Gamblers on a roll at Capital casinos

MAGNUS GRIMOND

A run of good luck by some high-rolling players has cut around pounds 5m from the profits of Capital Corporation, the London casino owner, which yesterday announced the dep-

arture of one of its managing directors. The company, known as Crockfords until last May, warned in January that a winning streak at the end of the year would leave profits below expectations.

Capital revealed that the pre-tax total had slipped by pounds 1m to pounds 13.1m in the 12 months to December. Analysts had previously predicted profits of around pounds 20m.

"An usual concentration of gaming losses", thought to amount to around pounds 5m, affected results from Crockfords, the group's flagship casino in London's Mayfair. On top of that , there were pounds 1.3m of losses associated with the closure of the International Sporting Club, bought from Brent Walker in 1994. The company warned that there would be further costs of pounds 2.5m before the club is reopened as The Colony Club in the early summer.

But the shares lost only 1p to 208p yesterday after Capital nudged the total dividend for last year 1.6 per cent higher to 8.125p and announced an encouraging start to the year. The company also said Kenneth Thompson, a former finance director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, would become sole chief executive of the group.

Peter McNally is stepping down from the board with a payoff of pounds 230,000, amounting to one year's salary. Meanwhile, David Gray moves over to become marketing and development director with special responsibility for the launch of The Colony Club.

The chairman, Garry Nesbitt, said the group had outgrown the joint managing director structure. Mr Thompson's undoubted experience would also be useful in the administration of the group, which needed looking at in some areas.

Mr Nesbitt said the new year had started strongly at Crockfords, with continuing high levels of activity at a better-than-average win ratio.

He said the group achieved a record level of activity in the year and Crockfords remained one of the premier clubs in a generally buoyant London gaming market.

Turnover - the company's "win" - last year jumped from pounds 42.2m to pounds 51.4m, with operating profits edging down from pounds 13m to pounds 12.8m. Earnings per share fell from 10.3p to 8.68p.

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