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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 08:53 GMT
Smoking ban continues to hit Rank
Mecca bingo hall
Trading at Rank's Scottish bingo halls has been "difficult"
Leisure group Rank is bracing itself for the introduction of the smoking ban in England and Wales after sales continued to slide north of the border.

Like-for-like sales at its Mecca Bingo Clubs in Scotland had fallen 15% since smoking was banned in public places.

Overall pre-tax profit at the group fell to 44.4m in 2006, down 13.7% from 50.5m a year earlier.

Rank said its main focus was preparing for the ban, which begins in Wales on 2 April and in England on 1 July.

While the firm has no casinos in Scotland, it said industry data showed casinos north of the border had been adversely affected by the ban - a development that suggested sites in England and Wales could be hit.

Ban strategy

The firm recently agreed a 490m deal to sell-off its Hard Rock Cafes and now plans to focus on gambling.

Rank added it had "a broad strategy" in place to deal with the smoking ban - including improving facilities for casino and bingo hall customers who wish to smoke and recruiting non-smokers.

The group, which also owns Grosvenor Casinos, said its internet bookmaker Blue Square had performed well, increasing its operating profit by 680% to 7.8m.

But Rank also warned that changes to gambling regulations in September would hit its bottom line.

While it said it would benefit from the relaxation of limits on advertising it faced higher charges for casino licences and would have to remove certain types of slot machines - both of which would affect its revenues.

Rank mulls Hard Rock cafes sale
04 Jul 06 |  Business
Bingo costs squeeze Rank profits
02 Sep 05 |  Business

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