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Strip casino accused

The Tropicana hotel-casino was sued by a Silicon Valley-based firm, which accused the Las Vegas Strip property of infringing its cash dispensing machine patents.

The lawsuit was filed April 12 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and was announced Thursday by USA Payments Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

USA Payments says it controls a patent used to assist casino customers attempting to withdraw cash at an ATM machine using a credit card. When a customer attempts to withdraw more cash than the card’s daily limit, the technology automatically converts the transaction to a debit transaction. It can also conduct the transaction as a credit card cash advance that doesn’t require a personal identification number.

USA Payment claims the Tropicana is operating ATMs that essentially perform the same function, and therefore are violating this patent. The Tropicana is owned and operated by Aztar Corp. of Phoenix.

USA Payments licenses this technology to Global Cash Access of Las Vegas, which uses the technology in its “Casino Cash Plus 3-in-1 ATMs.”

The Tropicana declined comment on the lawsuit.

TV shows at risk

Top-rating television shows including Survivor and Who Wants to be a Millionaire could be the accidental victims of laws designed to ban internet gambling, broadcasters have warned.

The Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) said laws currently before parliament could also spell the end for viewer hotlines attached to shows such as Popstars and Home and Away.

The government plans to ban Australian gambling companies taking bets from Australian punters, although sports and race betting may be spared after negotiations with minor parties.

But FACTS said many television shows and promotions involving prizes, an element of chance or audience interaction could also be caught under the wide definition of an interactive gambling service.

“The viewing public of Australia will suffer if many of the existing and familiar forms of entertainment are prohibited,” FACTS said in a submission to a Senate inquiry.

“If the bill is not amended it may no longer be possible to run a catch of the series or stroke of the season contest.

“Many viewers would find this an unacceptable intrusion into what they see as their right to long established and harmless forms of entertainment which they consider enhances the television viewing experience.”

The list of programs and promotions potentially affected includes home viewer hotlines on Popstars and Home and Away; Lotto and Powerball; game shows Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link, and Wheel of Fortune; The Mole, Scream Test and Survivor; and promotions such as Seven’s Adopt a Dot.

FACTS also warned the laws could harm the local television production industry.

“If much of the existing Australian content, such as our diverse range of game shows, are classed as interactive gambling services, holders of commercial television broadcasting licences will need to find alternative content,” it said.

Two Vegas casinos

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Two Las Vegas casinos are betting they’ll win more customers by ditching the image of cigar-smoking men in visors drinking beer and throwing poker chips.

The Mirage and Bellagio megaresorts, which run two of the Strip’s busiest poker rooms, will ban cigar smoking starting Friday, the Las Vegas Sun reports.

Nonsmoking gaming areas have already caught on elsewhere. The famed Trump Taj Mahal poker room in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is smokefree, as is the card room at Foxwoods in Connecticut.

But in high stakes Nevada — where a third of all adults smoke — cigar aficionados have always had the last puff. Nonsmokers have had to settle for nonsmoking table games scattered across casino floors, and the odd nonsmoking seat next to a poker dealer.

Online gambling regulations

Following on from the Electronic Commerce Act 2000 and the UK’s first case of database infringement, the Government has just published a review of the regulations on online gambling which will have implications for online shopping and data protection in general. Helen Brown talks to Barry Fishley, the IT partner for Weil Gotshal and Manges about the new proposals …

“The government review of online gambling regulation, published this week, may not be noticed by too many lawyers,” says Barry Fishley, partner in Weil Gotshal IT department, “but it may have implications for all sorts of online shopping and data protection issues. It seems to me that it’s all good news for the consumer.” This is good news, when you consider that an estimated £500 billion will be gambled online around the world.

“The review follows directly on from last year’s Electronic Commerce Act, and is pretty sensible. They’re aiming to regulate and clarify things as far as is practical.”

“One of the interesting angles,” says Fishley, “is that they have said that they will be testing all of the UK online gambling systems for resilience and security. It will be interesting to see what standards they will be requiring and also, if this is going to be done by the Gambling Commission. Then we need to ask who’s going to finance that commission. It would be a pretty major operation.”

The other issue raised is that of data and database protection. Fishley explains that “This review reinforces the Data Protection Act 1998 in that it makes clear that information given to online gambling operators cannot be passed on to other companies without consent. For example, if you ask for credit with an online gambler, your details would be of particular interest to other credit advisors and lenders.”

“Although we will have to wait for more details as the government take this forward,” says Fishley, “this heightened awareness of data protection and consent implied by the review does also apply to any online shopping sites and so on. Of course, if your data protection rights are infringed in this way the level of compensation an individual could claim would be relatively small.”

This review comes just after a ruling on the UK’s first case to consider a contested claim of database infringement. The British Horseracing Board Limited (BHB) maintain a detailed database of racing fixtures. David Meredith, partner at Kemp Little (a firm which advises online gambling operators) says that, “The BHB receives around £1million per year in database license fees from the racing industry and the media. Bookmakers can access this information indirectly from data feeds provided by the BHB’s licensees.”