peaking to reporters after the company's annual meeting in Sydney, Oneile said, "I think as the (U.S.) economy begins to pick up in the back half of this year, I think that will flow through to the gaming sector...probably very late 2008, going into 2009."
"We've been hopefully reasonably conservative about the (gaming machine) replacement cycle through the balance of 2008...but I can't tell you how deep the economic impact is going to be," said Oneile.
Commenting on recent changes to gambling machine licenses in the state of Victoria, Oneile said he doesn't expect the end of the duopoly held by Tatts Group Ltd. and Tabcorp Holdings Ltd. in 2012 to affect its earnings this year. "I think there will be a slowdown over the next year or so, but...I don't think the 2008 impact will be all that significant."
Analysts have said Tatts and Tabcorp may freeze spending on gaming machines and the hotel operators who buy the new licenses are likely to spend less on upgrades. Oneile said while it is "too early" to tell what will happen post 2012 he expects hotel operators to "put a lot of pressure" on the two companies over the next four years to ensure their gaming offering "remains competitive."
Aristocrat, the world's second-largest slot machine maker, earlier pointed to a flat result for the full year, saying its underlying earnings are "well below" the company's target.