Online Bingo Boosts Rank's Profits
In 2007 the UK government imposed a national smoking ban. At bingo halls across Britain attendance at games fell dramatically and several halls closed their doors forever. The ban boosted player numbers at online bingo sites and some operators reported an 80% increase in player numbers. Large bingo operators such as Gala and Mecca set up online bingo operations to remain profitable. The move online was a good one and recently the Rank Group, which operates Mecca bingo, said that despite a drop in live bingo player numbers the company had a 9% boost in profits thanks to online bingo and gaming sites owned by the company.
Player visits to Rank's 97 bingo halls fell 1.7% but the company's online operations posted a 25% increase in underlying profits. Rank said the popularity of meccabingo.com was responsible for the increase in profits. Rank shares were up 6% and the company increased its final dividend by 35%. Rank also benefited from a robust performance by its Grosvenor casino brand. Recently Rank spent millions refurbishing its casinos to appeal to a younger crowd of players. Group wide profits totaled £61.5 during the year. Mecca bingo has seen player numbers decline despite the company's attempts to attract young players. Mecca launched a series of 'after dark' bingo sessions designed to appeal to younger players.
Sales were also boosted after the company rolled out their Mecca Max electronic handheld tablet computers which monitor bingo ticket numbers so players never miss a number. Rank's Grosvenor casinos have posted profits for four consecutive years. Currently Grosvenor operates 35 casinos and the company is on track to purchase 23 casinos. If the sale succeeds Rank will become the UK's largest casino operator. Reports say the deal is worth £205 million. Trade at Rank's London casinos was off but the losses were offset by growth in other sectors.
Player spending at the 19 outlets converted to the Grosvenor's G-Casino brand averaged £31.35 per visit compared with £30.52 at Rank's traditional casinos. The popularity of Rank's Mecca and Grosvenor brands online helped the company's online sector and posted a 21% increase in revenues. Rank Chairman Ian Burke stated "While the current economic conditions remain challenging we have continued to increase the popularity of our brands and we look forward to the future with optimism."
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