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Casino Network Backers Roll the Dice

Executives at Casino and Gaming Television are rolling the dice against what they perceive as a large untapped market segment.

The fledgling service, which hopes to bow in fourth quarter 2004, is targeting the 53 million Americans who visit casinos annually, particularly males 21 to 34.

CGTV president and CEO Nickolas Rhodes, a former executive at Speedvision and Outdoor Life Network, said the channel would provided a forum to reach this coveted advertising group, as well as others interested in this world. Informational and educational components will center around five core programming categories: casino games, recreation, tournaments and events, sports and entertainment/nightlife.

Looking for digital placement, Rhodes said CGTV is seeking "very modest license fees" as it looks to bow with 1 million subs. The channel's target: 20 million subscribers within four years.

Although the service would not feature any transactional elements, David Hawk, the network's co-founder and founder of factoring company Global Financial Group, said CGTV is considering online extensions with MSOs that could include consumer contests for prizes.

Hawk said CGTV has "already raised eight figures" as part of a $75 million pot that will guide its launch and its early years. Robert Carlsson, CEO of 21 Capital Group Inc., is helping Hawk secure equity funding.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, CGTV has plans for offices in Chicago and New York, and a production facility in Las Vegas. "We're looking at 1,000 to 1,200 original hours as we get ready to launch," said Rhodes, noting the network will have a fast-paced, glitzy appeal and include programs from international sites like Monaco.

Hawk and Rhodes insist their network will fill a void, as gaming is well ingrained in the U.S. and throughout the world. They point to data from the American Gaming Association indicating that some $63 billion was legally wagered in the U.S. last year, and that seven out of 10 adult Americans participate in gaming of some kind.

Fueling that demand: 470 commercial casinos in 11 states and 320 Indian casinos in 29 states.

That's not to mention that 37 states have lotteries, 40 have pari-mutuel wagering and 46 offer charitable gaming.

They also cited the popularity of poker programming on Travel Channel and ESPN as evidence of the public's interest.