Controversy rages as hearings into Menlyn plan concludeComment on this story
Pretoria - Sun International, its rivals and Tshwane residents will know by end of July if the Menlyn Maine casino plan will go ahead.
Parties could still be invited to make submissions at the board’s office in Joburg north if more clarity was required.
There were more questions than answers at the conclusion of the four-day public hearing into the application for amendment and transfer of Morula Sun licence from Mabopane to the new Menlyn Maine precinct in Pretoria East.
Viva Bingo, which has operations in Pretoria East and other areas, Emperor’s Palace owner Peermont, and Mgugundlovu residents in the Eastern Cape tore into the application and questioned the integrity of Sun International.
They urged the board to turn down the application, joining community organisations, churches and residents associations who had submitted their objections earlier in the week.
Nico Jagga, for Viva Bingo, continued from where he left off on Thursday and said the licence Sun International had applied to amend and relocate came as a consequence of the amendment to the border between North West and Gauteng.
Jagga submitted that the licence had expired 15 months earlier and should not have been reissued in Gauteng as a result change of provincial borders.
“The consequences of this is that Sun International would not be in possession of a valid casino licence in Gauteng, and effectively there is nothing in respect of which they can request an amendment, or that it be transferred,” said Jagga.
“It is submitted that the board, under these circumstances, would indeed act irresponsibly should the application be approved…”
David Unterhalter, SC, for Peermont, slammed Sun International for trying to “Tipp-ex” over the location and number of slots in an existing licence for what was clearly a new application.
Unterhalter said although staff could be moved to the new casino, the Menlyn Maine operation would have a new name, shareholders and location, and not bear any resemblance to Morula Sun hotel and casino. He pointed out that the amendment to the law took away the power of the board to relocate licences. New licences were only applied for by invitation, he said.
“They seek to ask for the application to be considered because they are spending R3 billion on the new casino and will raise more tax for government. Put that under a competitive situation and their R3bn investment may not be that impressive anymore.
“If you chose to run down your own casino by not investing in it and end up with low revenue, don’t argue that the cost of relocating it would be cheaper.” Unterhalter was hitting back at Sun International for saying the Morula licence would be cheaper to relocate.
He told the board that other casinos’ small gaming operations would suffer if the application was approved. He added approving it would set a bad precedent.
“There were bidders for a Pretoria casino licence in the 1990s, but this were turned down. Why would Sun International want to reverse that decision now?” Ulterhalter asked.
He added the people of the catchment area could drive to other areas if they wanted to gamble.
Patrick Bracher, representing the community of Mgugundlovu, submitted evidence that in the 1980s, Sun International obtained land for the Wild Coast Sun Casino that had a rental value of R15 million for R30 000 through alleged illegal means. He argued that the applicant was unfit to hold a casino licence, and asked the board to at least not consider the application until the matter had been resolved by the Land Claims Court.
Alfred Cockrell, SC, for Sun International, remained adamant his client was fit to hold a casino licence.
He said there would be elements of Morula Sun at Menlyn Maine and presented to the board that the new development would satisfy the currently untapped gambling need in the Tshwane metropolitan area.
Cockrell told the board that the shareholders and management of Sun International were different to those implicated in the land claim in the Eastern Cape. He added the gambling board had no jurisdiction over the casino licences in that province. Due to the complexity of the matter, the gambling board said it would deviate from its normal 14 days period for outcome because “this as an application of gigantic proportions which left members with more questions and than answers”.