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Expansion & Integration at Grosvenor Casinos

Expansion & Integration at Grosvenor Casinos

Casino Life’s Daniel Lindsay met up recently with Paul Armitage, Operations Director of the UK’s biggest Casino Operation

Recently, Grosvenor Casinos completed the transaction acquiring the Gala Casino estate giving you a market leading position in terms of live casino venues of 55, across England, Scotland and Wales (and 2 operations in Belgium).  Your workload must have increased dramatically, how’s the integration of that business going?

Well, we have had a long time to plan for the integration of the Gala Casinos business, 2 years in fact, which was extended due to a delay in the transaction being completed.  But what we have done is involve each and every department of the Grosvenor Casino business to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.  A huge amount of planning has gone into the process and we plan to invest in the new estate to ensure complete continuity as it becomes a part of Grosvenor Casinos.

Over the last few years, there has been a significant change in how your operations have been branded, marketed and operated.  Can you summarise what your customers (new and existing) can expect when they visit one of your venues?

We are very happy with the Grosvenor Casinos brand, but are certainly looking to build on the awareness of it.  We offer a complete experience for our customers firmly based around the thrill and theatre of gaming and indeed putting on a show for all our customers each time they visit one of our venues, with lots of different facets, but always with gaming at the core of that visit.  We can also offer a packaged experience where different  groups are catered for, whether that be offering learn to play experiences for beginners, to exciting new table games and Poker tournaments combined with a great food and beverage package to create a great night out. Our plan now is the integration of the online experience of Grosvenor to match our retail offer.

What’s the time line on re-branding all of the Gala Casinos to Grosvenor Casinos?

The rebranding of existing Gala Casinos to Grosvenor Casinos, in terms of signage, is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2013, so as you can imagine, there is a significant amount of work to be completed here in not a huge amount of time. We also have a progressive programme to ensure full integration of procedures and collateral running too.

Image from Grosvenor Casino Barracuda,  London

Your Group annual report to the HY 2012 showed very impressive results with every key financial performance indicator consistently improved, given the economic headwinds over the last 5 years. This is remarkable and must have been a great motivator for your staff.  Can you tell us a little bit about the internal culture at The Rank Group and Grosvenor Casinos?

This is something that we are very proud of given the tough economic climate; we have a robust and indeed growing business which now has 55 casinos around the UK.  We are absolutely focused on team engagement, our people, our customers and our gaming product offering.  Frequent, valuable and honest communication are the cornerstones to ensuring great employee engagement as this allows us to listen to, and really understand our teams and our customers and then develop and deliver our best efforts.  That’s important in any business, but in today’s competitive environment, it’s critical. It’s something that we think we do really well, but it’s also a process of continuous improvement and we are rigorous in that regard.

Image Grosvenor Casino Barracuda, London

Given the UK has limits on the numbers of Gaming Machines allowed in UK Casinos, what’s the split of revenue between Table Games and Slots, and do you see that changing at all going forward?

Well, as the vast majority of casinos in the UK are only allowed up to 20 Category B1 Gaming Machines with a limited jackpot, the majority of our revenue comes from Table Gaming and electronic gaming (Roulette), so unless there is a shift in legislative terms that allows more gaming machines, that split isn’t likely to change any time soon.

 What we can do though is continue to improve our gaming products and we are constantly looking for new and innovative products for our gaming floors including new table games which we test and ask for feedback from our customers about.  We think we do this well, and again by listening to our customers carefully we ensure we have the right products for them. We are developing our server-based slots offer now and we will be bringing these improved products to our new sites too.

Technology plays such an important part in our lives and it has certainly affected our leisure time, how has it affected the offering within your casinos?

No doubt, the introduction of electronic gaming terminals had the biggest impact on gaming in the UK; however that was several years ago, so really online and mobile gaming are now the important elements as far as technology is concerned.  With that in mind, we try to have an online offering that is an extension of our retail estate (and vice versa), so our customers have the same great experience whether they are playing online, or in an actual venue.  That’s crucial in the crowded and ultra-competitive online space, and the marketing mix for our online business and our land based casinos has to reflect a clear, branded approach.  In addition, we are finding significant growth in mobile gaming and so that’s something that’s really got our attention as well.

Do you track how many of your land based customers also actively play at grosvenorcasinos.com? 

We’ve had a 100% increase in active customers this year and half of those have come directly through our clubs to use our online business and we expect those figures to continue to grow as we are almost unique in having both online casinos and land-based versions.

Image Grosvenor G Casino Piccadilly, London

With ¾’s of the UK’s casinos operated by 2 companies, do you see any further consolidation within the Industry or would competition laws restrict that?

I think the answer is possibly yes in the future but obviously any further acquisitions would have to be approved by the appropriate authorities and are likely to be small in scale.

If there was one single fundamental change you could make (theoretically) to the laws governing Gaming in the UK, what would it be?

Probably more gaming machines with fewer restrictions on the maximum prize.  With only 20 allowed in most casinos it really limits us on what we can offer to our customers in comparison to what they find in casinos overseas and all across Europe. In addition, the limit on the maximum prize that can be won in a single game also means we can’t offer a really compelling product offering in this space.  I’m sure it’s a frustration for the gaming machine manufacturers as well!