Hippodrome to expand its entertainment offering in 2017
Hippodrome to expand its entertainment offering in 2017
Following the landmark announcement back in June that the UK will be leaving the European Union, the second half of 2016 has seen many sectors of the country’s leisure industry shrouded in uncertainty. Will operators take a hit from diminishing consumer confidence, or could they benefit from Brexit through an increase in staycations and an influx of foreign visitors?
While the full impact of the UK’s decision to leave the common market will take months, perhaps years, to ascertain, trading has remained strong for London’s Hippodrome Casino, as the historic venue continues to develop its entertainment offering.
The brainchild of architect Frank Matcham, the now-iconic Hippodrome first opened as a circus variety theatre in 1900. In the 1950s the venue was transformed into the Talk of the Town, featuring a host of major stars from around the world.
After being acquired by father-and-son team James and Simon Thomas in 2009, the building underwent a £45m refurbishment. The Hippodrome Casino officially opened its doors to the public in July 2012.
“Opening the Hippodrome has been the most exciting period of my business life,” said Simon Thomas, chairman and CEO of the Leicester Square venue. “Now, in our fourth year, we’re running at an exhilarating new pace.
“We share the same fundamental challenges as other casinos – staff, service, customer attraction and retention. But we’re also very much in a category of our own, being a more rounded entertainment offering.”
With four floors of gaming, including the PokerStars Live deck, an award-winning restaurant, 180-seat cabaret and music room, six bars and an indoor smoking terrace, the Hippodrome is the West End’s largest entertainment venue.
“Business is strong, and my amazing team here at the Hippodrome continues to develop the business in many varied, exciting and, I hope, innovative new areas,” Thomas told TotallyGaming.com.
According to Thomas, the UK’s general, mass-market casinos are “performing nicely”, but high-end facilities have had some issues with changes in operating procedures enforced by the Gambling Commission, particularly around high spending customers and agents.
“For the British casino market to fully compete on a global level, it has to be able to provide both a broad leisure offering at one end, and the specialist high-end casinos at the other which will need some care and attention from the regulators,” Thomas said.
“We are also delighted the government has announced its review into gaming machines which, if common sense prevails, will reduce the amount of casino gambling in betting shops and allow casinos up to 80 slots each.”
Since re-opening in 2012, the Hippodrome has seen several new additions to its entertainment offering, including the Macau Lounge and Cranbourn Club, which helps widen the appeal of the casino to an increasingly diverse range of visitors.
“Asian customers are important to every casino,” said Thomas. “The number of Chinese coming to London is increasingly materially as the government finally makes it easier to gain meaningful visa entry and the tourism and business market grows. The Macau Lounge is primarily baccarat and pai gow, and is a tremendously popular area of the business.
“Just as importantly, we insist on providing a variety of themed areas that provide different gaming and entertainment experiences, such as Lola’s Underground Casino – an evocation of the building’s theatrical heritage, when back stage drinking and gambling proliferated – and the higher-end Cranbourn Club on the third floor, which has a quieter, more leisurely atmosphere.”
Although Hippodrome’s present-day owners continue to embrace the building’s theatrical heritage, they are not ignoring the opportunities that can be brought about through the adoption of new technologies.
“The Hippodrome’s online portal is a solid revenue stream that also provides a valued-added service and a strong new opportunity for marketing,” explained Thomas. “Through our partnership with Betway and PokerStars, revenues have been good, and we have had excellent experiences in offline/online convergence and cross-marketing. We have just added a live dealer table based in the lower ground Lola’s, which is presenting us with other interesting opportunities.
“Cash payments are another form of online/offline convergence, and, being mindful that digital transactions are booming, we now accept Neteller digital wallet, where customers can put cash on and take out of their account. Again, such a partnership provides new marketing opportunities.”
Despite having an entrance on one of London’s busiest squares, the Hippodrome continues to drive additional footfall through promotions and special events throughout the year. “While Christmas and New Year are always going to be busy, it’s still fun to push boundaries and grab opportunities to link with key dates across the year – especially in our partnership with London’s Chinese community and their incredible festivals,” Thomas said.
“We have a large giveaway in the run up to Christmas, and have another ambitious New Year’s Eve celebration planned, with special dinners, cabaret performances, entertainment and the traditional balloon drop.”
Looking ahead to 2017, the Hippodrome will once again be the host venue for the International Casino Conference, which takes place in the lead-up to ICE Totally Gaming.
“We have an excellent relationship with the conference organisers, the European Casino Association, and are delighted they held their recent board meeting and dinner here at the Hippodrome,” Thomas said. “Despite the UK opting to leave the common market, we are still very much a part of Europe and share its common aims, challenges and opportunities.
“The big project for early 2017 is to integrate our newly acquired adult gaming centre – The Crystal Rooms – which sits at pavement level within the building, but currently has a separate entrance. This will be integrated into the main building by opening a third entrance to the property, and will be completed towards the end of the first quarter. We will also be making additional improvements to the Macau Lounge and Cranbourn Club.”
Totally Gaming says: With a history stretching back nearly 120 years, the Hippodrome is one of London’s most iconic entertainment venues. Yet while the casino’s owners continue to embrace the building’s rich heritage, the development of new entertainment areas and the adoption of new technologies is helping to define the next generation of British casinos.
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