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Rank appoints former William Hill online boss as CEO

(Reuters) - British bingo and casino operator Rank has appointed online gambling specialist Henry Birch as its new chief executive, the company said on Thursday.

Birch, 45, succeeds Ian Burke who moves into the role of non-executive chairman in changes that take effect from May 6.

Birch was the chief executive of William Hill Online, a joint venture between the British bookmaker and gambling software company Playtech, for four years until October 2012.

Rank, majority-owned by Malaysia's Guoco Group, reported a 23 percent fall in first half profit in January because of falling customer numbers at its bingo halls.

Burke, 57, had been in the chief executive's role at Rank for eight years and said it had been his decision to move on.

"With his track record in the online betting and gaming sector, the Rank board believes that Henry is well-equipped to lead Rank's continued exploitation of growth opportunities in the gaming and leisure markets," the company said.

Rank said last week that it planned to open three new bingo halls in Britain after the government cut tax on the game.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bangalore, editing by William Hardy)

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