Losing streak for casinos

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The Independent Online
THE STRONG pound and the economic turmoil in the Far East have caused the number of high rolling gamblers visiting Britain to fall, piling on the misery for London Clubs International. Gamblers' luck has also turned, with London Clubs paying out a higher percentage of its takings in winnings this year compared to last.

The upmarket casino operator, which is already reeling from the Government's decision to impose a large hike in gaming duty in the Budget, warned yesterday that profits in the second half of the year would be flat, sending the group's shares down another 5p to 176p.

Attendances at the Ritz and the Rendezvous casinos have been disappointing in the recent months. Costs associated with relocating these casinos and developing overseas businesses have also depressed earnings.

London Clubs said it remained cautious about prospects as long as the economic uncertainty in Asia and the strong pound remained.

Profits for the year to March are now expected to fall to around pounds 27m - well below analysts' forecasts and the pounds 35.5m it made in the previous 12 months.

London Clubs, with other big casino operators, is continuing to lobby the Government about the imposition of higher gaming duty, which threatens to wipe pounds 12m off its annual profits. The group yesterday accused the Government of failing to understand the casino business.