Genting UK, the Malaysian-owned operator of more than 30 of the UK's 120 active casinos, has confirmed that it is poised to acquire Casino 36, which runs three casinos in the Midlands and Greater Manchester.
"We can confirm that Genting Casinos UK is currently in advanced discussions to acquire all sites under the Casino 36 UK Ltd brand, specifically the casinos at Wolverhampton, Dudley and Stockport,” said a company spokesperson.
"We are confident that any acquisition will strengthen our current portfolio and enhance our existing reputation as a leading UK casino operator.
"We are working very closely with the management team at Casino 36 and anticipate that we can have this full agreement completed in the coming weeks."
No details of the value of the transaction were confirmed, which would extend Genting's presence in a shrinking UK casino market that has suffered nine casino closures, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two of the clubs within the Casino 36 portfolio, in Stockport and Dudley, hold 1968 Gaming Act licences limiting them to a maximum of 20 slot machines, but the Wolverhampton property is a small casino within the meaning of the 2005 Gambling Act, entitling it to up to 80 machines.
The UK's land-based casino operators, Genting among them, have lobbied the government during its long-running white paper review of the 2005 Gambling Act to introduce a sliding scale of slot machine entitlement for smaller casino properties still licensed under the 1968 Act.
Leaks from a draft of the white paper review, however, have suggested their pleas have not been heard and that a majority of the 1968 Act properties would not be eligible for additional machines.
Sources close to the transaction on Monday (July 18) said the Casino 36 deal would likely complete by mid-August.
Casino 36 has endured some turbulence with both its regulators and customers in recent years.
In 2019, the operator paid £300,000 to conclude a regulatory settlement with the UK Gambling Commission.
The commission's investigation, one of many underway during that period, found the Wolverhampton-based venue failed to conduct adequate customer enhanced due diligence (EDD), source of funds and source of wealth checks for 33 customers.
These individuals spent a combined £147,741 at Casino 36 between November 2017 and October 2018.
Although senior management became aware of these breaches on February 12, 2018, they continued to occur, according to the commission's comments at the time.
The commission found a “lack of cohesion regarding their policies and procedures, poor levels of communications with no control sheets or mandatory obligations for policies and procedures to be updated”.
In addition to the financial element of the settlement, Casino 36 had further conditions imposed on its licence to require that all personal management licence (PML) holders working for the operator undergo anti-money laundering training.
The casino was also told to introduce extra due diligence checks on its top 250 players within six months and appoint an independent chairperson to review its internal controls and systems, at least once a year.
At the time of the settlement announcement, Richard Watson, commission executive director, said operators had a responsibility to ensure they are not allowing illegal funds to flow through their companies.
“As a result of Casino 36’s failings stolen money could have flowed unchecked through their casino and vulnerable customers were placed at risk of harm,” Watson said. “This is simply not acceptable."
More recently, the operator also saw two men stabbed when a fight broke out at a private event in November 2021.
Local media reported casino staff had been hosting a private party in one of the Wolverhampton casino's event rooms when a “serious incident” took place. Two men, aged 27 and 21, were taken to hospital with stab wounds but the injuries did not prove to be life-threatening.
Casino 36's new owners, Genting UK, almost uniquely among UK operators, have not been subject to any sanctions by the UK Gambling Commission in respect of their land-based casino operations.
Casino sale transactions have become increasingly rare in the UK as the number of dormant licences have increased and buyers have struggled to place a value on London's high-roller properties, but last month Metropolitan Gaming announced that one of its wholly owned subsidiaries had completed the purchase of the troubled Park Lane Club London in an asset sale thought to have been valued at around £10m.
The Park Lane casino is currently appealing its licence revocation by the UK Gambling Commission.