August 22, 2019 / 6:06 AM / a month ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Casino operator Rank Group profit falls, hurt by weak traffic

(Corrects paragraph 6 and 7 to show that Rank Group owns only casinos, not betting shops, and does not compete with William Hill)

Aug 22 (Reuters) - Rank Group Plc on Thursday reported a 22% slump in annual operating profit as the casino and gaming operator was hurt by weak sales and traffic at its businesses in the first half of the year.

Rank has been investing in online operations to offset a slowdown in traffic at its bingo halls and casinos, and to attract younger players who use mobile apps or websites such as its own meccabingo.com and grosvenorcasinos.com. It bought out smaller rival Stride Gaming in May.

Rank, whose revenue rose 1%, said it saw a recovery in the second half of the year, fuelled by its initiatives which it launched in December, and said it had seen an “encouraging” start to the current fiscal year.

“We have made a good start to the transformation of Rank and there remains a lot of improvement to be delivered,” Chief Executive Officer John O’Reilly said.

Rank said separately that it had appointed non-executive director Alex Thursby as its chairman to succeed Ian Burke. Burke notified the company that he was not seeking reelection.

Britain’s gambling industry, which also runs 8,500 high street betting shops, is battling online competition and regulatory caps on high-speed slotting machines to tackle gambling addiction.

Betting firm William Hill posted lower first-half profit earlier this month, hurt by costs to expand in the U.S. and regulations back home.

Rank’s operating profit for the year ended June fell to 39 million pounds ($47.3 million) from 50.1 million pounds a year earlier. ($1 = 0.8249 pounds) (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Gopakumar Warrier)

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