Rank Group to Increase Online Operations

Rank Group, the owner and operator of Mecca bingo halls and Grosvenor Casinos in the UK, is betting that its huge presence in the brick and mortar gaming industry will help the company to increase its online presence. After the imposition of a national smoking ban in 2007 with no exception for bingo halls and pubs many bingo operators went online to remain profitable. Some bingo halls saw a 63% drop in player numbers. Earlier in the year Rank invested heavily in refurbishing several Mecca bingo halls to appeal to a younger group of players. Recently Rank dropped the program and said it had not achieved its goals.

Rank announced that it is creating a new customer loyalty program. Players at the company’s bingo halls and casinos can earn points that can be used at Rank’s internet bingo and gaming sites. Ian Burke, the Chief Executive Officer for Rank, said that the “crossover between online and clubs” offered the company “a huge opportunity” to increase revenues.” Burke said the fact that Rank operates 55 casinos and 97 Mecca bingo halls means there is opportunity for Rank to be “natural winners in the online market.”

Rank’s financial results, released about two weeks ago, showed that 4.6% of Rank customers in any of their gaming venues in the UK engage in online gambling. Of the 66% of players who frequent Rank’s bingo halls only 5.8% are registered at Mecca’s internet bingo site. To encourage loyalty to the Rank brand CEO Burke said that the company will launch a new Play Points program that will allow players at Rank’s brick and mortar casinos and bingo halls to earn points for playing and dining at the land based venues. Players could then use the points to gamble on the internet.

Burke also hinted that Rank may bring back sports betting after the company sold Blue Square to Betfair earlier in the year. Burke told reporters “We know sports betting is a product consumed by many of our customers,” said Burke, “so we haven’t given up thinking about how we can offer this, but as yet there are no specific plans.” There have been rumors that Rank is about to enter the social gaming sector. Rank’s finance director said that the company viewed it as “an investment in research and development.” Clive Jennings confirmed that the company was spending money to develop games “but we don’t have any dramatic plans for social.”