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Gong Baby, Gong; Iconic Group Slipping Down the Rankings

Time was when the Rank organisation, with its iconic branding of the sexy, perfectly formed, “Gongman”, bestrode the British media, entertainment and gaming scene as a giant.

But those days, if the current Rank avatar is any indication, are long gone.

Still the UK’s biggest real-world casino and bingo hall operator, Rank Group Plc. has just reported a stinging loss of £93 million (US$126.6m/€108.4m) for its 2020/2021 trading year, ending June 30 — and a 50 per cent drop in gaming revenue to £288 million (US$392m/€336m).

And the blame can’t all be laid at the feet of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Because, most indicatively, and perhaps alone among all the world’s online gaming operators, Rank even made a loss on its iGaming business, which reported a six per cent fall in NGR to £136 million (US$185m/€158.5m) – at a time when online action pretty much everywhere was given a massive boost as lock-downed punters turned to the Internet for joy.

Understandably, with its 53 Grosvenor casinos and 76 Mecca Bingo halls shuttered for almost 60 per cent of normal operating days, thanks to pandemic closures, Rank retail venues registered a heavy 65 per cent slump in NGR to £152 million (US$207m/€177m).

In all, it’s estimated the group suffered a financial bleed of around £15 million per month (US$20.4m/€17.5m) of the Covid retail lockdown.

Its Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casino verticals posted losses of £67 million during the fiscal year (US$91.2m/€78m), a precipitous 238 per cent plunge against a posted profit of £48 million in 2019/2020 (US$65.4m/€56m).

On a more positive note—thanks in great part to the £25 million (US$34m/€29m) sale of its Blankenberge Casino in Belgium and a £13.3 million (US$18.1m/€15.5m) UK tax rebate—the FTSE-250 group has £98 million in liquid cash (US$133m/€114m).

“The year to 30 June 2021 was exceptionally challenging for the group. And frankly, we are delighted it is over,” said Rank’s CEO John O’Reilly.

“We are now well into a new financial year with our venues open and trading positively.”

In an effort to ameliorate the group’s poor iGaming interactive performance, O’Reilly added: “This has been a year of transition for our UK-facing digital business.

“Revenue has disappointed but we have been making good progress with the development of our proprietary technology platform and we will complete the migration of the Rank brands during 2021/22, freeing up development capability to enable much greater agility and speed to market for new and enhanced products, services and digital customer experiences.”

Enough said.

But the patina can’t hide the uncomfortable truth that some analysts may argue perhaps its time for a new “Gongman”.