampoerna family. It boasts a garden smoking area where players can enjoy a smoke while placing their bets. The problem for Crown Estate is whom in the current climate will fork out £50 million for the freehold, when other companies such as London Clubs International is said to be also up for sale.
Executive at G2E conference lets slip hoped fo online gambling future in US Most companies are on the other side, but Adelson has considerable influence because he’s donated so much money to politicians who eventually may have a role in whether online poker is approved. But Bugno’s comments reflect an attitude that many online gaming opponents fear. They’ve said they want to keep the camel’s nose out of the tent, which is why they vehemently oppose any form of online gaming. If Internet poker is approved, is it inevitable that other forms of gambling would follow? The American Gaming Association has been clear that it’s only pursuing the approval of Internet poker legislation. But that strategy seems to have hit a dead end. That’s why there has been a push by some states, including Nevada, to approve intrastate poker play. We’re likely to see play begin here by 2013. But as another panelist at the G2E session, Patti Hart, the CEO of International Game Technology, pointed out, most states don’t have the volume to make Internet poker lucrative. Some state leaders have talked about developing compacts to allow residents of other states play their games. That might work for Nevada if it were to sign such a compact with California. But that’s a pretty complicated proposition considering issues like tax revenue sharing and regulatory compliance. Meanwhile, companies in other countries continue to grow their online gaming revenue. Most European companies laugh at the United States for not joining the competition. Bugno is an Australian who has worked around the world. He obviously has seen that and added an interesting footnote to the debate.
Did Walter Bugno, the head of Spielo International say what all was hoping
would happen at the recent G2E Conference, regarding online gambling there, but at the same time drop the industry into trouble? Maybe Bugno was trying to appeal to the crowd when he said that legalizing Internet poker should be just the beginning for online gaming in the United States, if federal lawmakers could only get around to getting the votes to pass the poker legislation first. Spielo is a gaming equipment designer with European roots. The company is owned by the Lottomatica Group of Italy and has offices worldwide. He explained that Internet casinos wouldn’t make much money with online poker because the casino is merely a facilitator for players against players. Bugno added that instead of taxing casinos for poker play, players should be taxed on their winnings.
A bigger opportunity, he said, would be in online sports wagering and other casino games, such as the ones played for free on social media sites. Maybe none of it makes any difference anyway, because the industry in general is pessimistic about its chances of getting any kind of bill approved in the upcoming lame-duck session. It’s not that proponents are giving up. They’re just acknowledging that there are too many obstacles to pass legislation this year. To be clear, most industry leaders haven’t said publicly that they support anything but online poker — and there’s even a split among some of the big companies over that. Sheldon Adelson, for example, whose company hosted G2E at the Venetian, opposes the legalization of online poker.
Google's self-guided car could drive the next wave of unemployment
Advances such as the driverless car are no longer the stuff of sci-fi. They
could soon make many human skills worthless Almost without noticing it, our world crossed a significant threshold last week. Jerry Brown, the governor of California, signed into law a bill that will allow driverless cars on to his state’s roads from 2015. Insofar as most people noticed this event at all, they probably sniffed derisively. For some, it’ll be seen as an example of techno-hubris – “flags on the moon stuff” – as one of my acquaintances put it. For others, it will be seen as yet another confirmation of the proposition that the continental United States slopes gently from east to west, with the result that everything with a screw loose rolls into California.
Governor Brown signed the bill at Google’s HQ in Mountain View. This was good PR on his part, but it also made sense because Google has led the charge into autonomous (aka driverless) vehicles. For several years, Toyota Prius hybrids that have been specially adapted by the company’s engineers have been driving the roads of California. To date, they have logged 300,000 miles with only one accident – caused by a human-controlled car that ran into one of them. And they have now logged 50,000 miles without a human having to take the wheel. At the ceremony in Mountain View, Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, announced the company’s intention to bring autonomous vehicles to the market in five years. In a pre-emptive attack on critics, he pointed out that autonomous vehicles would be significantly safer than human-controlled ones.
That seems plausible to me: 40,000 people are killed every year in road accidents in the US and many, if not most, of those are caused by human error. “This has the power to change lives,” Brin said. “Too many people are underserved by the current transport system. They are blind, or too young to drive, or too old, or intoxicated.” He also argued that manual operation of cars was inefficient: autonomous vehicles could make better use of the road and reduce the size of car parks by fitting into smaller areas than humans could get them into. Ignore the evangelism for a moment and think about what Google has achieved. Its engineers have demonstrated that with smart software and an array of sensors, a machine can perform a task of sophistication and complexity most of us assumed would always require the capabilities of humans. And that means our assumptions about what machines can and cannot do are urgently in need of updating. This isn’t just about cars, by the way. Economists in the US are increasingly puzzled by the fact that even after its recession officially ended, the rate of job-creation is much lower than expected and the mean length of time for which people are unemployed has rocketed to 40 weeks, twice as long as that observed during any previous postwar recovery. Economic theory (and history) says that when companies begin to grow or become profitable again, they buy equipment and hire workers. But that isn’t happening. Companies are still buying kit, but they’re not employing workers.
