Rank Group profits boosted by casinos and online bets

Grosvenor casino Rank's 37 casinos contributed more than half of its profits

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Profits at betting group Rank Group have risen 9% rise, thanks mainly to its Grosvenor Casinos business and its online operations, especially the Mecca bingo brand.

Despite the difficult economic times, pre-tax profits on continuing operations rose to £61.5m in the year to June, up from £56.4m a year earlier.

Customer numbers were up 4.9%, the group said.

But the average amount Rank brings in per customer fell by 1.4% to £224.82.

There was also a 65% fall in the operating profits made by Top Rank Espana, to £1.4m from £4m, reflecting the tough economic conditions in Spain.

Chief executive Ian Burke said the group's financial position remained strong, and that as a result, the firm would increase the dividend it pays to shareholders.

Rank Group

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The board is recommending a dividend of 3.6 pence per share, more than a third higher than the year before.

News of the higher dividend helped boost Rank shares by more than 5% in early trading.

Rank said it aimed to complete its purchase of Gala Casinos next month. This will add 23 casinos to its 37 Grosvenor outlets, making it the UK's biggest casino operator.

Operating profits at the Rank Interactive division - which covers mobiles and the internet - rose by 26.5%.

The best performer in this area was Mecca bingo, with one fifth of the brand's revenues now being made online or from mobile devices, rather than in bingo halls. The firm increased its spending on marketing Mecca's digital services last year and introduced an iPhone app.

By contrast, Grosvenor's digital offering "remains subscale", the firm said.

This year, it intends to make a number of games available on Facebook. But while Rank says social networks provide an opportunity for growth, it is also concerned about the lack of regulation in this area.

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