Bingo is back as Mecca owner Rank outperforms Covid lockdown predictions
Despite losses of £107m in the year to June, the group has its eyes down for a full house post-pandemic
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Last modified on Thu 19 Aug 2021 08.37 EDT
Bingo is back, according to the Mecca owner, Rank, whose venues have outperformed expectations since reopening in May, but pandemic closures pushed annual losses at the group to more than £100m.
Rank, which also owns Grosvenor Casino, said revenues almost halved from £629.7m to £329.6m in the year to the end of June. The company made a £107m pre-tax loss, compared with a £13.4m profit in the previous year.
The group is heavily dependent on its physical venues, which account for four-fifths of total revenues. The government’s pandemic measures kept its bingo halls and casinos closed for 59% of its financial year.
“Frankly, we are delighted it is over,” said John O’Reilly, the chief executive of Rank. The company lost £15m a month during closure periods.
However, O’Reilly said business had bounced back better than expected since reopening in May, with an additional boost since the further loosening of social distancing restrictions last month.
“Our venues have been performing ahead of our expectations following the easing of restrictions on the UK hospitality sector on 17 May,” O’Reilly said. “We anticipate further growth as travel restrictions eventually ease and tourism returns, particularly to London.
“Clearly there is still some uncertainty how the pandemic will impact our businesses over the next few months. [However], we are competitively well placed to benefit as the hospitality sector and its consumers emerge from the pandemic.”
Weekly average revenues across its Grosvenor casinos since reopening has been £5.7m, “comfortably” ahead of breakeven at £4.4m, but remain 19% below pre-pandemic levels.
Revenue from Grosvenor venues outside of London is at 98% of pre-pandemic levels. However, in London its nine casinos, which account for 42% of revenues, remain 40% down on 2019 as a lack of international tourism, reduction in office workers and “ongoing late night travel challenges” continue to affect footfall.
At Mecca Bingo average weekly revenues have hit £2.6m, slightly ahead of breakeven level of £2.4m, and remain 21% down against 2019 levels. “We are now well into a new financial year with our venues open and trading positively,” O’Reilly said.
He added that it was a “year of transition” for its digital business, where revenues fell 6% to £136.3m, a performance he described as “disappointing”.
Rank’s shares were down 2.8% in early afternoon trading on Thursday.
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