|According to The Sunday Times newspaper, Malaysian gambling giant Genting has acquired a ten percent stake in the UK’s Rank Group.|
Rank operates the Grosvenor Casinos chain (the UK’s second largest in terms of sites), along with an online casino and poker room at GrosvenorCasinos.com. It rejected a deal last week from Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment to purchase 28 percent of its business in exchange for the London Clubs International firm, the nation’s fourth largest casino chain.
The newspaper speculated that Genting’s move may start a bidding war for the company with Harrah's, UK betting operators Ladbrokes and William Hill as well as Singaporean company BIL listed as possible suitors.
Industry sources stated that Genting could be interested in merging its current British casino business with Rank's and is understood to have taken the stake as a pre-emptive move against any rival bids. The Kuala Lumpur-based firm bought Stanley Leisure last year for $1.3 billion, instantly making it the UK’s largest casino operator with 45 of the nation’s 143 licenses, and was also a long-standing investor in London Clubs International before a Harrah’s takeover.
A combination of anti-smoking laws, taxation and uncertainty on the UK Government's next move has had a depressing effect on the gambling and leisure business in Britain this year, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown allegedly backing away from plans to deregulate the sector and allow the construction of new and larger casinos.