Gaming business has made good start to the year

GAMING firm Rank said its Grosvenor Casino business had driven an “encouraging” start to the year as punters continued to flock to its G Casino brand.

GAMING firm Rank said its Grosvenor Casino business had driven an “encouraging” start to the year as punters continued to flock to its G Casino brand.

Rank said Grosvenor’s like-for-like sales were up 9% in the 16 weeks to April 18, helped by longer opening hours and strong growth in customer visits, up 7%.

The firm has re-branded many casinos to appeal to those who want a night out as well as a bet and plans to have 20 G Casinos open by 2012. Sites in Brighton and Newcastle are the latest in line for a relaunch.

Recent trading at Mecca Bingo also improved as its clubs recovered slightly from the impact of January’s winter weather.

Like-for-like revenues at Mecca fell 3% during the first eight weeks of the year as snow kept older players away, but this decline eased to 2% for the 16 weeks to April 18 as customers returned.

Rank has also converted four Mecca clubs to a new Full House format designed to appeal to a younger audience, with the latest sites at Oldbury and Aberdeen.

The firm is campaigning for a fairer tax regime for bingo clubs, although the Treasury relented on part of its original planned bingo duty hike in December’s pre-Budget report. Rank’s online arm – betting website Blue Square and meccabingo.com – grew like-for-like sales 8% after higher casino revenues and a marketing drive for its bingo games.

Top Rank Espana, which owns 11 bingo clubs in Spain, has suffered during the recession but also saw rises in revenues, customer visits and spending during the period.

The Spanish arm put in a “creditable performance at a time of high unemployment and considerable economic uncertainty”, Rank said.

Rank shares rose more than 5% following the update. The firm said: “In an uncertain economic environment we remain focused on providing our customers with valued and enjoyable leisure experiences.”

Panmure Gordon analyst Simon French said: “Rank has issued a robust trading update and the board remains confident in the full-year prospects.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer