Manchester’s changing gambling scene: How are online casinos affecting their bricks and mortar rivals?

There’s no question that as a nation we are very keen gambling fans in all of its many forms from the lottery to slots and horse racing to casinos.

The figures speak for themselves: in the year from October 2017 the UK’s gross gambling yield, as reported by the Gambling Commission, was £14.5 billion.

It’s a national phenomenon but there are definitely gambling hotspots around the country and these tend to be in our major cities including, of course, Manchester.

From a first-rate selection of casinos to one of a dwindling number of greyhound tracks in the UK with the legendary Belle Vue, it’s arguably the gambling capital of the north.

It also seems to be a city that’s holding firm against the inexorable rise of the online casino. In less than three decades this is a sector of the gaming industry that has risen from nowhere to account for a significant proportion of the country’s gross gambling yield.

What’s more, the proliferation of UK online casinos has also led to an explosion of so-called “affiliate sites” where players can compare and contrast the numerous, and very generous, welcome bonuses that online casinos offer to attract new members.

The growing popularity of the online option has also shown up in the official figures in which the overall revenue raised by gambling has shown a marginal decrease while the amount spent on remote gaming in all of its forms has shown an annual increase of 2.9%.

One of the reasons for the growing popularity of online casinos has been the efforts that major operators have been making to recreate the excitement of the real thing, but with the added convenience of players being able to participate whenever and wherever they want.

For example, many now offer “live” casinos which have real dealers running actual games, all streamed to the player’s mobile or PC.

The growing popularity of virtual reality is also likely to soon see the emergence of even more realistic experiences. In fact, it may soon be possible to visit virtual versions of actual casinos, at which point the bricks and mortar originals could, quite justifiably, begin to get a little worried.

There are quite a number who could well be affected by the rising tide of the online alternative, as any Manchester resident or frequent visitor will know.

Three of the highest profile ones are owned and run by the Grosvenor group. These are located in the city centre, Didsbury and Cheetham Hill. 

All offer a range of games with the latter boasting the biggest poker room in the North West, a frequent venue for tournaments as well as a good selection of cash games every day of the week. Venturing out of the centre, Grosvenor also have casinos in Salford and Stockport to cement their regional dominance.

That’s not to say that Grosvenor are the only game in town these days. For a taste of Las Vegas-style glitz and glamour, there’s the Manchester 235 Club.

It’s owned by the legendary Caesars Entertainment and has an authentic US feel to it, even down to the American-style roulette tables instead of the more traditional European versions.

The final big player on the area’s casino scene is the Far East-based Genting. They have two to choose from, one in the city centre and the second in Salford where it dominates the area around Castle Irwell.

So, from this brief overview of the current casino scene in Manchester it would seem like the blackjack, roulette and poker fan is pretty well served at the moment.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that that the big news in the gambling scene in 2019 hasn’t concerned a new casino opening, but the relocation of one to larger and more suitable premises.

In March the Admiral casino moved from City Tower to Wellington House, back to the side of Piccadilly Gardens where it first opened.

Admiral was granted planning permission for the move in the summer of 2018 and moved quickly to relocate. It’s seen to be part of the master plan of the council to redevelop the whole Piccadilly Gardens area and address concerns that it’s a part of the city that needs urgent attention.

As a casino that concentrates predominantly on slots games Admiral could face particular competition from online rivals where it’s these games that are the biggest revenue earners.

The company obviously doesn’t feel this will be such an issue as Manchester has always been one of the most profitable of its 230 locations, attracting 1,500 customers a week.

So, it’s a question of waiting to see just how online gambling is going to affect this, and all the other casinos, in the region.

The ideal would be for the two forms of gambling to exist side by side – great for a night out at the casino and ideal for those rainy evenings when you’d prefer to stay in to play!

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