So where did the jobs go? As you’d expect from economists, there are lots of theories. The most intriguing explanation, for my money, has been offered by two MIT academics, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, in their book Race Against the Machine. Crudely stated, their view is that advances in computing of the kind embodied by the Google self-driving car represent the next wave of job-eliminating technology. Many skills that were hitherto deemed secure (such as driving) may be devalued and might eventually become worthless, at least in the job market. You don’t have to subscribe to techno-utopian dreams such as Ray Kurzweil’s idea of the technological “singularity” – the point at which artificial intelligence (AI) surpasses human intelligence – to see that Brynjolfsson and McAfee might be on to something. Moore’s law, which says that computing power doubles every 18 months, is still doing its stuff. And lots of things that we once thought required fancy AI turned out just to require massive processing power. Think of Siri on the iPhone or the Dragon Dictate software that I’m using to “write” this piece. And as for those sceptics who think that driverless cars are too anodyne to appeal to most motorists, there is the uncomfortable fact that, at least in the industrialised world, the car has peaked. We’re driving less, year on year. Gridlock drains the romance from driving. And young people are not lusting to own cars like they used to in the era portrayed in the film American Graffiti. All that remains is for us to file a Sorn (Statutory Off Road Notification) for Jeremy Clarkson and we’re done
Google shows us where the internet lives Google has offered a rare glimpse into the secret world of the vast data centres that power the largest search engine in the world.
Photos released by the internet giant reveal the heart of Google’s operations. The data centres are a maze of corridors filled with a complicated web of cables, pipes and servers. Google employees are also pictured at work, and it is revealed that engineers even have bicycles, named “G-Bikes”, to navigate the vast warehouses. Its seven data centres are located across the United States, while both Belgium and Finland also host a centre each. The photos were unveiled on a specially designed Google website, Where the internet Lives.
On the website, the company reveals that thousands of feet of pipeline line the inside of the data centres. “We paint them bright colours not only because it’s fun, but also to designate which one is which,” the website says. The data centre’s exhibit a vast array of high-tech equipment which help the search engine manage services such as Gmail, Google Search and YouTube. Pipes are equipped with highly-pressurized water in case of fire, while at the plant in Finland, seawater from the Gulf of Finland cools the data centre. The building was specifically chosen due to its location close to the wa-
ter and was converted from an old paper mill. The data centre in South Carolina contains a huge library in which data is backed up and stored, should anything go wrong. Robotic arms travel the length of the library to help staff access tapes when they need them. The buildings vary in size but many of the centre’s are so large that staff need bicycles to get around. At the Council Bluffs center in Iowa, there is 115,000 square feet of space. At the Oregon plant, the coloured pipes are painted to help staff recognise their purpose. “Blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled,” the website says. “Very few people have stepped inside Google’s data centre’s, and for good reason: our first priority is the privacy and security of your data, and we go to great lengths to protect it, keeping our sites under close guard,” Google said.
“While we’ve shared many of our designs and best practices, and we’ve been publishing our efficiency data since 2008, only a small set of employees have access to the server floor itself. “Today, for the first time, you can see inside our data centre’s and pay them a virtual visit.
“On Where the internet lives, our new site featuring beautiful photographs by Connie Zhou, you’ll get a never-before-seen look at the technology, the people and the places that keep Google running.” Google is also offering people the chance to go on a virtual tour of a North Carolina centre using Google Street view, which the company already uses to offer detailed photos of local neighbourhoods.
Microsoft Surface prices to start at $499 or$399 Prices, countries and dates for tablet announced and show that it will offer more storage than top-end iPad.
specially written to run on the RT platform.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet will be priced from $499 for a 32GB version in the US – and £399 in the UK – and go on sale on 26 October in eight countries including the UK, the company has reported.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft has ordered production of between 3m and 5m of the devices this quarter, comparable with the total production last year of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Amazon finally stopped selling those at the end of summer.
The announcement came just hours before Apple sent out teaser invitations for an event in San Francisco on 23 October, with the tagline “We’ve got a little more to show you” – widely expected to be a smaller “iPad mini” along with a revision to its tablet line to incorporate its new “Lightning” connector.
It’s not clear whether Microsoft intends to keep producing the Surface tablet, or whether it aims to kickstart a new segment of the tablet market by offering its own product at a keen price. By challenging Apple’s iPad – which has so far been the majority seller in the tablet market – it may be trying to build a bridgehead for tablets against Apple.
Announcing the long-awaited details of its pricing, Microsoft said that the base model will cost $499 – which gives it the same price as a base-level iPad 3, though that only has 16GB of storage – while a version with an integral keyboard cover will cost $599. A 64GB version with a bundled keyboard cover will cost $699.
But the introduction of the iPad mini – echoing Apple’s move in the digital music player market in January 2004, when it introduced the iPod mini and grabbed a significant chunk of that market – could leave Microsoft stuck competing at the high end.
In the UK, the starting 32GB model will cost £399, the same as the base iPad 3, and the cover with integrated keyboard will cost an additional £100 if bought separately. The prices are thus £399 for a 32GB model with no cover, £479 for the 32GB model with cover, and £559 for the 64GB model with cover. The Surface will go on sale in the US and Canada in Microsoft stores, and will be available for online orders in the UK, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia and China. Unlike Apple with the existing iPad line, Microsoft is not offering a 3G-capable version. For its size, the Surface’s 1366x768 screen has a lower resolution than that of the iPad 3, although it is comparable with 2011’s iPad 2, which has a 1024x768 resolution, and is priced from £329 for a 16GB model. The Surface is based on ARM chips, using the same British chip architecture as in almost every mobile phone, and runs a new touch-based version of Windows written for ARM called Windows RT. Existing Windows apps will not run on it. However, owners will be able to download pre-approved apps from an online Windows Store – like Apple’s App Store for the iPad – which will run on the Surface. The tablet will also come with a copy of Microsoft’s Office suite
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