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Author: caseypullmanzgv
Date: 6-20-14
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High rollers on a winning streak at LCI casinos

A winning streak by a group of high rollers at the exclusive Les Ambassadeurs casino will knock profits at London Clubs International (LCI), the gaming group warned yesterday.

A winning streak by a group of high rollers at the exclusive Les Ambassadeurs casino will knock profits at London Clubs International (LCI), the gaming group warned yesterday.

Its shares tumbled nearly 16 per cent on the news that its operating profits for the year ending March 2005 would be "significantly below" last year's figures. The closure and refurbishment of two of its other London venues, Fifty and The Sportsman, have also hit the group.

Bill Timmins, the chief executive of LCI, said Les Ambassadeurs had its worst run of luck in five years in December and January, losing to a number of wealthy punters.

The casino is a haunt for a number of rich overseas businessmen, including Victor Chandler, the Gibraltar-based multimillionaire bookmaker.

Mr Timmins said: "It is a misconception that gamblers always lose. Someone can win as much as ?850,000 a go in one of our casinos on one spin of the roulette wheel. That is the business we are in. I don't like it, but it does happen sometimes." He said the house had a better run of results in February and March, and its Sportsman and Fifty casinos were now open to the public.

Wayne Brown, at Altium Securities, said: "This is an inherent problem with casinos that attract very wealthy players. But it is not a problem with trading - there are not fewer people coming in through the door. It is just that a few individuals have done very well." Stanley Leisure, a rival casino operator, warned on profits this year after losing ?3m to one individual, reportedly the entrepreneur Paul Newey of Ocean Finance.

Amid speculation that LCI's largest shareholder, the Malaysian gaming group, Genting, is looking to merge LCI with the casino operations of Stanley Leisure, in which it also owns a significant stake, Mr Timmins said he did not know what Genting's intentions towards his group were. "I have not spoken to Genting about their endgame," he said.

Analysts believe a tie-up between the casino operators would make sense, as Stanley has a large portfolio of provincial casinos, which do not attract as many high rollers as London venues and are, therefore, less risky.

Mr Timmins also welcomed the prospect of modernising gambling rules after the Government reached a compromise with opposition MPs to get its Gambling Bill on to the statute books. Reducing the number of Las Vegas-style super-casinos to one from eight, as the Government has agreed to, limits the competition LCI's estate would face. The group will also benefit from laws to allow casinos to advertise for the first time. The news helped the group's shares close 6 per cent down at 103p.

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