CASINO chain Aspers plans to open a number of multi-million pound sites across the UK after seeing its revenues grow by about £4m in the last year due to its open-door policy and the growing popularity of poker.
The chain, which first established in 2005 at The Gate entertainment complex in Newcastle and now names the site as its operational base, said it was still reaping the benefits of its decision two years ago to open its doors to non-members.
The firm, which was founded by London-based Damian Aspinall, also said the increasing popularity of online poker was continuing to feed into the increase in those taking up gaming.
The business, which also operates sites in Northampton and Swansea, has just reached the end of its current financial year and said turnover had gone from £20m to £24m, with footfall significantly up on the previous year.
Aspers at The Gate saw its sales grow from £12m to about £14m, with footfall up 13%, while the Northampton site increased revenues by 29% to £5m and the Swansea site growing by 11% to £5m.
Although growth has slowed since the introduction of the open-door policy, the firm said it expected steady growth over the coming years despite the current economic downturn and expects to create jobs, including adding 30 staff to its 230-strong workforce in Newcastle. The company plans to use its recent successes to invest in the nationwide roll-out of new casinos and said it was concentrating on securing a licence for a planned site in Newham, London, which it hopes to open in 2011.
The firm also said there were a number of other sites it was looking into, including one in Bournemouth.
The site at The Gate has undergone a number of changes in the last year, including improvements to its restaurant and the extension of its poker room from 160 seats to 200.
Richard Smith, general manager of the Aspers casino at The Gate, said: “We have had a very successful two years, which was mainly down to our decision to withdraw membership obligations.
“I believe this has set us apart from our competitors and allowed us to remain unhurt by the recession.
“However, as this year’s figures indicate, I do expect our growth to become more gradual.
“This does not mean we will be shelving our expansion plans both in the North East and elsewhere, and expect to create a number of jobs before the year is through.”
The firm has taken advantage of the recent relaxation of legislation which has allowed it to introduce a number of new games to its sites, including ‘Black Jack Switch’ and ‘Casino War’.
Covering 45,000 square feet, Aspers is by far the largest casino in the North East, offering 27 traditional gaming tables, one interactive electronic roulette table and 87 electronic gaming terminals offering roulette, blackjack or punto banco, as well as 20 slot machines.
“The increased take-up in on-line poker has benefited all areas of the industry, and has changed the way people view the industry,” Mr Smith said.
Aspers was created by Mr Aspinall and James Packer, the son of maverick
Australian broadcaster Kerry Packer. It has been positioned as a multi-entertainment venue and as well as gaming it provides restaurants, bars and live music.
While Mr Aspinall runs his Aspinall Group from London, including Aspers, the Aspinall casino in Mayfair, his property empire and the two wildlife parks left by his father, Aspers senior management are all at the Gate.