Network Hopes to Capitalize on Interest in Gaming

Creators of the Casino and Gaming Television Network are betting a national interest in gambling will translate into a desire to watch it on television.

The Associated Press reported the network is scheduled to launch in 2004 as a digital cable and satellite channel with shows such as "Winning Hand," with poker experts offering tips on the game, and "Dusk 'Til Dawn," a tour of night spots in Las Vegas, Monaco, and other gambling destinations.

The number of Americans who gamble represents a vast potential audience, said David Hawk, co-founder and co-chairman. More than 50 million Americans made more than 300 million visits to casinos last year, said Hawk, who citied research conducted for the American Gaming Association, a casino industry trade association.

Other niche channels, such as the Golf Channel, have succeeded with a smaller pool to draw from, Hawk said. About 25 million people visited golf courses last year, half the number of casino-goers, he said.

The new channel will target the young male crowd, ages 21 to 34, which is valuable to advertisers, said Nickolas Rhodes, the network's president and chief executive officer.

Television has been dealing out an increasing number of gambling-themed shows, including Travel Channel's hit series on the World Poker Tour and the upcoming "Celebrity Poker Showdown" on Bravo.

Horse racing has two dedicated television networks--the TV Games Network and Horse Racing TV--that continue to look for cable television partners to expand their reach.

The Casino and Gaming Television Network, which plans to raise $75 million in operating capital by first quarter 2004, is negotiating carriage deals. The goal is to reach one million homes initially, and be in at least 20 million homes in four years.