High rollers leave Rank a little short

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The Independent Online

High rollers who turned the tables on Rank Group's Clermont casino in London's Mayfair in the past few months have hit trading.

High rollers who turned the tables on Rank Group's Clermont casino in London's Mayfair in the past few months have hit trading.

The bingo hall and casino operator, which also owns the Hard Rock Café chain, yesterday said overall turnover at its Grosvenor casinos division was down 2 per cent for the year to date. As well as a few lucky punters at its exclusive Clermont casino, new money laundering regulations have also hampered trading at its regional casinos.

Guests of members now have to bring passports with them before they can enter the casino, which has forced Rank to turn away a number of willing customers. This left trading at Rank's regional casinos flat for the first few months of the year.

"Our results so far have been mixed," Peter Reynolds, a spokesman for the company said yesterday. "We had a couple of big winners at Clermont and we haven't managed to claw that back yet. That's part of operating in the high end of the market and we will get it back. We are cautious about the rest of the year, but we expect improvement in bingo, a recovery at Clermont and improvements in the provincial casinos."

The group is also confident that changes to gambling laws in the UK will be positive. The Government recently published a draft Bill aimed at sweeping away arcane laws on gambling, which will allow casinos to open new premises.

Analysts at Investec said yesterday: "Losses to high rollers and weak trading in its provincial sites have impacted the results, but the London market remains buoyant and we expect the Clermont to recover."

The fortunes of Hard Rock have improved. Rank said like-for-like sales were up 3 per cent and that it expected to announce further licensing deals in the US hotel market shortly.

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