Rank ditches 'Full House' revamp

Mecca BingoMecca Bingo owner Rank has abandoned a major revamp programme launched four years ago to attract younger players after admitting results had been disappointing.

The "Full House" concept was designed to attract a new and wealthier audience to the game after Mecca was knocked by the smoking ban and gambling legislation.

But it has failed to stem the ongoing decline in bingo customer visits, which saw like-for-like revenues at Mecca venues fall 3% in the year to the end of June.

Rank said its investment in the conversions had not paid off. It spent £700,000 each to revamp bingo halls in Hartlepool and Knotty Ash, Liverpool in the last year and said they had since outperformed other unchanged venues.

"However, the Full House Destination estate performance as a whole has been disappointing and the capital invested has not improved the public's perception of bingo sufficiently to address the general decline in admissions," the group said.

"Due to the inadequate return on investment from these conversions the group will not be committing to any further at this present time.

"The group does though remain committed to finding new ways to develop the venues experience across the entire estate."

The business has opened nine Full House venues since they were launched in 2009. It has a total of 97 Mecca bingo halls.

Meanwhile Rank, which also operates Grosvenor Casinos, saw adjusted pre-tax profits fall 1% to £65.1 million after warning earlier this year that the impact of the bad weather had reduced spending.

The heatwave has not helped either, as the group said like-for-like revenues were down in the period since the end of June.

Rank is Britain's largest casino operator with 55 venues, having acquired 19 from Gala Coral over the year.

Like-for-like revenues for Grosvenor were up 5%, while operating profits - excluding the new venues - were ahead 9%. Total customer visits were up and with spend per visit rising 7%, mainly driven by high rollers playing at London venues.

The 6% decline in customer visits to Mecca venues to 13.6 million was stemmed by a 5% increase in spend per visit and a 10% rise in digital like-for-like revenues, so that overall Mecca like-for-like revenues were off 1%.

Customer numbers - rather than visits - at venues did increase slightly, but only by 0.3% to 958,000. The rise was driven by an increase of 6% in the under-35 age group.

It came as Mecca changed bingo session times, which had not been moved since the 1960s, to become more flexible, and also installed WiFi in 50 venues.

During the 12-month period, Rank also sold its loss-making Blue Square Bet business.

Chief executive Ian Burke said: "Despite the tough economic environment and the competitive market in which we operate the group has delivered a solid set of results.

"The recent hot weather has adversely impacted trading in the first weeks of the new financial year. However we remain confident in the group's long-term prospects."