Playing to Win: Nigel Sibley @ Commercial Director, Gaming Division @ Rank Group. (Profile)

Article excerpt

Nigel Sibley stands in stark contrast to the frenetic pace and gaudy glitz of London's Grosvenor Victoria casino. The soft-spoken and unassuming 39-year-old is an oasis of calm amid the chaos of twinkling lights and punters on the make.

He does, however, seem a bit uncomfortable in the suit and tie he's rustled up for the occasion -- Rank Group marketing's dress code is casual five days a week. "It's very, very relaxed," he says, looking very, very relaxed. "We're in a fun business."

As commercial director of Rank Group's gaming division, Sibley serves as the overall marketing chief for the company's 34 Grosvenor casinos and 130 Mecca bingo halls. He's in charge of a marketing team of 16, including head of marketing Jackie Abraham, who runs day-to-day marketing while he presides over strategy. Sibley, who stepped up from operations director for Mecca Bingo in July, still manages his duties for Mecca in addition to his marketing role.

It's quite a role to take on, particularly at a time when the business he is in is facing considerable change. Sibley won his current post in a restructuring that aimed to gear the business up for the possible liberalisation of the industry. The report, a fundamental review of gambling policy and practice by the Independent Gambling Review Body that came out in July, has called for reforms.

If carried out fully, the report's recommendations would mean a revolution in gaming. Rank Group begin integrating its casinos and bingo halls, which are required to be separate under law.

Advertising restrictions, which currently bar the advertising of casinos and were only lifted from bingo four years ago, would be abolished. The law requiring that new patrons apply for membership of a casino or bingo hall 24 hours before playing would be thrown out, bringing in new business from tourists and impulsive passers-by, who are currently forced to wait a day before being allowed to play.

Rank is priming the pump with its planned opening of two casinos under its Hard Rock brand in London and Manchester.

If the recommendations of the Budd report are implemented, Hard Rock could give Rank Group a valuable entertainment brand to couple with its gaming operations. A revamp of the interiors of its casinos, initiated by Sibley and aimed at repositioning them away from the smoky, underworld mystique typically associated with the venues, is progressing.

Meanwhile, Sibley has called a review of its advertising agency of nearly four years, WCRS, ahead of an increase in above-the-line activity for Mecca Bingo and possibly for the casinos. Rank hired WCRS when bingo advertising was first legalised in 1998. …