Mecca goes to top of casinos league

Mecca Bingo owner Rank is set to become the UK’s biggest casino operator following a £205m deal with rival Gala Coral.

The proposed acquisition of Gala’s 23 casinos will give Rank’s Grosvenor division 58 UK sites, taking it above Malaysian firm Genting, which has 45 locations.

Rank, which has Grosvenor casinos in Leeds, Huddersfield and Sheffield, is focused on the faster roll-out of its G-Casino format, which attracts a younger, less formal crowd. The Rank business employs more than 3,500 people.

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The sale of the casinos will allow Gala Coral to concentrate on its Gala bingo and Coral bookmaking divisions, as well as strengthen its finances amid a net debt figure of £1.3 billion at the end of 2011.

The company has been seen as ripe for a break-up since a big debt restructuring in 2010 saw many lenders left with shares in the company, fuelling speculation that Rank would look to buy the casinos.

Rank is listed on the London Stock Exchange but majority owned by Guoco, the investment vehicle of Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan.