Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tropicana Casino in takeover bid from Columbia Entertainment

PHOENIX, May 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/
The Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City has announced it has received a takeover offer from Columbia Entertainment, the operator of several hotels including the Las Vegas Westin.

Aztar Corporation (NYSE: AZR) announced today that it has received an offer from Wimar Tahoe Corporation d/b/a Columbia Entertainment, the gaming affiliate of Columbia Sussex Corporation, to acquire Aztar in a merger transaction in which the holders of Aztar common stock would receive $53.00 per share in cash and the holders of Aztar's Series B preferred stock would receive a commensurate payment dictated by the terms of their securities. Columbia Sussex operates nearly 70 hotels and casinos around the country, including the Las Vegas Westin, resorts in the Grand Cayman Islands, and in New York state, hotels in Rochester and on Long Island.

Columbia Entertainment's offer stated that its offer will remain open until 12:00 noon (New York City time) on Wednesday, May 17, 2006 and reserved the right to revoke its offer in the event that Aztar's Board of Directors does not determine its offer to be a superior proposal under Aztar's merger agreement with Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. and notify Pinnacle of such determination by 10:00 p.m. (New York City time) onThursday, May 11, 2006.

The offer included a signed merger agreement and contemplates a substantial deposit, payable to Aztar in certain circumstances (including failure to obtain regulatory approvals), in the event that an executed merger agreement, if any, is terminated. The proposed merger agreement also provides for an increase in the purchase price at the rate of $0.00871 per share of Aztar common stock (and a commensurate increase per share of Aztar preferred stock) per day beginning six months after the signing of the merger agreement. Columbia Entertainment also provided a signed financing commitment letter.

Aztar's Board met tonight to preliminarily consider the offer by Columbia Entertainment and will continue to consider such offer. In considering the offer, Aztar's Board will take into account all relevant factors, including all regulatory matters, the likelihood that a transaction with Columbia Entertainment would actually be consummated and the anticipated timing of closing. Aztar cautions that there can be no assurance that Aztar's Board will determine that the offer from Columbia Entertainment constitutes a superior proposal under Aztar's merger agreement with Pinnacle.

Aztar's Board is not making any recommendation at this time with respect to the Columbia Entertainment offer, and there can be no assurance that Aztar's Board will approve any transaction with Columbia Entertainment or that a transaction will result.

As announced on May 5, 2006, Pinnacle and Aztar are party to an amended merger agreement, under which Pinnacle would acquire all of the outstandingcommon shares of Aztar for $51.00 per share, consisting of $47.00 in cash and $4.00 in Pinnacle common stock, subject to adjustment.

About Aztar Corporation
Aztar is a publicly traded company that operates Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Tropicana Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ramada Express Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada, Casino Aztar in Caruthersville, Missouri, and Casino Aztar in Evansville, Indiana.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New AGA Survey Offers In-Depth Profile of U.S. Internet Gamblers

Report Also Reveals Significant Growth Across Entire Industry

WASHINGTON, May 8 /PRNewswire/
The typical U.S. Internet gambler is under 40, college-educated, male and more affluent than his fellow citizens, according to results of a new survey of online gamblers included in the American Gaming Association's (AGA) 2006 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment. The report also includes comprehensive economic impact data on the U.S. commercial casino industry, which indicate the industry in 2005 generated more than $30 billion in gross gaming revenues for the first time ever.

According to the poll of Internet gamblers, conducted by Peter D. HartResearch Associates, Inc., fully 70 percent of respondents started gambling online within the past two years, indicating the growing popularity of this activity. And while Internet gamblers in the U.S. say they enjoy online gambling for its convenience, more than half (55 percent) believe online gaming companies find ways to cheat, and 46 percent believe their fellow players cheat. The survey also revealed a great deal of confusion about the legality of online gambling, with a mere 19 percent of respondents realizing - - or willing to admit -- that the activity currently is illegal in the U.S.

"Even though our member companies currently aren't involved in the online gaming market, and the overall percentage of Americans who gamble online is relatively small, there's no doubt this issue has captured the attention of the media, members of Congress and the American public," said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the AGA. "We strive to make each year's State of the States report the most comprehensive information resource not only on the current state of our industry, but the most significant emerging trends in gaming, so it was important that we take alook at this growing phenomenon."

In addition to the online polling results, the AGA's 2006 State of theStates survey includes detailed data on the economic impact of the U.S. commercial casino industry at the national and state level. The data show that the industry continued to exhibit strong growth in 2005, despite the tremendous challenges brought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last fall.

