Delays and wrangles largely over, a rapid start has been made on the development of KwaZulu-Natal's new casinos.
Gambling Board chief Alan Doorasamy on Tuesday inspected Durban's first operation - Afrisun's temporary Sugar Mill casino at Mount Edgecombe - which has already reached roof height.
Emphasising that the casinos would become a major new revenue source for the province, Doorasamy said that in the past seven days the board had received R120-million for the casino's exclusivity rights.
However, he emphasised that people should be warned about the problems posed by illegal casinos. Punters patronising these casinos were breaking the law and could be prosecuted.
Construction of Afrisun's R200-million temporary Sugar Mill casino started in earnest only 10 days ago. With the work being fast-tracked - construction staff are working through weekends - it is due to open for business in February.
The temporary Mount Edgecombe casino will operate for 28 months until it is replaced by the permanent Sibaya Resort and Entertainment World casino at nearby Umdloti.
The joint cost of the two Afrisun projects is R910-million and total employment creation, both direct and indirect, is about 14 400 jobs.
The temporary Sugar Mill casino will have 800 machines and 26 tables. It will employ 700 staff. Ultimately, 1 350 staff will be employed in the permanent casino at Umdloti. Local staff are being recruited and employed at present. Training of croupiers and others will take place in a simulated location until they move to the building.
Afrisun chairperson Oscar Dhlomo said during the inspection on Tuesday that the go-ahead to proceed with the licensing process had represented a significant boost for development in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Mount Edgecombe project would act as a catalyst for other developments in the area, particularly tourism.
The participation of the major groups, in particular the partnership with Sun International, would introduce a major marketing force to twin with Durban Africa and Tourism KZN.
It would not only add to the "overall marketing spend", but bring in new networks and expertise in marketing the province in international destinations.
In addition to the Afrisun project, the board announced this month that it was awarding licences to Akani's R203,7-million Msunduszi project in Pietermaritzburg, a R171,2-million Umfolozi casino and conference centre near Empangeni/Richards Bay and a R1,38-billion Tsogo Sun Miami Beach casino on Durban's Village Green site.
The Village Green award has been disputed by competitor Durban Add-Ventures.
Stuart Shaw, Afrisun director in charge of construction of Sun International casinos around the country, on Tuesday estimated the temporary Mount Edgecombe casino alone could yield about R90-million a year to the government in company tax, VAT and the provincial levy.
He said property prices in certain parts of the region already had responded positively (five percent to 10 percent) as a result of the development.
On a weekly basis, estate agents, property developers, municipalities and others had cited the development as a major magnet for beachfront development.