Commander Luke Barnet
With most having been closed for the majority of the past year, land-based casinos across the UK are finally getting set to open their doors on May 17.
How much, if at all, will this impact the online casino industry, which has enjoyed unprecedented growth since the first lockdown was introduced in March last year?
While non-essential retail, hairdressers and pubs have now opened in England, Scotland and Wales, UK casinos currently remain closed, alongside cinemas and bowling alleys. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, with the majority of UK casinos now preparing to reopen. Should the UK stick to the current roadmap, then casinos in England can open their doors from May 17.
Among those to have confirmed the opening of their doors on May 17 are the Grosvenor Casino Chain and Mecca Bingo. The two brands make up the majority of the UK’s land-based bingo and casino markets, and are both owned by Rank Group.
Despite having a strong online presence, which saw increased traffic and overall sales, Risk Group claim that this has fallen short of being able to offset the losses caused buy the forced closure of its land-based venues. Rank Groups venue sales dropped 98% in its third quarter, with online revenues also dropping 2% year on year. Mecca Bingo saw an increase in online sales of around 4%.
While the majority of casinos and bingo halls, including those owned by the Rank Group, will be preparing to finally (and ‘irreversibly’) reopen their doors to the public for the first time in over a year, some have not been so lucky. Alongside a number of music venues, nightclubs and other public-facing business, there are many UK casinos who have had to close their doors for good thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite their financial woes over the past year, the Rank Group still claims to have £89.9m in cash and financial assets available. Many independent casinos and bingo halls have not been so lucky has to come out the other end of the pandemic in such a position.
The reopening of land-based casinos will quite probably result in a small drop in online sales overall, but it will unlikely have any form of notable impact. The shift online had been accelerating for over a decade before the pandemic, and is a trend that will continue to grow beyond lockdowns. The larger and more glamorous casinos that offer a ‘big night out’ experience will most likely survive, but the smaller casinos and bingo halls will slowly lose out to the online sphere.