Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Search News Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Search Our Archive of Gaming Articles Will Return as Part of the Merged Gocorp and Lasseters Online

2 May 2001, one of the Australian casinos that was forced to close in December when Parliament passed a moratorium on online gaming, will be back. Peter Bridge, managing director of Lasseters Corp. Ltd., confirmed that AusVegas will be re-launched once regulatory issues are settled and the outcome of the federal government's proposed ban is clear.

Bridge told RGT Online that marketing plans are not yet complete, but that AusVegas will join Lasseters Online as the company's second virtual casino. Because it launched in April 1999, Lasseters Online was not covered by the moratorium, which in any event expires May 19. It's the only online casino that's still operating from Australia.

"We look at the Las Vegas Strip theory," Bridge said, "where you lose your dough in one casino and you feel unlucky and you go next door to the next casino. We're suggesting that's what players will be looking for. If you can control a couple of casinos on the Strip, well that's our business model. Whatever we do in the land-based business, we try to emulate in cyber space. That's in some way led to our success."

In the nine months ending March 30, Lasseters Online generated gaming revenue of AUD$10.9 million on turnover (handle) of AUD$192.7 million. [1 Australian Dollar = 0.51836 US Dollar]

The federal government wants to replace the moratorium with a ban, for Australians, on online gaming and wagering. Australian sites would be allowed to operate, taking bets from the rest of the world.

Bridge expects Parliament to approve the ban, with an exemption for sports and race wagering sites. But that would not interfere with Lasseters Online or the re-introduction of AusVegas, he said.

"We're very focused on the international market, not the domestic market," Bridge said.

Lasseters Corp. Ltd. is the new name for the combination of Lasseters Online and Gocorp Ltd., which owned AusVegas. Gocorp's shareholders approved the merger in a special meeting last week.

Privately held Lasseters Holdings, the parent of Lasseters Online, will maintain separate ownership of its land-based assets – a small casino in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and a convention center under development there

Paul Appleby, Gocorp's chief executive, has resigned from the company. Bridge said about six former employees of Gocorp remain with Lasseters Corp. Ltd., working from Gocorp's old offices on Australia's Gold Coast, near Brisbane.

Possible Relocation to Tasmania

Bridge said Lasseters Corp. Ltd. is studying regulations in the Australian state of Tasmania, and might decide to move there. The incentive would be the tax rate. Tasmania's gaming tax rate is only 4 percent. Lasseters Online has been paying 8 percent in gaming taxes to the Northern Territory.

AusVegas was taxed at a whopping 50 percent by Queensland, its home base for the few months that it operated last year. But Gocorp had also obtained a gaming license in Tasmania.

Bridge said the Tasmanian Gaming Commission is reviewing its player protection measures. One proposal under consideration by the commission, he said, is mandatory breaks in play. Casinos would be required to enforce a five-minute break for every hour that an online player gambles.

"These type of restrictions may be annoying to players," he said. And such a rule could raise all kinds of enforcement questions. For example, if a player stopped playing for a few minutes after 30 minutes of play, and then resumed play, could he or she be permitted to gamble for another hour, or would the player only have 30 minutes left before a required break?

Lasseters Online Will Now Be Part of a Public Company

Lasseters Holdings gets 75 percent of the stock in the new company. The balance goes to the old shareholders of Gocorp.

In addition to obtaining software developed by Gocorp, the combined company gets AUD$5 million in cash from Gocorp. That's all that's left from Gocorp's initial public offering last spring, when it raised AUD$20 million by selling 40 million shares at 50 cents a share.

Lasseters Holdings had also tried to go public last spring, but was unable to. So the merger provides a means for Lasseters to have its online operation be part of a public company.

The new board of directors consists of three members from Gocorp and six from Lasseters, including Bridge and the Tan brothers – Dato Jaya Tan, Kamal Tan and Tajuddin Tan. The Tans, who are based in Malaysia, acquired Lasseters Holdings in July 1997. Dato Jaya Tan is the chairman of the board of the new company.

Bridge was issued 1 million stock options in Lasseters Corp. Ltd. Fred Finch, also a Lasseters veteran, received 500,000 options. Other options are held by former Gocorp employees and by Lasseters Holdings.

Trading in Gocorp's stock was suspended after the moratorium was enacted in December. Shares had fallen to 10 cents at the time of the suspension. Bridge said he didn't know when stock in the new company would begin trading, or at what price.

The deal won't close, and the new stock begin trading, until final regulatory approvals from the governments of Queensland and the Northern Territory are received. That process could take several months. But Bridge said that if the deal is not completed by June 30, Lasseters Holdings has the right to walk away from it.

Lasseters Corp. Ltd. will begin business free of debt, and with a combined player base of more than 130,000, 5,000 of whom were players at AusVegas.

"The merged entity will have a strong track record for growth, a broad global player base and growing revenue stream. It will not carry the risk associated with a start-up technology company," Bridge said.

< Gaming News