While many religious groups frown up gambling as a form of entertainment, the Hindu community has taken offense not to the recreational activity itself but rather to one particular Slot game that has been deemed highly offensive due to its use of one of their gods in a Lord Shiva-themed Video Slot entitled “Shiva”.
Shiva is a 5-Reel, 50-Payline Video Slot developed by the German-based game developerMerkur Division of Espelkamp, the Gauselmann Group. It includes a host of popular features including Scatters, Wilds, Free Spins and two Gamble Features, but the theme labeled “mystic, Asian, Indian” uses images of the Hindu god, Lord Shiva, as well as culturally stereotypical images such as monkeys, cobras and the TajMahal, and can be played at numerous online casinos around the world.
According to the Updated News website in Canada, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, labeled the game as “highly inappropriate”. He went on to urge the company and its chairman, Paul Gauselmann, to make a public apology and withdraw the game from its collection. The Hindu statesmen also reminded the developers that, “Hinduism [is] the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled.”
This is not the first time this year that Zed has had to speak out against symbols and imagery of the Hindu faith being used in a trivialized manner. Brookvale Union, an Australian brewery based in New South Wales, sold a ginger beer that included images of the two Hindu deities, Ganesh and Lakshmi, in its label design, along with various other Hindu symbols. As reported by the Kemmannu News Network, Zed stated that, “Hindus were for free expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more, but faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it tormented the devotees… businesses should be respectful to various faith traditions.”
Brookvale Union were immediately contrite and offered an apology that was accepted by Rajan Zed on behalf of Hindus around the world. They released their apology in an Australian trade magazine, stating that the brewery had “apologized for any distress caused and begun the process of removing the images from the website. We’re lovers, not fighters, we want to make it right… We are now focused on redesigning the Ginger Beer which hopefully all can be happy with!”
Merkur Division of Espelkamp, the Gauselmann Group, on the other hand, has of yet not issued any comment on the offensive Slot game.
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Microgaming has long been one of the premiere software developers for online gaming sites in the history of the medium. The company's software powers a huge number of the most popular Internet casinos in Australia as well as in Europe and worldwide. Never one to rest on its own laurels, Microgaming recently announced that it is embracing innovation by offering a wide variety of new and exciting features for players in 2015 and beyond.
The first new technology that Microgaming has in store for players in 2015 is called "Fun View." It's a complete overhaul of the company's existing poker table software that is optimized for use on widescreen devices. When Internet gaming first rose to prominence, most home computers had attached monitors in the 4:3 "square" aspect ratio. Now, most monitors and even mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is much more of a rectangular shape.
"Fun View" not only optimizes the interface to take advantage of the newest hardware, but also it offers a complete visual redesign, including crisp fonts, better-looking chips and cards and even graphics that are rendered in a 3D high resolution.
"Fun View" is currently in a public beta program across most of the online casinos that are a part of the MPN platform, but it is expected to roll out to all sites that support Microgaming software in early 2015.
The world’s largest international bar association, the Association of Corporate Counsel recently published a comprehensive analysis of Australian wagering licensure that reveled a considerable amount of regulatory overlap in the national gaming industry. For years, political watchdog organizations such as the Rights Party of Australia have identified a problematic “regulatory creep” that significantly restricts the activities of all wagering operators that attempt to conduct business within Australian federal boundaries.
Numerous regulatory authorities currently have jurisdiction over Australian companies that support gambling operations. These regulators include each operator’s primary licensing body, its official State/Territory gambling regulator, all pertinent racing and sports controlling bodies, and various non-gambling-specific bodies such the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. In many instances, two or more statutory organizations may enforce requirements that relate to the exact same gambling area or issue.
For example, in 2014, wagering operators faced a number of new challenges from the New South Wales thoroughbred racing regulating body, Racing NSW. The organization introduced a number of new approval conditions, including restrictions concerning the advertising of gambling products and provisions that require operators to accept certain minimum bets. These new stipulations cover the exact same ground as existing requirements that are already in effect under licensing bodies such as the Northern Territory Racing Commission and under federal public policies such as the Australian Consumer Law.
In 2015, Australia will host both the Asian Cup and the Cricket World Cup. By loosening existing restrictions in federal gambling laws and regional licensing stipulations, the country stands to benefit by capturing capitol that would otherwise go to offshore wagering operations.
As part of a comprehensive study of gaming operators throughout the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, the international economic information provider Fitch Ratings recently predicted a four percent increase in gross Australian gambling revenue for the 2015 financial year.
Fitch Ratings is an established authority in the fields of market statistics and independent analysis that has been publishing reliable results for more than a century. Maintaining a truly intercontinental purview, the organization is co-owned by the Paris-based Fimalac and New York-based Hearst corporations.
Fitch’s report on Australian gambling found that, while the gaming industry is expected to grow overall, this growth will be unevenly distributed throughout the country. A December 15 article by The Star Online indicates that the performances of individual Australian casinos largely depend on the macroeconomic outlooks of the states in which they are located. However, there is currently a significant influx of new casinos and new investments in existing casinos throughout the country.
