Pretoria East community organisations have asked the high court to review the approval of rezoning rights for Menlyn Maine, the new R8 billion development that could include a Sun International hotel and casino.
Sun International has applied to the gambling board for amendment of its licence and relocation of the declining Morula Sun Casino and Hotel from Mabopane to Menlyn Maine.
The second day of the Gauteng Gambling Board public hearings into the application heard that stakeholders were unhappy with the approval of the rezoning rights for the development and the R3bn Sun International component to be known as Time Square at Menlyn Maine. Teresa Conradie of Motla Conradie Attorneys said papers were with the high court on behalf of at least 14 organisations challenging the approval.
National legislation requires zoning rights be in place before the transfer of licence can be approved.
“The applicants are confident the application will be successful as there is evidence to prove due process was not followed in the approval of the rezoning,” she said.”
The respondents are Menlyn Maine and the City of Tshwane, and residents are awaiting opposition papers.
In the founding affidavit presented to the gambling board, ward councillor Duncan Baker said that when he first met with representatives of the developers in January last year he was handed documents related to the development that made no mention of a casino.
He said the first notice published in the Provincial Gazette also did not mention a casino. It was only in the second notice that an amendment to the decision was published, which included a “place of amusement”.
Henk Boogertman, representing Menlyn Maine, told the board the amendment of the land use that was approved earlier came into effect when it was promulgated – published in the Provincial Gazette – on August 28 last year.
The rezoning was therefore valid and could be implemented, despite the court challenge. Sun International faced stiff opposition at the hearing, with residents, churches and civic organisations voicing their outrage at the prospects of a casino on their doorstep.
The objectors said they were not convinced the development would contribute significantly to the economic prosperity of the city.
They raised concerns that the proposed gambling house would have a devastating effect on the economic stability of households and lead to poverty and social decline.
Many of the complainants cited examples of the tragic consequences in the lives of families where compulsive and addictive gambling had wreaked havoc. Conradie said the range of socially vulnerable groups, low-income earning individuals who hoped to improve their lives through gambling, was of particular concern.
She said Sun International was seeking a “seamless transition” from Morula to Menlyn Maine to avoid revenue loss and had eyes on financial gain at the expense of local communities. Michael Neumann, representing church leaders, argued that the potential socio-economic impact on local communities was not considered before Sun International applied to relocate to Menlyn Maine.
He said Time Square at Menlyn Maine would be unique in that nowhere in South Africa is a casino located adjacent to a school.
Sun International’s proposed mitigating interventions fell short in many ways, he said.
“Learners and students make use of the same public transport that Sun International clientele do; this is exacerbated by Menlyn Maine’s plan to manage public transport to the area.”
School extramural activities often took place after hours and sporting activities over weekends. These would coincide with Sun International’s bulk casino patronage. Although Menlyn Maine would have appropriate security measures, Neumann said establish-ments like casinos often increased loitering and petty criminal behaviour outside their precincts which directly affected communities.
He said the Gauteng Liquor Act prevented liquor licences from operating within 500m of a school or place of worship. Both The Glen High School and The Wesleyan Church were within 500m of the proposed casino.
He said: “Sun International has shown churches and casinos do co-exist, but what it has not portrayed is the damage done to the community by locating a casino in a residential area.
“We regard the location of a casino adjacent to a school as irresponsible, lacking in wisdom and prejudicial to learners and our congregants and suggest that Sun International has misrepresented important facts.”
The public hearing continues today at NG Kerk Moreleta Park with objections from Viva Bingo and Peermont Global, owners of Emperors Palace.