Gambling net bets on young men

Web backers tout gaming demos, big coin

NEW YORK — The entrepreneurs behind a proposed cable network devoted to the casino and gaming industry say that people spent more money on gambling in 2002 than ponied up for movies, videos, DVDs, music and books combined.

Nickolas Rhodes, president and CEO of the Casino & Gaming TV (CGTV), the network’s official moniker, said that, even more significantly, a sizable proportion of those high — and not-so-high — rollers are men 21-34 years old.

That’s the demographic Rhodes is stressing in his pitch to cable operators and satellite distributors because young-adult males are the ones who buy digital services, high-speed modems and cable telephony. The total outlay for gambling last year came to $63 billion, CGTV said, quoting figures from the American Gaming Assn.

But there’ll be no actual wagering on CGTV because gambling laws are a crazy quilt, varying from state to state. TV shows encouraging interactive gambling would plunge the network into a judicial labyrinth, which could damage CGTV right from its opening launch, now planned for sometime in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Another reason for CGTV to stay away from on-air gambling transactions, said Rhodes, is that CGTV “would be setting itself up as a competitor to the gaming industry.” That’s the last thing the network wants because “we’ll be dependent on the casinos for support and promotion,” he said.

Without the lure of actual gambling as a magnet, CGTV is taking a chance that young men will gravitate to shows like the following, which the network has in development:

  • “CGTV University,” which gives a forum to gambling experts, who will offer tips to people who want to become better players at poker, blackjack roulette and other casino games.

  • “Winning Hand,” which invites the most articulate poker winners to share their insights into how the game is played, illustrated with lots of taped footage of actual competitions.

  • “Dusk ’til Dawn,” a travelogue of the most high-octane night spots in cities throughout the world.

  • “Entertainment Insider,” a showcase for casino-nightclub performers of special appeal to men 21-34.

David Hawk, a venture capitalist who’s working with Rhodes to get CGTV launched, said the network’s business plan calls for rolling the dice to the tune of $75 million. Up to 65% of that total would go to producing programming for CGTV.

Rhodes said five-year deals are on the table to cable operators and satellite distribs. The monthly cost to the operators would be as low as 6-to-8 cents per subscriber, but the ops’ cable systems would have to place CGTV on what Rhodes calls digital basic, the group of networks that subscribers get automatically when they order a digital-cable box.

CGTV’s corporate offices are in Los Angeles, with branches in Las Vegas, Chicago and Omaha.

The L.A.-based Rhodes is a cable-network veteran who was present at the creation of Speedvision (now called Speed Network) and the Outdoor Life Network.

Hawk, co-chairman of CGTV, is the founder of Global Financial Group, and a partner in Hawk Investment Co. and a venture-capital firm called JAD Inc.

The other CGTV chairman is Robert Carlsson, managing director of BCI Aircraft Leasing.

William Keenan, former senior VP and chief financial officer of E! Entertainment TV, is CGTV’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

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