Gaming firm takes £3m snow hit

MeccaMecca Bingo owner Rank has revealed it suffered a £3 million hit from snow storms this month as customers struggled to reach its gaming halls and casinos.

The warning came as the owner of Grosvenor casinos and Blue Square Bet posted a 4% fall in pre-tax profits to £31.3 million in the six months to December 31.
But while the weather pushed attendance down 30% in the worst affected week of January, Rank has been encouraged by the growth in demand for online products, with the number of customers playing its Mecca games on mobile phones and tablet computers helping mobile revenues rise 172% in the half year.

Traditional casino games Blackjack and Roulette drove online revenues at its smaller Grosvenor business up 90%, while the popularity of classic bingo and slot machine game Cleopatra boosted Mecca's digital revenues by 11%.

But this failed to prevent operating profits at Mecca from falling 15% to £22.5 million. Revenues at the bingo business were flat as 4% fewer people visited its 97 bingo halls in the period while the group also blamed higher machine and staff costs for the profits fall.

Mecca Bingo has seen visitor numbers hit amid the economic gloom in recent months, despite attempts to attract more customers by modernising its bingo halls and bringing in rock and roll bingo nights to attract younger customers.

But its casinos fared much better, posting a 13% rise in revenues and helping push overall group revenues up 5% to £312 million.

The group completed the extension of its G Casino - a format which aims to attract a younger crowd - in Portsmouth and plans to open a new casino in the format in Reading in March.

Rank said Grosvenor's strong performance had been driven by an increase in customer numbers, both online and at its venues, and a 12% rise in spend per visit.

The Maidenhead-based group, which employs more than 8,000 people, said it continues to review its loss-making online sports betting division, Blue Square Bet, which is suffering in a highly competitive market, and where revenues were 6% lower.
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