High-rollers opting for Paris and Milan

Rank Group CEO expresses concerns over tourist tax impact on London casino business

John O'Reilly, the Chief Executive Officer of Rank Group.
Reading time 1:30 min

John O'Reilly, the Chief Executive Officer of Rank Group, which owns UK’s largest casino chain Grosvenor Casinos, has voiced his apprehensions regarding the adverse effects of the controversial tourist tax on the casino industry in London.

O'Reilly highlighted that the casino venues in the capital are experiencing a setback due to the tourist tax, as affluent Middle Eastern high-rollers are opting for casinos in Paris and Milan over London. This shift in preference is hampering the recovery of London's casino sector, contrasting with the progress seen in other parts of the nation, as reported by the Evening Standard.

“That’s a function of higher spending, mainly Middle Eastern, customers not coming into town, or coming in but less. We used to have lots of middle eastern customers coming in for seven or eight weeks across the summer. Now they might come here briefly but they mostly stay in Paris or Milan,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

O'Reilly acknowledged the multifaceted nature of the issue, attributing the decline in London's casino revenue to the elimination of VAT-free shopping as the primary factor. “You come here, you shop, you eat, you play the tables. If they’re not coming to London, because things cost 20% more, that affects everything. It affects casinos,” he said.

Rank's revenue for the financial year ending on June 30th amounted to £306.3 million ($389 million), indicating an improvement from the previous year's figures. However, the revenue remains 15% below the levels recorded before the pandemic. The considerable disparity primarily stems from London's casino revenue, which is still trailing 26% behind the figures recorded in 2019. Recent data over the past six weeks indicates a positive trajectory in performance across most regions in the UK, with London's revenue only demonstrating a modest increase of 5%.

Anticipating a significant upswing, The Rank Group foresees substantial benefits following the implementation of forthcoming reforms aimed at invigorating the UK's casino industry. These reforms encompass the relaxation of regulations related to the number of gaming machines permissible within a single establishment, alongside provisions permitting casinos to offer sports betting. O'Reilly is optimistic about the impact of these reforms, projecting their implementation by the summer of the coming year.

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