The projected development in the Australian region mirrors similar casino and gambling growth in other APAC markets. After a relatively weak performance in 2014, the APAC gaming industry is expected to bottom out early in the next year and then make a dramatic rebound as negative trends dissipate and new projects are launched. However, not all APAC countries will share in this trend toward general prosperity. Overall gambling revenue in Macao, for example, is expected to fall by four percent in 2015.
Citing ongoing political momentum to legalize casinos throughout the APAC, Fitch Ratings predicts continuing growth far beyond 2015. Like the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Russia, Australia is expected to open several new casinos over the next five years.
A large number of Australian citizens reported significant gambling problems after taking a prescription drug that was commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless leg syndrome (RLS).
The drug, manufactured and sold by the multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer under the commercial name Cabaser, has also been linked to multiple cases of sexual addiction. In total, nearly 200 Australians allegedly developed problematic dependencies on sex and/or gambling as a result of long time Cabaser use.
In the beginning of December, Pfizer agreed to settle with 160 Australians who took Cabaser to simulate the effects of dopamine within the human brain. A leading dopamine agonist, the drug mimicked the effects of dopamine to reduce bodily tremors and help patients regain control over their physical movements. Between 1996 and 2010, Cabaser was widely prescribed to individuals who suffer from Parkinson's disease and RLS.
The multi-million-dollar Pfizer settlement comes on the heels of a class action suit that accused the company of blatant negligence after failing to warn consumers about the drug’s dangerous side effects. Speaking through its directing partner Allanah Goodwin, the law firm of Arnold Thomas & Becker alleged that Cabaser caused people to go on "gambling and shopping binges and engage in bizarre hypersexual behaviour without realising it was a side effect.”
Pat Galea is one of the victims of Cabaser’s unique and troubling side effects. After taking Cabaser for nearly 10 years, the 65-year-old Australian resident lost approximately $700,000 on poker machines. Her behavior at the time was certainly out of character. "I'd go any spare moment I was not working,” she reported. “If it was payday I'd put most of it through and then realise I've got bills and rent and petrol to pay. As soon as I had any money, it was gone."
After pulling out of an agreement to build a $350 million, 450-room resort and entertainment complex in the Sri Lankan “commercial capital” of Colombo, James Packer has been officially declared unwelcome by the newly elected government. When the country’s new Prime Minister found out that Packer had scrapped his Sri Lankan development plans, he had a caustic response for the Australian millionaire.
“Packer says he will not come,” said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a recent statement. “Who asked you to come?” He went on to make his intent absolutely clear. “Please don't come - not in this lifetime.” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe came to power earlier this month when President Maithripala Sirisena rose to prominence. Maithripala is backed by the country's main party of Buddhist monks, an influential group that strongly opposes any and all plans to lure gaming companies to Colombo.
The owner of Crown Resorts Limited, James Packer, had planned to include a casino in the recently scrapped resort development. The former Sri Lankan government had approved three casino construction projects, including one for Crown Resorts. When the new government blocked those developments, Packer refused to build the planned luxury resort without its accompanying casino. Packer also objected to the new government’s decision to revoke a promised concession that would have saved him approximately $1 billion in 10-year tax breaks.
If Packer is upset about Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s statements, he certainly isn’t showing it. On February the 2nd, he was seen grinning broadly at a press conference at the newly-opened City of Dreams Casino in the Philippine capital of Manila.
In the 1940’s and 50’s Havanna was a playground for wealthy Americans, a tropical paradise lined with palm trees and glossy casinos. That all changed when the Castro regime came to power in the late 1950’s, of course. However, following President Barack Obama’s efforts to thaw US-Cuba relations, some casino executives are beginning to eye the island nation once again.
Nick Sortal of the Florida-based news publication, Sun Sentinel, has posed the question with the view of how it might affect Florida in terms of competition for the casino and hospitality industries. Bob Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University professor and expert in gambling issues, told the Sentinel, “I don’t think there’s any question every casino executive in the United States and beyond is thinking of a plan to get into Cuba.”
As Jarvis noted, it was Fidel Castro who brought an end to the glitzy and often romanticized era of Cuban casinos. There were a total of thirteen casino establishments, all of which were forced to close down or move elsewhere immediately after Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s view was that gambling was a ‘sin industry’ and a ‘criminal waste of the nation’s financial resources’. A number of those casinos relocated to the rapidly growing city of Las Vegas in Nevada.
The Sun Sentinel put the question to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, owners of Hard Rock Casinos and an active international expansion program, Hard Rock International. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said simply, “Way too early to comment.”
Another expert on the industry, Michael Pollock, managing director for research firm Spectrum Gaming, told the Sun Sentinel that casino’s won’t appear in Cuba anytime soon. He said, “So many steps would need to be taken before it becomes a realistic pursuit. It would require a stable, open government, a relatively transparent regulatory system, a lot of capital investment… A lot has changed since Cuba was a gambling destination, not the least of which a lot other islands offer gambling, and it’s so prevalent in the United States.”
However, there is another, more optimistic view. Nelson I Rose, author, columnist and world-renowned gambling expert, writes, “Castro’s communist regime may have accidentally contributed something else to the speedy rebirth of casinos. There has been so little economic progress on the island that apparently the ornate buildings constructed in the 1950s to house the mob’s casinos are still standing, waiting to be refurbished and reopened, under new management.”
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