Sportsbetting subsidiary Blue Square.com suffered a 43 percent slide in revenues to GBP 4.4 million (H1 2008: GBP 7.7 million, which was attributed to an adverse run of Premiership football results in the UK.
Online bingo operations fared better, with the group’s websites growing revenue by 12 percent to GBP 16.4 million (H1 2008: GBP 14.7 million).
However, Internet poker operations remained in the doldrums, with revenues declining 15 percent to GBP 1.7 million (H1 2008: GBP 2 million), and online casino revenues likewise slipped 8 percent to GBP 2.4 million (H1 2008: GBP 2.6 million.
Management revealed that future plans for the online division include the launch of GCasino.com, which will be the premier online casino brand, benefitting from it's prestigious land equivalent.
Wider group financial highlights included:
* Group revenue of GBP 266 million (2008: GBP 257 million.
* Group operating profit before exceptional items of GBP 30.2 million (2008: GBP 28.9 million).
* Group operating profits after exceptional items GBP 31.6 million (2008: - GBP 66.3 million loss)
* Adjusted profit before tax of GBP 24.7 million (2008: GBP 17.6 million)
* Net debt of GBP 208.1 million (GBP 226.5 million as at 31 December 2008)
Key events reported by management included strong trading at the land-based Grosvenor Casino and continued stabilisation of Mecca Bingo; reduction in net debt; and increased capex to boost growth. On the negative side, tax changes announced in the 2009 UK Budget are expected to cost Rank plc approximately GBP 9 million on an annualised basis.
Ian Burke, chief executive of the Rank group said: "Rank performed well during the first half of the year, achieving profitable revenue growth in a difficult economic environment and further strengthening the group's balance sheet through debt reduction.
"We have set out a clear strategy for growth within the UK gaming market, expanding our portfolio of G Casinos, delivering operational improvements in Mecca Bingo and repositioning Rank Interactive to prioritise its gaming websites and meccabingo.com in particular.
"The first half of the year has been marked by a number of positive changes to gaming regulations, resulting from improved understanding between the bingo industry and the Department for Culture Media and Sport ('DCMS').
"However, the volatile nature of HM Treasury's fiscal policy remains the principal challenge for the group. We are disappointed by the government's decision to introduce a significant increase in the taxation of bingo during this year's budget and will continue to give active support to the Bingo Association in its campaign to achieve a fair deal for Britain's licensed bingo clubs.
"Despite the economic uncertainty, we are encouraged by the progress we have made this year in terms of enhanced customer propositions, a stronger senior management team and the group's financial position. While we remain cautious in the near-term, we look forward with confidence in the long-term prospects for gaming and the success of the group's growth strategy."
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