When Gordon Brown first took over as prime minister in 2007, he began the derailment of the promised liberalization of the casino industry. But despite the generally negative atmosphere, Britons have been steadily increasing their visits to the nation’s casinos.
In fact, in the year between April 2008 and March 2009, operators reported a total 16.6 million visits to casinos, an increase of 400,000 over the previous year, according to a report from the U.K. Gambling Commission. For comparison, in the same period 2006-2007, before the economy tanked, total visits reached only 15.1 million.
Casinos saw gross gaming revenues rise slightly from March 2008 to March 2009, from £656.6 million to £678.6 million. However, most of that increase came from casinos in London, which saw combined revenue climb from £360.6 million to £398.6 million. All other regions of the country experienced declines in revenue, except for Scotland, which showed a slight increase.
The British press is attributing the improved results to reforms achieved by the 2005 Gaming Act, including the elimination of the 24-hour rule, whereby someone wishing to visit a specific casino for the first time had to apply for membership 24 hours in advance of entering the premises. But credit is also going to the improved image of casinos, something which operator Rank Group has been working towards with its new “G” branded casinos.
As Rank CEO Ian Burke told U.K. newspaper the Independent, “We’ve tried to turn the casino into a mainstream leisure experience, with food and entertainment as well as gambling. The average spend per head is £30-£35. We are still seeing strong growth in admissions and it’s worked very well for us.”
Of Rank’s 35 casinos, only 10 are currently operating as G casinos. However, these 10 properties are providing 40 percent of total casino revenue.
The company says it is on track to have 20 G casinos operating by the end of 2012.