Last year, the 455 commercial casinos in 11 states generated $30.29 billion in gross gaming revenue, representing an increase of nearly 5 percent over 2004 revenue totals. Individual gaming markets also witnessed landmark success, with Las Vegas revenues surpassing $6 billion and Atlantic City revenues climbing above $5 billion for the first time.

Survey data also indicate the industry continued to be an important source of employment in the areas where it operates, providing more than 354,000 employees with wages totaling more than $12.6 billion, including benefits and tips. The industry also continued to be a major source of tax revenues, contributing $4.92 billion to state and local governments in2005, an increase of just fewer than 5 percent from 2004 totals.

State of the States also includes a detailed look at the growing economic impact of racetrack casinos, or racinos. In 2005, the 29 operational racetrack casinos in nine states generated $3.12 billion in gross gaming revenue, a more than 9 percent increase over 2004 figures. Racinos employed 17,000 people in 2005 and distributed $1.28 billion indirect gaming taxes to state and local governments.

"This year's survey confirms that the U.S. commercial casino industry has continued to grow despite the significant obstacles of the past year, and has become an integral component of America's entertainment culture," Fahrenkopf said. "With reconstruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast continuing at a rapid pace and new gaming markets expected to come online later this year, we look forward to even greater success this year."

This year's survey once again features a special section devoted to poker. The data indicate that the poker boom that started in 2004 is still going strong, with nearly one in five American adults (18 percent) again reporting they played poker last year. The opportunity to spend time with friends and family, followed by the skill and strategy involved in the game, are the top reasons people play poker, according to results of a national poll conducted by Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research. Poker revenues also continued to surge in 2005. In Nevada and New Jersey, the only commercial casino states that track poker revenue, U.S. casino visitors spent more than $207 million on organized poker last year, anamazing 37 percent increase over 2004 totals.

Survey results also indicate overall acceptability of casino gambling remains high, with nearly 80 percent of respondents saying it is acceptable for themselves or others. According to the poll, Americans also continue tooverwhelmingly view gambling as a question of personal choice (83 percent), and nearly three-quarters (72 percent) see casinos as a valuable part of acommunity's entertainment and tourism options.

The 2006 State of the States includes additional information tools andresources such as a pocket guide to key national and state economicstatistics and a glossary of often-confusing gaming terms.

To obtain a full copy of the 2006 State of the States, log on to

The American Gaming Association (AGA) is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. In addition to representing the interests of its members on federal legislative and regulatory issues, the AGA serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Integrated Button Timers Impove Home Games

Two different button timers are available for Texas Hold'em Poker Tournaments, one frm 3zilla and one from PJCC. The "ButtonTimer™ from 3zilla will benefit home poker games. The company, 3zilla LLC, announced today the introduction of what it claims to be the first of-its-kind Texas Hold Em patent pending original invention for the poker tournament arena -- the ButtonTimer™, an authentic casino dealer button with an integrated timer.

Interestingly, this "first of-its-kind" item is very similar to the Poker Dealer Button exclusively sold by PJCC for some time now. But the 3zilla product does have better styling than the PJCC product. An all in one dealer button and timer is a must for any Texas hold'em home game! Great for a casual home game.

The PJCC button functions as both a dealer button, and more importantly, a timer to let you know when to raise the blinds. The built in timer can be programmed in increments of 5 minutes, all the way up to 90 minutes. An alarm goes off to let you know that time has expired. Just press "PAUSE" to stop the alarm, and then press "REPLAY" to start the timer again at its predetermined time.

This will allow for a faster and more professional game setting at a nominal cost. The PJCC timer is slightly larger than a normal dealer button, fitting easily into your standard poker chip case. On the back of the dealer button/timer is printed the "Poker Hand Ranks", an added bonus for beginning players.

In contrast and to its credit, the 3zilla ButtonTimer™ has the same look, feel, and size of dealer buttons used in casinos today. Of course, it comes with one significant difference, it has a built-inprogrammable timer which keeps track of the time and alerts the players during tournament play when time has elapsed. The invention combines two poker accessories into one to be used during poker tournament play.

The poker industry as a whole has been named the fastest growing sport in the world. Television specials such as the World Series of Poker, theWorld Poker Tour, and Celebrity Poker Showdown have popularized the game, namely Texas Hold Em, to millions of new people. As a result, the number of poker games in casinos, online, and in homes has also grown rapidly resulting in record sales for poker chips and poker tournament accessories. Testing of the ButtonTimer™ throughout poker communities in Southern California has already generated significant interest and hundreds of pre-orders.

