Bingo calls the shots for Rank

Mecca Bingo parent Rank Group posted a 14 per cent hike in annual profits yesterday and said momentum continued into 2011 despite being hit by higher taxes and Spain’s smoking ban.

The group reported like-for-like revenues up 2 per cent in the first eight weeks of the new year as its resurgent bingo business offset more difficult trading for Grosvenor Casinos and its Spanish arm.

The January 1 smoking ban in Spain sent Top Rank Espana revenues plunging 18 per cent since the year-end and Rank is expecting turnover from the division to fall by up to 10 per cent this year.

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Its Grosvenor Casinos chain also suffered as punters in London came away with more winnings since the new year, sending revenues down 6 per cent in spite of a 16 per cent hike in visits.

Mecca, which has seen a marked revival thanks to its turnaround and rebranding efforts, notched up an 8 per cent rise in revenues thanks in part to weak comparatives caused by last year’s January snow, while meccabingo.com drove interactive gaming sales up by 25 per cent in the eight-week period.

Rank’s 2010 results topped market expectations, with pre-tax profits of £55.2m against £48.5m a year earlier.

This came despite UK snow chaos before Christmas, which sent the number of visits to Mecca halls plummeting by 32 per cent in one week during early December.

Rank chief executive Ian Burke said: “The consumer environment remains challenging with higher sales taxes in both Britain and Spain, as well as the introduction of a full smoking ban in Spain.

“Nevertheless, the group has started the year well.”