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Best of John Grochowski
The Casino and Gaming Television Network13 January 2004
I was near the end of a conversation with Robert Carlsson, co-founder and co-chairman of the planned Casino and Gaming Television network, and he had a question.
"What do you think of the idea?"
I told him I'd long thought an all-gaming cable network was inevitable. Three times in the last several years, I've spoken with people who wanted to do a weekly casino TV show. Each time, plans broke down over financing and lack of backing from advertisers. But now, with the success of "The World Poker Tour" and many Las Vegas-oriented shows on the Travel Channel, the time seems right for something bigger.
"The World Poker Tour attracts avid players, and players who don't know anything about gaming," says Carlsson, a Chicagoan who as an investment banker is the founder and CEO of the Capital 21 Group Inc., and also is managing director of BCI Aircraft in Chicago.
"My mother," he says, "who hasn't been to Las Vegas casinos in 20-some years, loves the Poker Tour series. It's entertainment that spans ages 21 to 91" - although surveys commissioned by CGTV have convinced Carlsson the channel can deliver a valuable 21-to-34-year-old male demographic to advertisers.
"Casinos and gaming companies are definitely going to want to advertise on this network. But we're not going to be the network of any specific casino. The same kinds of advertisers who are with ESPN will want to advertise with us - financial-services companies, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, as well as beer companies. We're not just going to be a gaming network, but focus on the nightlife, the lifestyle and entertainment, too."
Some of the programming will be gaming instruction, and Carlsson looks for presentation "with a comedic flair, making it fun while showing how to player better or to learn new games." But that's just a small portion of the mix, which breaks down into casino, recreation, tournaments and events, sports and entertainment categories. It won't all be in Las Vegas. "This is not a Las Vegas channel," Carlsson says. "We'll celebrate the world of gaming, from Atlantic City to riverboats to Europe to the Bahamas."
While CGTV goes about rounding up investors and advertisers, sifting through programming options and talking with cable providers, plans are to go on the air in the fourth quarter of 2004. "That's a conservative plan," says Carlsson, who hopes the debut can come sooner. Whenever it comes, he's confident the time is right for the channel to carve a strong niche in the cable marketplace.
TAXING DILEMMA: Back on the Global Gaming Expo beat - which I'll wrap up next week with a look at new table games - I took time out from going to seminars and walking the display floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center to chat with David Carruthers, the CEO of BetOnSports.com, an online gaming company whose primary revenue source is sports betting, although it also has casino games. The 12-year-old company has operating centers in the United Kingdom, Antigua and the Dominican Republic. Customers come from 57 countries, although about 90 percent reside in the United States. The average deposit, he says, is $40 - average punters looking for a little action, rather than high rollers.
Carruthers wants to be taxed. He wants to be regulated. In short, he wants his business to be legitimized.
"I think it is time for this industry to unite and speak with one voice to begin the steady march to regulation and legitimization of this business," he said. " I think that the expertise in this industry and the leadership of Las Vegas can lead American companies to be successful on a global platform. We at BetOnSports would welcome the opportunity to bring our business back on shore and pay legitimate taxes and have an opportunity to play this game here on a level playing field. This way, our customers win, the revenue agencies win and we win."
The legal status of online gaming in this country remains shaky at best. I mentioned a recent case in which PayPal, which facilitates online credit card transactions, was fined for handling transactions with online casinos, and another in which a North Dakota man was prosecuted for betting on sports online - the only case I know of in which a player has been prosecuted.
"I think the treatment of PayPal is bizarre. It worries me that people are so short-sighted that they want to remove the mere mechanisms that provide transparency and accurate audit of transactions," Carruthers said.
As for the prosecuted player, who had to pay a $500 administrative fee and was given a deferred sentence, Carruthers said, "If that player had bet less than $500, he wouldn't have even been noticed. He registered his winnings from online gaming on his tax return."
It's that old bugaboo, taxes, again. The player was living up to his legal responsibility by reporting his winnings and was prosecuted for his trouble. Carruthers hopes for the day he has a legal responsibility.
"I think gaming responsibly," he says, "by responsible adults in a responsible way - there's nothing wrong with that."
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski