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Clockfair: Making the Customer Feel Relaxed

by Alan Campbell |  Published: Oct 01, 2007

In Britain's ever increasing and competitive casino market, making the customer feel at home and comfortable is a strategy that is paying off for Clockfair Limited.

The Midlands-based casino venture is the nation's eighth largest with two locations, the Broadway Casino in Birmingham and the Shaftesbury Casino in nearby West Bromwich, and was founded by Martyn and David Shine in 1994 following the opening of their first casino in Dudley.

The brothers had cut their teeth in the industry beginning in the early 1970s while working for their father, the well-known British bookmaker and casino owner Monty Shine, who operated casinos in Northampton, Wolverhampton, and Coventry.

Following their father's death in 1991, these sites were sold to Stakis, the British hotels, casinos, and health clubs group, and Martyn and David were absent from the trade for a few years until they were able to obtain a casino license for the site in Dudley.

"We bought the site in Dudley as a snooker hall, and it served as such for several years before we converted it into the Castle Hill Casino in 1994," Broadway General Manager Charlie Griffin said. "There was one vacant casino license in Dudley after a casino in the town closed, so we applied for that vacant license."

In 2001, Clockfair opened its Shaftesbury Casino as a quiet and relaxed place for the citizens of that area to have a drink and some fun before its Dudley site was sold to Blue Chip Casinos Limited in 2003. The Broadway Casino was then opened in 2005 near the centre of Birmingham as a sumptuous and classic alternative to the more flashy and brash sites that had been springing up all over the UK, and has since gone on to have a membership base of 23,000.

Clockfair stated that it had been looking to expand its casino business for some time before this point, and Birmingham, as a fast growing and prospering city, was the perfect choice. The Broadway Casino site had previously been the city's children's hospital and was an imposing and well-known building, part of an overall development in the area called Broadway Plaza.

Apart from its large size, the Broadway now has a reputation as the premier casino in Birmingham, the UK's second-largest city, and Clockfair's Shaftesbury site will soon follow this model after a refit due to be finished in October.

"The atmosphere is very subdued, tasteful, welcoming, and easy-going," Griffin said. "From the moment you're welcomed by our experienced reception staff, you'll feel at ease in our friendly and relaxed club atmosphere. We strive with our management approach to be friendly, welcoming, and knowing our customers on a personal level to make them feel comfortable and at home. The casino is well presented in a classic contemporary style and different from other sites in that there are not a lot of big flashing lights."

The Broadway features a live pianist every day of the week, along with other live entertainment and one of the largest gaming floors in Europe, where players can try their luck on one of eight roulette tables, 32 TouchBet roulette terminals linked to three lives games, or 20 slot machines offering £4,000 jackpots. The venue also offers blackjack and three-card and stud poker, with its 120-seat cardroom holding daily tournaments and cash games. Every game is house-dealt and run by experienced supervisors and managers, with the normal competition schedule ranging from £20 rebuys to £100 freezeouts.

"Trade has continued to grow, and the main reason for this has to be that we as a company offer good customer service," Griffin said. "Customers can go to any one of seven casinos in Birmingham or four in the immediate surrounding area of West Bromwich, but we encourage repeat business by excelling in the product that we offer."

The Broadway recently hosted Sky Poker's first live competition, which was televised in June, and has previously been associated with Paddy Power, William Hill, the Aussie Millions, the Amateur Poker Association Tour, and the Betfred ladies tour that will take place in November.

In June, it hosted Poccer's first tournament, a game that combines five-a-side soccer with poker, and it also has sent players to the World Series Of Poker (WSOP). It is also planning to hold its next biannual festival in early October at the Broadway, with the final being a £1,000 freezeout competition.

Clockfair also runs snooker clubs, sports bars, and nightclubs under other brand names, and employs in total up to 350 people. Last year saw more than 225,000 people visit its two casinos, and the company expects this number to grow once renovations are complete on its Shaftesbury site.

These renovations will see the site's staff rooms and offices moved to another floor to make space available for an enlarged gaming area and increase the facilities on offer. The Shaftesbury will double the size of its cardroom to 10 tables and increase the number of hard-gaming tables to 12. Its décor will mirror that of the Broadway, enabling it to cater to business seminars and large corporate events.

"We will be creating a relaxed, classic, and classy atmosphere," said Griffin. "This will be a massive incentive to the cardroom and offer great value to cardroom players in the area."