UK Internet Bingo Industry Says ‘Let it Snow’

Everyone in the bingo industry knows that weather can have a chilling effect at live bingo halls.  In 2010 a series of severe arctic storms hit the UK and forced several bingo halls to close their doors for the duration of the storms. Even rail traffic was disrupted and travel was all but impossible. It took crews days to open major highways and thoroughfares. In the meantime bingo halls sat empty and even in big cities attendance was off by as much as 30%. This winter has been similar and in January the UK was hit once again by blizzard that disrupted everyday life for millions.

Rank Group, which operates Mecca bingo halls throughout Britain, announced that the weather in December and January had cost the company 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) in revenue as players decided to stay home. Rank’s operating profit from internet bingo was 11.4 million pounds, which just beat revenues of 11.1 million pounds from the live bingo venues. In the six months leading up to December Rank, owned by Malaysia’s Guoco, reported a 4% year on year decline. The stormy weather has affected just about every sector of the British economy and several economists are worried that if the snowy weather continues it will push the country back into a recession.

Pub groups Enterprise Inns and Mitchell & Butlers reported that January’s cold snap had hit sales hard. Rank Chief Executive Ian Burke stated “Allowing for the slow start to the second half we remain confident in our prospects for the remainder of the year and in our longer-term growth strategy.” Rank also owns the Blue Square betting business which has been a drag on the company. Currently Rank operated 35 Grosvenor casinos and 100 Mecca Bingo halls. Online bingo profits reflect industry wide figures and online betting is the fastest growing market sector. Industry growth has been helped by the popularity of mobile gaming on smartphones and other mobile devices.

Rank said it is reviewing the future of Blue Square, the company’s unprofitable betting business. Burke told reporters “We felt the losses were not losses we could continue to sustain.” Blue Square reported operating losses of 4.8 million pounds in six months and Rank has cut back on marketing expenses for the company. Burke stated “There were 11 or 12 competitors advertising and that spending just wasn’t cutting through.” In the meantime the snow and cold has sent millions online increasing the profitability of online gaming operations.