The ButtonTimer™ inventor states, "For many years now, my friends and I have held weekly poker games every Friday evening. During one of our many games, I noticed what a convenience it would be if the dealer button could serve as a timer to keep track of the rounds. Being a life long enthusiast, I put myself in the position of the poker player, did my due diligence, and came out with a well thought out design for the market. It's simple and easy touse and we believe you will soon see the ButtonTimer™ in every professional and amateur Texas Hold Em tournament." For more information or to purchase the ButtonTimer™, please visit

Friday, May 05, 2006

Casino goes over the edge with latest marketing stunt

Online Casino has become famous for over-the-top advertising ideas, but now it looks as if it's taken their reputation literally. Eleven cars decked out in signage were driven over a cliff in Missouri with the Pope, Virgin Mary, Moses, a Rabbi, a midget Elvis, and Michael Jackson looking on. originally won the Cliff-Diving eBay auction for $2500 to send only one car off the cliff. Local media were already all over the event, but in typical fashion of making things bigger and wilder, the number of cars was upped to eleven for a total of $25,000 spent. If 1000 spectators showed up to the event, the casino promised to give another $10,000 to Lafayette House, a local charity whose primary focus are mental health and substance abuse services.

The look-alike characters on hand for the event, including the Virgin Mary and Pope, are a mock tribute to the wild and outrageous marketing events that have thrust into the spotlight over the last few years. EBay purchases like the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich for $28,000, and Pope Benedict XVI's former VW Golf for approximately $250,000, have made headlines for the casino all over the world.

Setting the standard in marketing creativity, has devised some of the most exciting and outrageous advertising campaigns in the past few years. Items such as the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Britney Spears' Pregnancy Test, and William Shatner's Kidney Stone have garnered extensive worldwide media attention for the casino. has also used their items and marketing reach to raise awareness and over $1,000,000 for various charities worldwide.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

WPT Enterprises, Inc. Reports First Quarter 2006 Financial Results

LOS ANGELES, May 4 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/
WPT Enterprises, Inc.(Nasdaq: WPTE) today announced financial results for the first quarter ended April 2, 2006. Business highlights for the quarter included deliveryof six episodes of Season IV of the World Poker Tour(R) (WPT) television series, one episode of Season I of the Professional Poker Tour(TM) (PPT) television series, continued expansion of the WPT television show internationally, and further contribution from the Company's online gaming division,

Financial Results.
Revenues for the first quarter of 2006 were $6.5million, compared to $4.1 million in the same period in 2005, a 57% increase. The increase was primarily a result of the delivery in the first quarter of six episodes of Season IV of the WPT television series versus the delivery of five episodes of Season III in the same period in 2005, and the delivery of one episode of Season I of the PPT television series in thefirst quarter versus no episodes of the PPT delivered in the same period in 2005. The Company reported net earnings for the quarter of $3.6 million, or$0.17 per fully diluted share, compared to a net loss of $1.6 million, or $0.08 per share (without dilution), in the 2005 period. Net earnings in the first quarter of 2006 includes a realized pre-tax capital gain of $5.7 million associated with the sale of a portion of the Company's PokerTek investment, and reflects $1.6 million in share-based compensation expense recognized in accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting StandardsNo. 123 (SFAS No.123R) adopted in the first quarter.

"We are pleased with the progress we made in the first quarter. We continue to aggressively build the World Poker Tour brand, and during the quarter delivered the first episode of our new show, the Professional PokerTour, an extension of WPT poker branded entertainment," said Steve Lipscomb, President and CEO of WPT Enterprises. "In addition, we delivered six episodes of Season IV of the World Poker Tour, which continues to be well received. We also further strengthened the international distribution of our show, and are now licensed to broadcast in more than 150 countries and territories. Our online gaming business is moving forward, albeit a bitmore slowly than we had hoped as we address some technology issues, but we are pleased with the progress we are making in improving the website'stechnology platform. We are excited about WPTE's prospects in 2006, and are confident in our ability to continue to successfully execute our strategic plan."

Domestic television license revenues were $3.0 million in the firstquarter of 2006, an increase from $2.0 million in the first quarter of2005. The increase was due to the delivery of more television episodes during the quarter compared to the prior year period. International television licensing revenues increased to $0.9 million in the first quarter of 2006 from $0.4 million in the first quarter of 2005. The increase was due to having a greater number of international television distribution agreements in place during the quarter than in the prior year. Product licensing revenues decreased to $0.7 million in the first quarterof 2006 compared to $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2005. The decrease was due, in part, to lower license revenues from our lottery game partner, MDI, which were partially offset by increased mobile gaming sales from Hands-On Mobile (formerly Mforma). Online gaming, the Company's newest division, generated revenues of $0.9 million in the first quarter of 2006 compared to $0.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Cost of revenues decreased to $2.4 million in the first quarter of 2006 from $3.2 million in the first quarter of 2005. The decrease was primarily due to lower recognized PPT production costs, as the Company began capitalizing these costs in the first quarter of 2006 versus previously expensing them. During the quarter, cost of revenues associated with the PPT was $0.1 million compared to $1.4 million in the prior year quarter. Cost of revenues associated with the WPT series was $1.6 million in the first quarter of 2006 compared to $1.5 million in the first quarter of2005. Additionally, cost of revenues in the first quarter of 2006 included approximately $0.2 million of non-cash compensation expenses related to consultant stock options compared to $0.4 million in the first quarter of 2005, due primarily to changes in the Company's stock price.

