GAMING firm Rank Group is planning to spend £50m to expand its casino operations by a third.
The company is understood to be aiming to build at least five casinos in northern and central England over the next two years at a cost of £23m, with another five to be rolled out later.
Rank, which currently operates 35 casinos and 103 bingo halls, could not be reached for comment.
The company, owner of the Mecca bingo hall and Grosvenor casino chains, last week said revenues grew across all its businesses in the first half as customer numbers rose and as average customer spend also gained.
Revenue was up from £266m to £281.1m. Overall customer numbers increased by 11.9 per cent to more than 2.5m, with average spend per visit rising by 1.5 per cent to £22.48p.
The group reported an increase in first-half pre-tax profit to £25.1m, compared with £24.7m the year before. The board also declared an interim dividend of 0.74p.
Shares in Rank closed at 118.90p on Friday, valuing the company at £462.5m. The stock has risen 40 per cent since the start of the year.
The firm was awarded a substantial VAT repayment after a drawn-out battle with the inland revenue. It received the multi-million pound sum after being overcharged between 2003-2005.
The firm is planning to extend its online gaming facilities, with Playtech hired to design exclusive games for the Mecca website.
City A.M. Reporter