Rank abandons revamp plan to woo younger players

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MECCA 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 per cent 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 Liverpool in the past year and said they had since outperformed 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.

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

Rank, which also operates Grosvenor Casinos, saw adjusted pre-tax profits dip 1 per cent 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 it 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.

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