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Stanley Casinos

by Alan Campbell |  Published: Jul 01, 2007


In Great Britain's ever-increasing and competitive casino market, the old adage of "giving customers what they want" has seen Liverpool's Stanley Casinos grow from just three sites a few decades ago to the nation's top dog.

Lord Leonard Steinberg founded parent company Stanley Leisure in the late '50s with a string of betting shops before gradually acquiring casinos, starting in the late '70s with three venues, in Manchester, Liverpool, and Stockport. Stanley Leisure soon grew to become a public limited company (PLC) with 45 casinos around the nation before selling its betting shop business to William Hill in 2004. In October of last year, Malaysian company Genting International PLC, a subsidiary of Genting Berhad, purchased Stanley and set about improving the business.

Genting is a major leisure, gaming, and entertainment group listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, incorporated in 1984 with the aim of investing in leisure and gaming-related businesses outside of Malaysia. It already had a 20 percent stake in Stanley Casinos, along with shares in competitor London Clubs International (LCI), which it sold to Harrah's Entertainment before the sale. It bought Stanley in order to gain a foothold in the UK market, which, following recent deregulation legislation, could become one of the world's fastest-growing casino markets, worth up to $22 billion in the next five years.

"I believe that Genting were attracted to Stanley due to the deregulation of casinos in the UK and we are the biggest operator here," Stanley's Regional Director for the Midlands Mark Ross said.

The sale saw Stanley gain Maxims Casino Club in London, which was already owned by Genting, and, following a review that saw it close one of its two Blackpool sites, encompass 45 casino sites, including the largest casino in the UK, Birmingham's Star City, and London's famous Crockfords Casino.

Today, Stanley operates five casinos in London and 41 additional casinos throughout the nation, from Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland to Plymouth and Torquay in southern England. Its casino brands include the large Circus sites consisting of new-builds or relocated casinos, along with the Stanley Casinos and Mint brands of casinos.

British casinos will not see the full benefits of new deregulation legislation under the Gaming Act 2005 until September, but some early freedoms under this legislation have already seen a growth in business.

Deregulation under the Act will also see, subject to stiff rules, the legalisation of casino advertising for the first time and this could be very good for Stanley's business.

The latest Stanley casino to open was its 30,000-square-foot Circus Casino in Nottingham, which cost $14 million to develop.

"Nottingham Circus offers the best in modern gaming technology, including a state-of-the-art electronic gaming lounge featuring the latest jackpot slots, as well as all the favourite table games such as poker, blackjack, and roulette," Mark said.

The new Nottingham venue could create more than 150 jobs, and was granted under the government's existing pre-deregulation casino licensing scheme. This is also the case for Stanley's latest casinos in Liverpool, a Circus brand that could open later this year, and Sheffield, which should be open within two years, and take its number of casinos up to 48.

Stanley is also committed to a policy of refurbishment and is currently moving its Edinburgh Circus casino to a larger site to enable it to provide customers with better facilities and updated and stylish surroundings, much like it did recently with its Manchester Circus casino.

Stanley said that the main reason behind its success has been its focus on customer service and in giving customers what they want. Its sites are not just casinos, but total entertainment complexes that will consider any new ideas that customers request.

"Our aim is to provide our customers with a fun night out, and we try to cater for all of our customers' needs," Mark said. "We are prepared to give new ideas a try, and we listen to customer feedback. So, if they want live music or a poker competition on a certain night of the week, we'll try to cater for them. It's by listening to our members and acting on their feedback that we've become the UK's largest casino operator."

The list of games available at a Stanley venue is comprehensive. Players can usually partake in American roulette, blackjack, progressive stud poker, three-card poker, Punto Banco, big six, electronic roulette, slots, Punto 2000, and mahjong. The majority of Stanley's casinos also offer poker rooms, where competitions are held throughout the year, and some also have begun holding backgammon tournaments.

One such poker tournament was the UK's first-ever women-only championship, which was held at its Birmingham Star City Casino in September. The Star City UK Ladies Poker Championship saw 108 women going head-to-head to win the title and more than $20,000, along with a $10,000 five-carat diamond bracelet.

"Since the 2005 Gambling Act and subsequent deregulation, there has been an increase in the numbers of women visiting our casinos, as ladies feel very safe in our regulated membership environment," Mark said.

Linda Iwaniak from Reading scooped the top spot after two days against women from all over the UK. The poker played was no-limit Texas hold'em and the tournament cost $500 to enter. Stanley said that this would become an annual event held every September.

Another example of an independent tournament held at a Stanley casino will be the Golden Sands Festival Tournament in mid-August at Torquay's Stanley Casino. TheRiverCard.Com will be jointly sponsoring the event, which will consist of a £500 two-day event, a £100 freezeout event, and two £50 rebuy events playing no-limit Texas hold'em with a guaranteed jackpot of £30,000. This ranking tournament will be rake-free with no fee taken, and will offer a free buffet.

"This tournament is really to highlight the Stanley Casino in Torquay and to bring people in, so it's a great one for poker players," TheRiverCard.Com Managing Director Dave Brannan said.

TheRiverCard.Com is also sponsoring a 10-week league at the same venue that started in May and runs until July, with winners gaining free entry to the tournament.

"In the past, certainly in the UK, poker players didn't tend to contribute to table play," Dave said. "But the new generation of poker players are much bigger gamblers, so casinos do not mind poker tournaments now because they are bringing in action across the table."

As far as future plans, Stanley said that it intends to carry on doing what got it to No. 1 in the first place.

"We are pleased to be the UK's largest casino operator and, moving forward, we aim to continue to offer high levels of customer service," Mark said.