Glyn Thomas talks to Duncan Savage Managing Director Rainbow Casino
It’s now getting on for a year since the completion of much of the refurbishing and rebranding of the Casinos purchased from Gala: How is business?
Business has been very good particularly since October when we saw a significant increase in trading levels. The re-branding is now complete but in terms of refurbishment, we have a long way to go. We purchased the freehold in Aberdeen and completed a full refurbishment of the gaming and bar areas which has proved to be very popular with the customers and we have seen an increase in business levels, with players visiting us when we have not been seen for a long time. Our next refurbishment project is in Cardiff with plans being finalised. We hope to start work in the summer when we will more than double the size of the current operation.
Since the acquisition in 2013 of the former Gala Casinos how has the rebrand to Rainbow Casino Aberdeen, Bristol Cardiff & Teeside been received by the Casinos regulars and has the fresh look assisted with gaining more patrons to the respective Casino operations?
Feedback from players on the whole has been very positive; we have seen significant increases in numbers attending which has been reflected in drop. We are steadily improving our product which was very outdated when we took over and have now converted all the sites to TITO with much more up to date slot product and are always looking for new ways to market to both our existing players and attract new patrons. We also hope to go live with our new loyalty programme later this year.
What has been the groups approach in developing the appeal of the food and beverages to the regional Casinos?
It is important to cater for a local market and whilst our core menus are the same throughout the group, each property is able offer more local dishes and beverages to suit demands of the area. There will always be a demand for core products like good quality steak but in Teesside for example we offer a dish called a Parmo which is peculiar to that area but would not sell anywhere else. You have to take a flexible approach and not try to force products on customers just because it has a good GP (gross profit) or because someone at Head Office likes it. That said it is important that your product offering is constantly reviewed.
Entertainment is also a factor in broadening Casinos appeal especially outside of major Cities,. What has been the approach to involving cabaret along with singers?
This depends on the venue, we offer regular live entertainment at Teesside and Bristol but we tried it in Birmingham and the players simply didn’t like it. As with Food and Beverage, it is horses for courses.
Given the success Double Diamond achieved with the re-launch of the Rainbow Casino Birmingham have many of the Table games and Slots from that Casino been incorporated into the new Casinos?
Rainbow Birmingham has been tremendously successful. When we took it over it was old and tired and losing money. It is now a successful casino and makes a significant contribution to the group. Does that mean that we should copy everything we do in Birmingham in the other venues? Not at all. You have to look at each venue individually and find out what works in that location.
There are hundreds of new games on the market and I am all for trying new things but generally new games do not generate new money but simply move the money around the venue. For a new table game to work it has to capture the player’s imagination, offer perceived value and not be too complicated and just as importantly have the buy-in from the management. FreeBet Blackjack is now offered in most of our casinos as an alternative to regular Blackjack and has been received very well. We have introduced Punto Banco to Birmingham and Bristol; both casinos have seen a steady increase in demand.
Do the Casinos televise major Sports events such as the England & Wales Premiership FA Cup and Scottish Premiership FA Cup finals?
Yes we televise all the major sporting events, some create a lot of interest, and others go virtually unwatched. During the last World Cup for example was one of our quietest periods but the upcoming fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao I think will generate a lot of attendance. Again it depends on the location; rugby in Cardiff generates a lot more interest than football etc.
Sporting events generally tend to attract more of the leisure spend which does help with bar takings etc and can be used as an effective marketing tool to attract new visitors and whilst the seasoned casino visitor might not be so interested it is something which you have to offer.
Along with the rebrand in the Casinos there has also been the launch of the new website www.rainbowcasino.co.uk which has an unconventional layout, that is a fresh approach and visually provides a stylish impact as well as very effective in providing information on each of the Casinos. Was the development of the designs one that has been created by the agency or was it a cumulative approach between your organisation and the agency?
Our website is still very much a work in progress, we needed to get a website up and running quickly and it is visited by a huge amount of people. We used an external agency for the original development of the website but have recently employed another external company to look at how we use Social Media and they are also looking at the website to see how it can be improved to be more affective and link with Facebook, Twitter etc.
We are still a young company with limited resources so the use of external companies for specialised areas is important. Finding the right partner is not always easy and we have had a couple of false starts but those companies we are working with at the moment are working out well.
Did the Consortium behind Double Diamond consider bidding for some of the 2005 licences and of those that have been awarded to various ventures would Double Diamond consider investing in a new Casino from one of the winning bidders, or is the policy to look for opportunity with for example underperforming operations that perhaps would provide Rainbow Casinos brand better potential?
We have not considered getting involved in the bidding process for the 2005 licences. Since our takeover of the Gala clubs we have been concentrating on the existing estate and bringing that up to the standards that we require from our operations.
When Double Diamond was formed the long term plan was and still is, to grow by acquisition. We are prepared to look at any of the options you have mentioned. We have our benchmarks that we want to achieve from each operation and providing that they can be achieved then hopefully we will see Double Diamond grow as a company.
Do you think there is any scope for Double Diamond to move into Leisure Parks, Betting shops or Bingo or is the organisation firmly based in Casinos?
I never say never; but our strengths are in casinos. We have developed our niche in the market and compete very well against other casino 14 companies and that is where I see our growth coming from.
It could be worth the organisation chartering a Cruise Ship for its patrons and host baccarat and Poker Tournaments, as other than Birmingham it could sail from each Cities port from Bath right round to Teeside?
That’s not something I had thought of. We are always looking for new and innovative ideas.
Is there any further news on the possibility of their being a Rainbow Casino Dundee?
We are currently carrying out a feasibility study on Dundee; I will let you know how we progress.
In our previous interview you mentioned in your replay to my wish list question with regards to the UK gaming legislation - ‘I would like to see a more level playing field in that the facilities that can be offered by the holders of the small and large 2005 licences should be available in any casino.’ That is a very reasonable expectation and one that could be considered by the Gambling Commission?
All our current sites operate under the ’68 Act and if you take Bristol, which has attendances of over 5000 per week, to offer 20 slot machines just doesn’t make sense and does not cater for the demand in terms of both number of machines and mix of product. Whilst the newspapers have been full of negative stories particularly concerning LBO’s and FOBT’s, there is clearly a demand for more slot product in certain locations and we have to be allowed to grow our businesses. Casinos operators in the UK take very seriously their responsibilities especially when it comes to social responsibility and have an excellent track record. I can see no reason especially from a compliance and socially responsible point of view why this cannot happen.However, this is probably not top of anyone’s list at the moment and change is notoriously slow in coming. Politically it is not popular, especially with the General Election looming; a change to gaming legislation doesn’t win votes. We may have to wait quite a long time, but perhaps the very recent appointment of Grayling to promote the industry in a positive light and to work with The NCF and the industry for legislative change will help.