Rank sees fall in the numbers playing bingo

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A further decline in the number of people playing bingo left Rank Group’s Mecca business nursing a 16 per cent slide in annual profits yesterday.

Visits to Mecca’s 97 clubs dropped 7 per cent to 12,607 in the year to June 30, although this was an improvement on the 10 per cent fall seen in the first quarter.

The better trend followed the introduction of lower priced sessions, a refer-a-friend reward scheme and various food and drink promotions after a review of all venues – session by session – found some offers were uncompetitive.

Mecca’s operating profits dropped to £37m as Rank Group, which also owns Grosvenor casinos, saw profits drop 4 per cent to £62.5m.

Grosvenor’s profits were 20 per cent higher at £56.8m as it benefited from the conversion of 19 former Gala Coral sites into its own formats such as G Casino.

A weaker London performance contributed to a 4 per cent reduction in like-for-like sales, although trading was stronger outside the capital.

Despite the decline in visitor numbers, the Chancellor’s recent decision to cut bingo duty from 20 per cent to 10 per cent means Mecca will soon benefit from major investment.

Rank has already committed to three new venues and is re-starting its refurbishment programme as a result of the Budget move. Rank invested £39.4m in making improvements to its venues in the year, with the majority being within the enlarged Grosvenor Casinos estate.

Mecca received only £4m due to uncertainty caused by poor trading in the first half of the year and disappointing returns from previous refits.

Last year, the chain abandoned a major revamp programme launched four years earlier to attract younger players after admitting results had been disappointing.