Overall gross margins were 63% in the first quarter of 2006 compared to22% in the first quarter of 2005. Domestic television licensing margins were 44% in the first quarter compared to negative 60% in the same periodof 2005, primarily due to the expensing of PPT production costs in 2005. Increased revenues from international television distribution and the Company's online gaming operations helped contribute to the higher overall gross margins in 2006. Selling and administrative expenses increased to$5.1 million in the first quarter of 2006 compared to $2.8 million in thefirst quarter of 2005. The increase was primarily due to an additional $1.5 million of share-based compensation expense resulting from the implementation of SFAS No. 123R, with the remaining difference due to increased headcount and legal fees incurred during the first quarter of2006 associated with development, growth and regulatory compliance costs. For the balance of 2006, excluding future stock grants, the Company expects charges for share-based compensation under SFAS No. 123R to beapproximately $0.7 million each quarter.

At April 2, 2006, the Company had no debt, and total cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments available of approximately $39.6million.

Revenues for the second quarter of 2006 are expected to be in the range of $10.5 - $11.0 million. The Company expects to deliver the final ten episodes of Season IV of the WPT and nine episodes of Season I of the PPTin the second quarter of 2006. Additionally, the Company expects to deliver the first four episodes of Season V of the WPT and the remaining fourteen episodes of Season I of the PPT during the second half of 2006. Margins forthe PPT will be higher in 2006 than in subsequent years as certainproduction costs have already been expensed. The Company expects to continue to maintain the current level of sales and marketing expenses related to its online gaming website,, until it transitions to an improved technology platform.

PPT Business Update.
On May 1, 2006, the Travel Channel (TRV) notified the Company that it had chosen to not exercise its option for Season II and subsequent seasons of the PPT. The PPT's first season, which includes 24 two- hour episodes, has already been filmed and is scheduled to air on TRV beginning in July 2006. The Company will immediately begin discussions to find a new broadcast partner for the PPT going forward.

About WPT Enterprises, Inc.
WPT Enterprises, Inc. (Nasdaq: WPTE) is engaged in the creation ofinternationally branded entertainment and consumer products driven by thedevelopment, production, and marketing of televised programming based ongaming themes. WPTE is the creator of the World Poker Tour(R), a televisionshow based on a series of high-stakes poker tournaments that airs on theTravel Channel in the United States and more than 150 markets globally.With the WPT in its fifth season, WPTE has launched a second series on theTravel Channel, the Professional Poker Tour(TM), which focuses on the playof poker's leading stars. WPTE currently licenses its brand to companies inthe business of poker equipment and instruction, apparel, publishing,electronic and wireless entertainment, DVD/home entertainment, casinogames, and giftware. The Company is also engaged in the sale of corporatesponsorships. In addition, WPTE's licensee, WagerWorks, Inc., operates aWPT-branded online gaming website,, which features an onlinepoker room and an online casino with a broad selection of slots and tablegames. Although any Internet user can access via the WorldWide Web, the website does not permit bets to be made from players in theU.S. and other restricted jurisdictions. For show information, tools forimproving poker play, and other WPT news, fans may log on to WPT Enterprises, Inc. is a majority ownedsubsidiary of Lakes Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: LACO). Photos and mediainformation can be found online at: (WPTEF)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 Teams With Brother Derek for the Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 3 /PRNewswire/
Less than a week after unveiling its newest online horse racing software, digital entertainment announced that it has signed an exclusive contract to sponsor Brother Derek, the current favorite for the 132nd running of the KentuckyDerby on Saturday.

In a move that marks the first partnership of its kind,'s brand will be visible to thousands of spectators during Derby weekend at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. will be holding onsite events and will present a $25,000 check to Brother Derek's trainer, Dan Hendricks, in support of a charity to be named by Hendricks.

