|Mike Smith, the Rank chief executive, has stated unequivocally that the corporation must look to the expanding gaming market as its saviour, after its Hard Rock restaurant and café chain dragged its profits down last year. Smith blamed the weakness of the dollar and 'the absence of any significant recovery' in the global tourism sector as profits slid by 16.4% to £23.1 million despite a costly drive to revive the brand.|
The slump was redeemed, however, by the company’s gaming division, which posted a 9.4 per cent increase to £114.7 million in operating profits. The Internet gaming unit, boosted by the acquisition of Blue Square, posted maiden profits of £1.9 million; while Rank's land-based casinos enjoyed a 16% incline in profit.
Mr Smith said: 'The main focus of our efforts in 2004 will be on gaming where the opportunities for further development, especially following the proposed changes in the UK regulatory environment, could be significant.' The corporation plans to open seven new land-based casinos this year as well as expanding its online bookmakers, Blue Square, by opening its first high street shop.