Rank makes another pitch for Belfast casino, appoints new Mecca Bingo boss

TAGs: belfast, Mecca Bingo, Rank Group

rank-group-northern-ireland-needhamUK casino operator Rank Group is once again trying to convince officials in Northern Ireland to let them build a gaming joint in Belfast. Exactly one year ago, Rank was sniffing around the city, which currently doesn’t allow full-on casino gambling, hoping to catch ‘come hither’ glances from city councillors. This September, Rank made a formal pitch, suggesting certain areas of the city would benefit immensely from the addition of a shiny new Rank casino.

Rank was back haranguing city council on Tuesday, with Rank non-executive director Richard Needham (pictured) imploring councilors not to reject Rank’s pitch merely to satisfy “the religious views of some people.” Needham said the new Rank complex would boost the city’s annual tax revenue by £3m and create hundreds of new jobs in the restaurants, bars and live theater Rank’s project would contain in addition to a casino.

Northern Ireland is due to consider new gambling legislation early in 2015 but a relaxation on the current casino prohibition is not part of the present draft. In a statement to the BBC, Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey said the Northern Ireland Executive agreed in December 2012 that the existing casino prohibition “should remain unchanged for the present. I see no compelling reason to revisit this issue at this time.”

But Rank is attempting to convince Belfast to press for a special dispensation from the Northern Ireland Assembly that would authorize a single casino. Needham reminded councilors that the state of gambling in Northern Ireland was “chaotic,” in that the government is unable to precisely determine how many fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) are currently vexing the region’s gamblers.

In other Rank news, the company has appointed former Camelot UK managing director Martin Pugh as the new MD of its Mecca Bingo brand. Pugh replaces Mark Jones, who was given the job of running Rank’s Grosvenor Casinos brand in October. Rank CEO Henry Birch, who had been doing double-duty as interim MD of the bingo operations, said Pugh’s “wealth of experience in not only gambling but also marketing and leisure” would serve both he and Mecca well.


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