The Rank Group experienced a troubling start to the year as the compulsory closure of its casinos and bingo halls caused revenues at its venues to be virtually wiped out during the first quarter.
Like-for-like net gaming revenues (NGR) at the Mecca Bingo owner’s sites sank 98 per cent in the three months to the end of March when all its UK venues remained shut, whereas sales on its online platforms declined just 3 per cent.
It said that the nine Enracha venues in Spain that were open by March 31 were seeing ‘strong customer demand’ but admitted that they were operating under stringent capacity limits.
The Rank Group’s total net gaming revenues plunged 72 per cent on the same quarter last year
Rank’s British establishments are due to reopen their doors from May 17, when the government plans to allow the reopening of indoor entertainment venues as part of its third step in easing lockdown restrictions.
Total net gaming revenues plunged 72 per cent on the same quarter last year; however, like-for-like digital revenues rose by 3 per cent compared to the period from October to December 2020.
Online sales at its Grosvenor arm fell slightly from the previous quarter, but they grew modestly at its Mecca Digital operation, by 7 per cent at its Stride venture and by 10 per cent at its Spanish Yo brands.
The group also gave assurances over the strength of its balance sheet, confirming it ended the quarter with £89.8million in cash and available financing facilities.
Rank’s chief executive John O’Reilly stated that the business ‘ended Q3 broadly where we expected to be and are now very focused on the reopening of our UK venues from 17 May alongside continuing to drive digital NGR growth.’
He admitted that Rank had ‘been heavily impacted’ by the coronavirus crisis but was ‘looking forward to reopening our casino and bingo venues, welcoming back our customers and providing the great entertainment and omni-channel service in a Covid-safe environment we know they enjoy.’
Closure: Over the second half of 2020, the FTSE 250 firm’s venues were shut for 45 per cent of its working days, including for a month-long national lockdown
O’Reilly told the Daily Mail back in October that his company was suffering under ‘illogical’ rules that meant some venues in less heavily infected areas of the country were closed, but ones in coronavirus hotspots were open.
He also attacked the 10pm curfew rule for hospitality venues in place at the time because, unlike pubs and restaurants, more than 50 per cent of revenues at Rank’s Grosvenor Casinos materialise after 10pm.
During the second half of 2020, the FTSE 250 firm’s venues were shut for 45 per cent of its working days – including over the four-week second national lockdown in England – and it swung to a £42million loss from a £59million profit last year.
To enhance its balance sheet, Rank has furloughed staff, cut directors’ salaries, raised £70million through a share issue in November, and sold off its Blankenberge casino in Belgium to online gambling operator Kindred Group for £25million.
Most recently, it gained a £13.4million refund after the UK Supreme Court ruled that free gaming chips and betting vouchers given by casino operators for promotional purposes to ‘selected gamblers’ are not subject to gaming duty.
Rank Group’s shares ended trading down 0.6 per cent to 188.8p on Thursday.
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