"Our involvement in an event of such magnitude clearly demonstrates our desire to play a role in supporting America's racing community," says Calvin Ayre, Founder and CEO of, and the recent cover subject of Forbes' "Billionaires" issue. " Plenty of excitement surrounds Brother Derek. After having won the Santa Anita Derby, he's the betting favorite for the Kentucky Derby and for good reason. We anticipate one heck of a weekend."

The Brother Derek racing team is comprised of owner Cecil Peacock, trainer Dan Hendricks and jockey Alex Solis, and is managed by Florida-based Elite Consulting.

Solis, a native of Panama City, has won 20 meet riding titles, including six consecutive meet titles during 1996-97. In 2005, he earned $9,647,743 from 729 mounts, good for 14th place nationally. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby three out of four years with Captain Bodgit in1997, Victory Gallop in 1998 and Aptitude in 2000.

Hendricks has saddled winners of nearly 70 stakes, among them almost 30 graded events, including sending out Smooth Player to upset Excellent Meeting in the 1999 Hollywood Oaks (Grade I). Brother Derek will be Hendricks' first Derby starter.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with one of America's fastest growing digital entertainment brands," Hendricks says. " will bring significant attention to our sport. We certainly look forward to a strongand lasting relationship."

Brother Derek is the 3/1 favorite heading into the Derby and leads the field in graded stakes earnings with almost $1.1 million. Nineteen other thoroughbreds will challenge Brother Derek in his bid to become the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since 1962. Lawyer Ron, winner of six in a row, and $940,800 in graded stakes earnings, and Barbaro, undefeated in six career starts, with $750,000 in graded stakes earnings are considered to be his primary competitors.

For all of's racing lines, see

About, located in San Jose, Costa Rica, is federally licensed by the Costa Rican and UK governments. Founder and CEO Calvin Ayre, who is recognized as the true pioneer of online gambling and a world authority on branding in the digital entertainment industry, was featured on the cover of Forbes magazine's best-selling "Billionaires" issue in March 2006. is the top-ranked US facing online gambling brand,with highest site traffic amongst multi-product US gaming web sites, according to Hitwise., valued at over US $1 billion and ranked inthe Power 10 online companies by eGaming Review, processed $7 billion in wagers in 2005. The Marketing Conference, will take place at the Wynn Las Vegas, July 23-26,2006, attracting the leaders of the online gambling industry. Bodog Entertainment Group also includes a music label, Bodog Music, an online magazine, Bodog Nation, a television production unit and further properties coming soon.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Deal - Burt Reynolds in Poker Movie

LOS ANGELES, April 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The WORLD POKER TOUR(R) will get its first Hollywood close-up with a starring role in the upcoming "Deal," filming this month in New Orleans. WPT fans will ultimately get to see hosts Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten and Courtney Friel playing themselves, alongside the film's stars Burt Reynolds and Bret Harrison.

Produced by Michael Arata and Louisiana-based Crescent City Pictures,"Deal," directed by Gil Cates Jr., can be characterized as "The Color of Money" meets the poker world. It tells the story of an ex-gambler played by Reynolds, who teaches a hot-shot college student how to "play the player," instead of just the cards. Bret Harrison, who stars as the college student/online wiz, is the star of Fox Network's comedy "The Loop." The film concludes at the WPT World Championship(TM).

Veteran actor Charles Durning is part of the cast, along with poker aficionado Shannon Elizabeth and WPT stars Phil "The Unabomber" Laak and Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari.

"Deal" will film its WPT scenes immediately after the April 18-24, 2006 WPT World Championship(TM), the $12-$15 million finale to the 17-event WORLD POKER TOUR Season IV. At the close of the tournament, after the new WPT World Champion is crowned at Bellagio in Las Vegas, and awarded his $3+ million first prize, the set will be loaded up for transport on the WPT 18-wheeler and trucked down to New Orleans.

"We are very excited about the WORLD POKER TOUR leaping from the smallscreen to the big screen," says Steve Lipscomb, founder and CEO of WPT Enterprises, Inc. "'Deal' will bring our enormously popular show on the Travel Channel to an even greater audience and we hope that it continues to fuel the explosion of poker worldwide."

Producer: Steve Austin
Director: Gil Cates, Jr.
Writers: Marc Weinstock & Gil Cates, Jr.
Casting Directors: Barbara Fiorentino
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Shannon Elizabeth, Mary McDonnell, Mimi Rogers, Jennifer Tilly, Brett Harrison, and James Woods

Movie Synopsis
Set against the world of high stakes poker, DEAL follows the story of TOMMY (Burt Reynolds), an ex-gambler who meets up with ALEX, a hot-shot, card playing college student and teaches him to “play the player”, and not the cards. After a falling out, the aging pro returns to the game he left 30 years ago and now must face his protégé in the finals of the world series of poker.