City & Corporate: Troubled gambling giant revamps financial roster

Rank Group, the faltering owner of Mecca Bingo, Grosvenor Casinos, and Blue Square, looks set to to part company with M: Communications and bring in FD.

PRWeek understands that the gaming company will begin work with FD in the next few weeks.

M: is set to retain a public affairs brief for Grosvenor Casinos.

Rank has used M: since 2006. The agency was brought in at the same time Rank poached Burger King's top European PRO Lesly Hughes to spearhead its comms (PRWeek, 19 August 2007). The reason for the change in agencies is not known.

Rank, FD and M: declined to comment. Rank has been going through a period of restructure as it looks to focus on gambling. This saw it offload iconic restaurant chain Hard Rock Cafe for more than £400m to an investment firm of native American Indians. The Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed the deal last year.

But Rank has suffered since the smoking ban came into effect in July last year. Shares took a dive in December after the group ditched its dividend and slashed capital expenditure for the year.

Around half of bingo players smoke - twice the national average, meaning the company has found it difficult to weather the effects of the ban. By December, admissions at Mecca had fallen by 15 per cent since 1 September, and spend per head fell by three per cent.

Grosvenor saw a five per cent drop in admissions and a seven per cent fall in like-for-like revenues over a similar period.

In December, newspaper reports suggested private equity firm Duke Street Capital was to bid for Mecca.

US gaming giant Harrah's Entertainment has also been rumoured to be interested in the firm.

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