Stay-away punters slow Rank sales

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A winning streak for casino punters and a quieter summer at Mecca bingo halls as more people gamble online knocked sales at gaming firm Rank today.

Its overall revenues were flat on a year earlier in the 16 weeks to October 16, having grown 4.6 per cent in the six months to June 30, despite a surge in online gaming driven by strong demand for Meccabingo.com.

Visitor numbers at its 99 Mecca halls declined three per cent in the 16 weeks, although this was offset by a two per cent increase in average spend, leaving like-for-like revenues at the division flat.

And the growth in customer numbers at its 35 Grosvenor casinos slowed to seven per cent, while big winnings in London left overall revenues down one per cent.

Rank warned that consumer trends are likely to be “more challenging” in 2012.

Online revenues increased 21 per cent in the most recent 16 weeks as punters downloaded its Mecca Bingo and Blue Square sports betting apps.

Gaming through smartphones has nearly trebled compared to the same period a year ago and now accounts for six per cent of its online revenues.

Grosvenor Casinos traded well in the provinces, the group said, but revenues were hit after the group paid out more winnings in London in the period, causing its margin to fall by nearly three percentage points.

The group recently announced plans to expand the number of casinos to 45 by 2015, creating 1,400 jobs, through the faster roll-out of its G-Casino format, which attracts a younger, less formal crowd.

It opened a venue in Stockton-on-Tees earlier this month and outlets in south Manchester and New Brighton in Merseyside are expected to follow next year.

Mecca, which closed a Wallsend club in Tyne and Wear during the period, has seen its average spend increase following a drive to improve its food offering.

The group, which was recently taken over by Malaysian-run gambling group Guoco, said its 11 Spanish bingo halls continued to suffer following the introduction of the smoking ban, with revenues down 19 per cent.