Rank Group Expects Bounce Back as UK COVID Restrictions Removed

Posted on: January 27, 2022, 06:10h. 

Last updated on: January 28, 2022, 12:58h.

The Rank Group, the UK’s largest casino operator, hailed today as a “big day” for the hospitality sector. That’s as England scrapped almost all of the restrictions that had been in place to combat the omicron variant.

Rank Group
“The Vic,” Grosvenor’s flagship casino in London’s Edgware Road, seen above, has been missing its Asian and Middle Eastern clientele. (Image: Grosvenor Casinos)

As of Thursday, face masks will no longer be mandated in any public space, while the compulsory use of “COVID passes” to gain entry to certain venues and events will also be scrapped. Rules will be loosened gradually in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland over the coming weeks.

On the same day, Rank announced it had returned to half-year profit in the last six months, in spite of restrictions.

Tourism Hopes

The government announced Monday that from Feb.11, fully vaccinated travelers will no longer need to take a COVID test on their arrival in the UK. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated will still need to test before leaving for the UK and within two days of arrival. But now, they won’t have to self-isolate unless they test positive.

The company said it hopes that a sharp fall in COVID cases after an early January peak of more than 200,000 per day will bring international tourism back to London.

Rank, which owns the Grosvenor Casino brand, generates more than 40 percent of revenues in the capital, a lot of which comes from visitors from Asia and the Middle East.

Once we get past Ramadan, we expect London to get busy,” Rank Group CEO John O’Reilly said in an earnings call Monday.

Collectively, Grosvenor Casinos and Rank’s Mecca bingo halls reported a return to an operating profit of £103 million (US$137 million) in the six months to December 31, compared with a loss of £52.9 million (US$71 million) in the preceding six months. However, that’s still down 39 percent on pre-pandemic figures.

Rank owns more than 50 casinos across the UK.

‘Uncertainty Remains’

“Whilst the trading environment continues to be challenging, and cost headwinds are applying additional pressure on the hospitality sector, we have proven that with no restrictions, our trading rebounds quickly. Rank is well-positioned to regain the robust revenue and profit growth momentum we had created before the pandemic struck,” O’Reilly said.

There remains some uncertainty as to how COVID-19 will impact our businesses over the coming months, but we are accelerating our transformation investments and are competitively very well placed to benefit as consumers emerge from the pandemic,” O’Reilly continued.

While infections have continued to fall in most parts of the UK since the early January peak, levels remain high. In England, one in 20 people had the virus in the week to January 22, according to new figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS).