BY MARK MAYER
Depending on who you wish to believe, a 24-hour gaming channel could become reality early next year, or not at all.
"I think CGTV (Casino Gaming Television) is realistic," said Nick Rhodes, who launched Fox Sports and the Outdoor Life channels. "For it to happen, you have to develop a product that is compelling to distributors."
Rhodes announced at last week’s Global Gaming Expo that a network doesn’t happen overnight, but could possibly hit the airwaves in the first half of 2005.
"It should start in a few million homes and then we will add four to five million homes per year," he said. "I’ll be very involved in the process of gaining distribution."
Rhodes admitted that some areas of the country, such as Utah, would probably perceive negatively the subject matter from a gaming channel.
"It comes down to credibility and viability of the product, which we think we have," Rhodes said. "The top 25 major markets are our targets with a few exceptions."
CGTV would program casino games, sports handicapping, upcoming entertainment, nightlife, and live events.
"In the sports category, we would not be telling people how to wager," Rhodes said. "It’s going to be journalism and information, with a heavy emphasis on fantasy sports — the kind of sports wagering that won’t run afoul of legislation or those against betting. Prognosticating is not our business."
Rhodes said the network would show the lines on football games and didn’t see a problem with the FCC.
"So long as the shows originate` from Nevada, where sports betting is legal, I don’t see a problem," he said. "The lines are on virtually every existing major NFL show anyway."
Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and head of Huntington Press, is not nearly as optimistic about a 24-hour gaming channel.
"I think the idea is tremendous, but I’d make a line against that timetable," said Curtis, who also appeared on the G2E panel. "If anyone has a shot at this, it would be an established network like the Game Show Network (GSN).
"The economics of today’s cable system make starting from scratch too costly," Curtis continued. "Just like you can’t get a casino on the Strip for under a billion these days. I think the numbers might be greater."
Curtis, who is a former New York stock broker who came to Las Vegas to play in blackjack tournaments, said he thinks a channel would be good for the industry even though the odds were against it.
"Somebody will do it someday. I just think it’s a ways off," he said.
Mark Bradley, CEO and president of Players Network, said he has been pitching the idea of a gaming channel for the past year without success.
"The networks said gambling and sports are a conflict of interest," he said. "All I know is 25 percent of U.S. citizens gamble on a regular basis. I believe the bandwagon has started. We are not at the train station anymore."