Inside Track by Duncan Rowe
Amid the general furore that heralded the government’s publishing of the long-awaited Gambling Bill, there was one word that time and again was heard at Leisure Report’s recent Casino conference, and the word was "opportunity". The casino operators will, eventually, have the opportunity to make a tidy sum as British punters flock to the new destination casinos, but the Bill opens up the trading floor to far more businesses than just the traditional leading players and their US suitors/rivals. The food and beverage offerings at all but the smallest of the new casinos will be a major contributing factor to success or failure, and the casino companies are, for the most part, more concerned with getting their gaming operations in order. There exists now an excellent opportunity for branded outlets to move quickly, to gain first-mover advantage, and above all to benefit from the hard work the casino operators are putting in to boosting footfall at the new outlets. The size and scale of the planned attractions on offer at some of the larger developments will drive huge numbers of visitors - or the casino companies will fail - and their investment will dwarf that of the operator opening a single-unit outlet at a destination casino. In addition, operators who are smart enough to get into bed with the gaming companies from an early stage could benefit from reduced business rates, and receive preferential treatment over the location of the outlet, and future business agreements. Hotel groups (those who do not have their own gaming arm, at least) could also have more of a say in the design and build of the project. Traditionally, margins are high, and there’s the added benefit of being in the right place at the right time - a punter with a pocket full of winnings is likely to spend more on a celebratory meal, while there are also opportunities for the lower end of the market to offer consolation food to the recently impoverished. The risks are higher with any new project, but the returns are in proportion. In the long term, for operators with the right brand and the right financial backing, taking a punt on opening outlets at casinos looks like being a pretty sure thing.