Rank Revenues On the Up Despite Interactive Woes

8th October 2009 8:20 am GMT

Buoyed by a surge in customer visits to its Grosvenor Casinos, Rank Group plc said this morning that total revenues for the 14 week period ended October 4th increased by 2% versus the comparable period last year, despite an 8% drop in revenues from the company's online gaming division, Rank Interactive.

After a difficult start to the year with H1 revenues falling 8% year-on-year, Rank Interactive has seen revenues continue to decline in the latest 14 week period, down 8% versus the same period last year, after weak football win margins pushed online sportsbook revenues down 37%.

Gaming revenues increased however with revenues from Mecca Bingo climbing by 3% year-on-year, due in part to the change in bingo taxation announced in the 2009 UK Budget (more), which has had the effect of inflating revenue and reducing operating profit. Customer visits fell 3% during the period while spend per visit increased by 4%.

Grosvenor Casinos revenues increased by 5% for the period with a 16% rise in customer visits, buoyed by an increase in the number of active customers, while Top Rank Espana revenues fell 10% versus last year, with customer visits down 3% and spend per visit 7% lower.

As a result of changes to the taxation of bingo and player-to-player poker brought in under the Government's 2009 Budget, Rank said it has incurred approximately £4 million of incremental tax costs in the year to date, in line with the guidance provided earlier this year. Rank said this contrasted with HM Treasury's position that the "changes would be beneficial for bingo clubs".

With HM Treasury also considering the implementation of a gross profits duty regime on gaming machines, replacing the existing combination of Amusement Machine Licence Duty and VAT, Rank has urged the UK government not to further the tax burden on "what is already the most heavily taxed gaming sector in Britain."

Rank said that a gross profits duty set at the same 15% rate as general betting duty, football pools duty and remote gaming duty, would be revenue neutral for the group. For every percentage point above 15%, Rank will incur approximately £1 million in incremental costs, mainly borne by Mecca Bingo.

Last month Rank launched its new flagship site for online casino games, GCasino.com, which will support the development of its G Casino brand.

Shares in Rank Group plc (Co. Profile) (LSE:RNK) are currently trading at 89.15 pence per share in London this morning.

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