London’s venerable Ritz Club Casino had a disappointing performance in 2015 thanks to VIP gamblers getting luckier and less honorable.
In public documents filed last week, the Ritz Club reported a net loss of £12.8m in the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2015, compared to a net profit of over £5.2m in 2014. Turnover for the year was £38.4m, down significantly from £66.9m in 2014, while the cost of sales also fell to £41.3m from £52.6m in 2014.
The company blamed the downturn on “a low win percentage” at its gaming tables and “a much higher level of gaming debts incurred in the year.” The filing claims the property would have turned a £2.4m profit last year if its VIPs had shown a little more urgency in honoring their markers. Ritz CEO Roger Marris told This Is Money that the overdue debts were courtesy of less than a half-dozen Asian high-rollers.
Marris took a philosophical stance regarding the slow pace of debt collection, calling this “normal for our business,” which is “very much about the personal relationship.” Marris insisted that the casino did “pursue” its debtors, saying “we talk to them regularly and they are paying us back.”
The Ritz has had a couple of very public run-ins with some recalcitrant VIPs in recent years. In 2014, the UK High Court ordered a Saudi heiress (and the wife of Oman’s foreign minister) to honor a £1m marker that she’d tried to dodge by accusing the casino of not providing a “duty of care” to prevent her from gambling to excess.
In April, the long-running saga of Swiss businessman Safa Abdulla Al Geabury finally reached its conclusion when the same court sentenced the scofflaw to 10 months in jail for failing to honor a £2.2m Ritz marker.
The Ritz’s filing said it would look to maintain its “established Middle Eastern business” but would also continue to focus on “new Asian business client relations.” Expanded marketing and PR efforts would continue to reach out to “relevant groups.”