Scotland’s smoking ban is not a big deal, says casino giant

The smoking ban north of the Border is having a „very modest impact“ on Stanley Leisure’s three Edinburgh casinos, despite gamblers having to leave the table for their cigarette break.

The gaming giant, which has operations in Rutland Place, York Place and Ocean Drive in Leith, admitted it had been „apprehensive“ prior to the March 26 ban, but so far the impact on takings has been minimal.

A key performance measure is the level of win per admission, which relates to how much is left at the table for the casino operator.

Stanley finance director Colin Child said attendance levels at the group’s three city venues had remained strong, but pointed to a marginal reduction in win per admission.

„The fact that it has dropped has an impact on our financial performance,“ he admitted. „However, the good news is that there has been a very modest fall.

„Anecdotally, it seems to be that it’s just a reflection of the interruption in play where people pop outside to have a quick cigarette.“

Mr Child added: „The ban is not something we are concerned about financially at this stage but if the trends change then we’d need to think again.“

The early reaction to Scotland’s smoking ban emerged as the firm assured investors that its full-year performance had met expectations, helped by upmarket London sites recovering most of a first-half downturn seen after the July terrorist attacks.

Stanley also said business at its casinos outside the UK capital, including recently-acquired sites in Southend and Bristol, was being helped by the ending of a law which had prevented new members entering a casino for 24 hours.

In addition to the trio of Edinburgh venues, Stanley operates a fourth Scottish casino in Glasgow.

Group chief executive Bob Wiper explained second-half attendance in the provinces was up by about a sixth with more women – around 30 per cent now against 20 per cent previously – and more gamblers aged under 40.

Stanley also has an international betting business, but no longer keeps a presence on the high street after selling its bookmakers to William Hill for GBP 504 million.

A shake-up in UK gaming laws mean just 17 licences are now available for a new wave of casino and leisure venues, one of which will be a Las Vegas-style supercasino.

Those changes led to a flurry of new licence applications last week under the old rules before a Friday deadline.