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Sporting Life

Glyn Thomas puts the questions to Neil Howells Venue Director at the Sportsman Casino 

The Sportsman Casino is one of London's most well known Casinos – please could you provide a brief history of the iconic gaming venue?

The Sportsman Casino has been around since the 1960’s and originally had strong links with the sporting industry hence the name. It was originally located in Tottenham Court Road, then moved to Bryanston street and then 10 years ago moved to Old Quebec Street in Marble Arch. Many famous sporting legends have graced us with their presence over the years but in more recent times the Sportsman casino has moved away from its links with sports and now concentrates solely on gaming.

What is involved in your role of Venue Director?

As venue director it is my job to offer direction and support to my senior management team. I have to ensure that all aspects of the business are running at their full potential ensuring that revenues are maximized and customers are happy with the product offering. An important part of my role also includes HR issues making sure that the staff are happy and engaged and have a voice.  

How long have you been in the Casino industry?

Around 30 years!

What aspects of your role of Venue Director at the Sportsman Casino to you find most rewarding?

Its satisfying to see processes and strategies put in place by myself and my management team come to fruition and drive additional revenue. I also find it extremely rewarding seeing team members develop and grow and to to be able to provide people with opportunities to improve themselves professionally.

How has attendance at the Casino held up over recent years?

Attendance at the casino has seen a small dip in the last few years but spend per head is up, showing that the customers that are coming have changed and solidifying our position as we move further towards a Mayfair type of casino.

Food and beverages are of an ever increasing importance at Casinos how has the Sportsman Casino developed its menu and restaurant design and layout over recent years to accommodate an ever more demanding patrons?

We branded our casino restaurant in 2011 as Zaman. Named after our Head chef. The menu is designed to cater for all of our customers with Middle Eastern food, halal meat and fish dishes. We roll out a new menu every 6 months and the marketing manager and the chef work closely together to ensure that we are driving maximum covers and increasing revenue streams. In 2012 the restaurant underwent a refurbishment and we have seen an uplift in retail business and cash sales since.

Entertainment is also an important part of that mix, how often do you have performers and what is they general style of music performed at the Casino?

Due to the lack of event space within the casino and the type of gamer we attract we have learnt over the years that entertainment has a negative impact on business. We do however hold Arabic nights a few times a year which involves a band and belly dancers. These events take place in the restaurant area so as not to distract players while they are at the tables

Has the Casino undergone any major renovation in recent years?

In 2013 we underwent a major refurbishment. The refurbishment gave us the opportunity to move our slots product down t the basement doubling the gaming floor size which has produced significant increase in gaming and slots  revenues. The new interior gave the place a different feel which both customers and staff alike were pleased with. It breathed a new lease of life in to the place.

How many slots EGMs and tables do you have at the Casino?

We have 19 gaming tables, 20 slots and currently 15 ER machines. This is set to grow in the very near future however.

What is the percentage of local to tourist patrons on average whom visit the Casino?

65% of our customers live abroad. They come to the UK for business or pleasure or simply to avoid the high temperatures of the Middle East in the summer. They visit us regularly and for some of the higher end customers we visit them in their own countries as well.

What is your favourite piece of business advice?

I read a quote once that read ‘Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is definied by results not attributes’

When not at work how do you relax?

I am a huge rugby fan and like to go and watch as often as possible. I also love the gym and spending time with my 2 year old daughter.