A FURTHER decline in the number of people playing bingo has left Rank Group's Mecca business nursing a 16 per cent slide in annual profits.

Visits to Mecca's 97 clubs, which include 13 sites in Scotland, dropped seven per cent to 12.6 million in the year to June 30, although this was an improvement on the 10 per cent fall seen in the first quarter.

The better trend followed the introduction of lower priced sessions, a refer-a-friend reward scheme and various food and drink promotions after a review of all venues - session by session - found some offers were uncompetitive.

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Mecca's operating profits dropped to £37 million as Rank Group, which also owns Grosvenor Casinos, saw pre-tax profits drop four per cent to £62.5m even though statutory revenue grew 14 per cent to £678.5m.

Grosvenor's profits were 20 per cent higher at £56.8m as it benefited from the conversion of 19 former Gala Coral sites into its own formats such as G Casino.

A weaker London performance also reduced like-for-like sales.

Rank said it still had more to do in the digital market, where its operations generated 10 per cent of group revenues at a time when the option of online channels now represent around 30 per cent of Britain's gambling market.