The government’s review of the Gambling Act is the perfect time to overhaul dated legislation regulating casinos and bingo halls – that’s according to the Rank Group, who have more at stake than most.
They have just announced losses of a staggering £72 million from the start of the year until the end of June – largely as a result of the closures.
Rank, whose brands include Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo, have revealed that trading conditions have been more ‘encouraging’ since all restrictions were lifted in England.
However, that has not stopped the firm from reporting on the ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ that they believe the government has to modernise the land-based gambling industry.
As part of their licensing, 51 of Rank’s portfolio of 52 casinos under the Grosvenor brand are still licensed under the remit 1968 Gambling Act – and that places a number of limitations on what they can offer their players.
The outdated regulation only allows casinos to offer 20 gaming machines – that compares to 80 to casino brands handed a licence post-2005, while operators are banned from offering sports betting on their premises unless they have specific approval from the UK Gambling Commission.
The old rules also don’t reflect a growing trend for a switch to cashless gaming – accelerated quite markedly by the pandemic. The 1968 regulation, naturally, makes no reference to cashless transactions in casinos, and Rank want that to be addressed as part of the government’s anticipated sweeping changes to the sector.
2020….We’re Glad That’s Over
The absolute vast majority of us were delighted to see the back of 2020.
There was optimism and positivity heading into the new year, and while that took time to be realised in many countries around the world, now we are starting to see some light at the ned of the tunnel – albeit with great sadness for those families that continue to lose loved ones.
For the Rank Group, 2020 was something of an annus horribilis. Their properties were shut for large swathes of the year, and with a minimal online presence they were always likely to fall on hard times.
And then some. The firm has announced losses of a staggering £72 million in the first half of 2021 alone, and it’s only the restriction-free ‘unlocking’ of parts of the UK that has saved them from further financial ruin.
As their chief executive, John O’Reilly, explains:
“Frankly, we are delighted it [June 2020-June 2021] is over.
“We are now well into a new financial year with our venues open and trading positively. [They] have been performing ahead of our expectations following the easing of restrictions, and we anticipate further growth as travel restrictions eventually ease and tourism returns, particularly to London.”
“Since reopening we are down around 40% in London, because we are still missing that international tourist market. But things are improving with more staycations,” O’Reilly confirmed on a more positive note.
Punters are slowly starting to return to Grosvenor casinos, however revenue from May to August is still down when compared to the levels of 2019 – 19% for their casino properties and 21% for Mecca bingo halls.
And that goes alongside an eye-watering loss of £15 million per month at the height of the crisis.