Aristocrat vows to take Las Vegas

By Stephen Mayne
January 17, 2008

The following story was published in The Daily Telegraph after the Aristocrat Leisure AGM on November 10, 1998.

Shareholders in the world's second biggest poker machine manufacturer, Aristocrat Leisure, hit the jackpot again yesterday when it revealed first quarter profit had risen by more than the impressive 21 per cent gain in the previous year.

And the company has vowed to storm the Nevada market which has 240,000 of the 450,000 US poker machines.

"We must go to Nevada and we will," chairman Dr Frank Burke shareholders at the annual meeting.

"It is a test of our manhood to be there." Dr Burke said Aristocrat had "absolutely overwhelmed" world leader IGT in Minnesota and half of all US sales were now Australian-style video machines.

However, the company must come through an "intense" licensing regime which it hopes will be completed within 12 months.

"They (the Las Vegas regulators) come here and they literally live with us," Dr Burke told shareholders.

Investors also passed a series of complex and contentious resolutions, including one which strengthens the company's ability to seize and dispose of shares owned by someone not deemed suitable by any regulatory authority.

The various members of the founding Ainsworth family still own about 52 per cent of Aristocrat. However, Dr Burke said reports that founder Len Ainsworth and son Simon, Aristocrat's second largest shareholder with 9 per cent, are planning to set up a rival operation were not of any concern.

Aristocrat shares rose 5c to a new record of $5.40 yesterday and are up from $3.80 since September 1 when it revealed an impressive hike in annual profit from $23.3 million to $28.2 million.

New chief executive Des Randall painted a confident picture and shareholders strongly supported an issue of 500,000 share options which are already almost $1 million in profit given the pricing of $3.53 was based on the five days leading up to June 1.

Crown casino believes that about 30,000 NSW poker machines are obsolete and Mr Randall confirmed yesterday the strong local replacement market.

Aristocrat is also gaining ground in Australia, lifting its market share in casinos from 37 per cent to 70 per cent over the past two years.

Its market share jumped from 54 per cent to 65 per cent over the same period -it now has about 110,000 of the 172,000 Australian machines and about 168,000 of the world's 800,000 pokies, or 21 per cent.