Pretoria - Sun International took a tremendous battering from objectors on the third day of the public hearing into its application for amendment and transfer of its Morula Sun Hotel and Casino licence to Menlyn Maine, east of Pretoria.
However, it remains to be seen how much damage had been inflicted.
This, after Alfred Cockrell SC, for Sun International, submitted an equally strong response on behalf of the hotel and casino chain.
Peermont, which owns Emperor’s Palace, submitted that the applicant had not demonstrated that there was a significant unsatisfied gaming demand in the proposed catchment area, and that there was a sufficient basis to circumvent a competitive licensing process.
“Granting the application would have a negative impact on Emperor’s Palace and other existing casinos and would be inconsistent with the expectations about the allocation of casinos in the province,” Peermont said.
Peermont said it would be unfair to allow Sun International to increase its gaming positions by the magnitude contemplated in the application without following a competitive process.
The group highlighted that granting the application would have a negative socio-economic impact on the areas surrounding Morula.
It submitted that the Menlyn Maine casino would result in an unduly large number of persons carrying on casino operations in the relevant area.
Viva Bingo, another objector, told the gambling board the licence Sun International intended to transfer was invalid.
Tayob Kamdar, for Viva Bingo, said the original Morula licence issued by the North West government expired on March 31, 2006 and was never renewed.
Kamdar said a new licence was issued by the Gauteng Gambling Board about 15 months later, effectively rendering the Morula Sun Hotel and Casino illegal and not in possession of a licence.
Sun International had amended and transferred the licence to Pretoria East.
He accused Sun International of having operated Morula without a licence between 2006 and 2007.
Viva Bingo want the application dismissed, arguing its bingo operations would not be able to compete with a casino.
Cockrell, for Sun International, urged the board to dismiss the objections and stated there was no reason for the gambling board to not approve the proposed amendment of licence and relocation of Morula Sun.
He argued that Sun International’s R3 billion investment for Menlyn Maine was the largest made to date for the Tshwane metropolitan area and Gauteng.
Cockrell said the only way to cater for the gaming need in the area was to transfer one of the province’s existing seven licences.
Morula Sun was ideal because it was the smallest of all existing casinos, Tshwane was already its catchment area, and it would have the lowest potential cost of relocating, he said.
“There will be no change in the number of casino licences in the province, since Morula licence is still in Tshwane,” Cockrell said.
Bidders for a casino licence in Pretoria were turned down in the past because the government felt this would not serve the viability of Morula Sun.
Government protected Morula, and this was the same licence that Sun International now wanted to amend and relocate, Cockrell told the hearing.
He dismissed suggestions that Emperor’s Palace would lose revenue, saying the catchment area for Menlyn Maine would consist of new gamers or existing Morula Sun clients.
“It would have been a different case if Peermont wanted to make a significant additional investment at Emperor’s Palace, but would be unable to do so if Menlyn Maine opened,” he said.
“With regards to the argument from Viva Bingo that they will not be able to compete, this is invalid since they have a bingo permit while Sun International holds an advanced licence.
“There are instances in other areas, including near Emperor’s Palace, where a bingo operation opened when a casino had already been there, “Cockrell said. He added Viva Bingo should approach the high court to argue its case if it felt the Morula licence was invalid.
The four-day public hearing was scheduled to conclude today at the Ned Geref Kerk Moreleta Park. - Pretoria News