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Genting Stanley National Poker Championships

by Alan Campbell |  Published: Feb 01, 2008

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Until very recently, Genting Stanley was known as Stanley Leisure, the company founded by Lord Leonard Steinberg in the late '50s from a string of betting shops that gradually grew to include casinos. The business was purchased in October of 2006 by Malaysian company Genting International, a major leisure, gaming, and entertainment group listed on the Singapore stock exchange and a subsidiary of Genting Berhad. It was attracted to the UK by the prospect of casino deregulation and the financial benefits this could entail.

"Certainly, Genting had and still has a very positive view of the potential opportunities in the UK market," Genting Stanley's Executive Deputy Chairman Peter Brooks impressed. "We have fairly recently changed our name to Genting Stanley with the change in ownership, but we are still the UK's largest casino operator and have 46 casinos, 41 of these outside of London."

Genting Stanley's London casinos include the oldest private-members gaming club in the world, the prestigious and world-renowned Crockfords of Mayfair, alongside its top-end Maxims and Colony casinos. It also operates the Palm Beach middle-range casino, along with its Mint location for the more traditional gambler.

"Genting followed the deregulation process in the UK closely and was confident that there would be opportunities to take advantage of growth in the market in the UK," explained Brooks. "Genting took a very measured and prudent approach to investment, with its global vision to be one of the world's leading global gaming groups. Having a strong and healthy footprint in the UK was an important part of a global presence. This could also, in due course, provide a platform for growth and development outside the UK. We think of ourselves as primarily the UK, but with the potential to expand more widely."

The company has now almost completed a process of rebranding its non-London casinos, which has seen its Maxims brand extended to include most of its top-end sites. Genting Stanley's parent company has also taken the name for the VIP facilities located at its Genting Highlands resort in Malaysia. Located 40 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur, Highlands features the world's largest hotel, alongside a theme park and international conference facilities, and regularly attracts 18 million annual visitors.

The company now has three distinct casino brands. In addition to the top-end Maxims brand, there is the Circus variety, which provides large and modern facilities for customers who want to make visiting a casino part of a leisure repertoire, and the Mint brand, which offers a welcoming and more intimate traditional casino experience.

"We haven't done any rebranding in London because we have five very individual casinos there," said Brooks. "The rebranding has been carried out to help us communicate to our customers the distinctive appeal of the different types of casinos that we have available for them. We offer people a fun night out that involves not only gaming, but also dining and, in some cases, entertainment. With our new brands now in place, we provide a night out for everyone."

Future Strategies
"We have a clear vision," asserted Brooks. "When Genting acquired Stanley Leisure, it was getting the UK's number-one casino company, and the vision is to build on that base to make us even more clearly the number one."

In a market with at least three other major operators, Genting Stanley stated that it is the quality of its customer service that sets it apart. For it, taking care of players and making sure that they have an enjoyable night out are the most important staff priorities.

"Wherever I go, I hear people speak in the highest regards about our staff," said a proud Brooks. "This is what contributes critically to having a really good night out, and I think that this is a very important part of our offering and something that we pay a lot of care and attention to.

"We have a first-class team working for us, and particularly for poker players, we pay a lot of attention to the cardroom staff, who are really experienced and totally focused on providing an entertaining cardroom experience, making sure that everyone in the club enjoys his night out."

The company stated that it is also looking to expand its poker offering online.

"Online poker is a great growth area, and we are certainly not ignoring it and are looking carefully at how we can step into a market that is already well-developed and do it in a way that is going to add to the appeal of what we have with our existing customers," said Brooks. "We are going to combine this with some revolutionary technology, so that we can provide people with a truly unique experience, combining the land-based and virtual games in the most attractive way possible for players."

Thanks to a string of partnerships, the largest casino operator in the UK, Genting Stanley, has announced a series of online and land-based qualifiers for its first major poker tournament, the Genting Stanley National Poker (GSNP) Championships.

With an expected total prize pool of $300,000, the GSNP Championships will take place March 26-30 at three of Genting Stanley's English casinos - the recently refurbished Mint casino in Southend-on-Sea, Nottingham's new Circus venue, as well as the Circus casino in Manchester.

"Travelling great distances in order to play poker can put some players off, so we wanted to provide them with as much flexibility as possible," Brooks said. "We believe that holding the GSNP Championships at three venues will increase accessibility for as many of our existing players and members as possible."

What Goes on Tour …
Players can buy in directly to the Championships for $1,000 or win a seat online at AXXOPoker.com, TheRiverCard.com, and DavesPokerRoom.com for $1.10.

"We have been looking for all sorts of ways that we could offer our poker-playing members more fun," Brooks said. "We, as a company, were not early into the business of running poker in our clubs, and we have been working very hard to build up our poker business over the past 18 months. Last August we ran a competition with a final based in Torquay called the Torquay Golden Sands Festival. That competition was very successful and appealed to many of our players, so we decided to roll that out on a much larger basis.

"Many of our players have told us that they like to participate in larger competitions from time to time, which give them the opportunity to play alongside some of the world's poker professionals and celebrities. So, we have built on the experience we gained from the Torquay competition and decided to hold the inaugural GSNP Championships.

"This is both an opportunity for players in the clubs to play in a bigger situation and also to provide online players with an opportunity to play in larger tournaments and ultimately give them the chance to play face to face. In fact, our online qualifiers have already started and are running daily."

In addition, Genting Stanley will be holding tournaments at 23 of its UK casinos until March 16, with winners receiving the same prize package that's available online, which includes admission to the Championships and spending money.

These tournaments are running on top of the casino operator's regular poker tournaments, with the results posted regularly on GSNPLeague.com and winning players automatically entered into the Championships from points earned off buy-ins and winnings.

For those who missed out the first time around but still want a chance at winning a seat at the Championships, the casino giant stated that it would be holding second-chance playoffs for those who finished in spots two to 21.

"What we believe these leagues offer is an extra bit of excitement for people who are turning up to play poker, as well as bringing additional players in and generally adding to a great fun night out," explained Brooks. "The leagues will also offer the opportunity to win one of the many places for the GSNP Championships."

Poker in the Pub
Finally, players can qualify for the Championships through the Poker in the Pub leagues run throughout the UK, with five lucky players having already booked their spots this way. The top players for one of the four 10-week leagues that Poker in the Pub operates will make their way to one of five regional finals, with the winners receiving their place at the GSNP Championships.

"For our festival in Torquay, we worked in tandem with Poker in the Pub and were very happy with the results - so much so that we have agreed to work together again," Brooks enthused.

Poker in the Pub has been running since July 2006 and sees patrons of more than 180 pubs compete locally for a place in one of five regional finals held in a Genting Stanley casino. First prize is normally a $1,000 buy-in to a UK poker festival, with the GSNP Championships the chosen event this time around.

The Championships will have been a success, the company stated, if players go away having had a great time either in the finals or qualifying rounds.

"What is central to us is that we are putting together a program that is appealing to people and that they will really enjoy," said Brooks. "If lots of people go home having had a great time, we'll regard that as a success."

The GSNP Championships was borne out of a demand for poker, and the company stated that it might reprise the competition in the future, as it intends to be a major player in the global poker world.

"There is no doubt that there is a large demand for poker, and we can see people in our clubs having a very good time playing. It is a central part of our plans going forward," Brooks said. "We are very confident in the UK market in our ability to play and compete, and that is reflected in the GSNP Championships. This is a unique offering, and we are very confident that it will be successful. We will probably look to do this again in the future as we aim to be a major part of the poker scene, with the GSNP Championships an important element to this that we will want to build on."