South African gambling body sets the bar high

The Casino Association of South Africa was formed in 2003 to act as the voice and conscience of the local casino sector. Andrew Gillingham takes a closer look at the association and the industry it represents.

Since gambling was legalized in South Africa just over a decade ago, the casino industry has invested more than USD 1.9 billion into the local economy and created thousands of jobs.

The industry’s recent expansion includes three new casinos coming on-stream, namely the Golden Valley in Worcester, the Frontier Inn in Bethlehem and Century Casinos’ permanent facility at Newcastle, and extensive upgrades and new investments at GrandWest, Gold Reef City, Meropa and Montecasino.

Casino Association of South Africa (Casa) chairman Jabu Mabuza said the industry’s contribution to the broader leisure and tourism sector has also been demonstrated by new hotel developments at Emperors Palace, Montecasino, Suncoast, Carnival City and at the Golden Valley.

“Our industry has invested nearly USD 8.9 billion in education, housing, health, arts and culture, sport and other areas of vital social spending during the past two years. At the same time, the industry’s commitment to responsible gambling – particularly through the Casa code of conduct introduced in December 2005 – has been further consolidated,” said Mabuza.

He said one of the results of the involvement by casinos in the prevention, treatment and education projects of the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) is that independent research demonstrates that, despite more numerous gambling opportunities in South Africa, the incidence of problem gambling has decreased in recent years.

Mabuza added that Casa has always paid great attention to transformation, and that although its track record has been excellent, it has nevertheless commissioned Empowerdex to conduct an assessment of its performance.

Casa’s CEO Derek Auret said that the organization was formed in 2003 and represents 33 of the 34 casinos set up in South Africa so far. Century Casinos Africa, Gold Reef Resorts, Emerald Safari Resorts, Peermont Global, Sun International and Tsogo Sun are all Casa members.

The local casino industry has invested around USD 1.9 billion since it was established, and provides almost 100000 jobs. The industry’s annual turnover is estimated at USD 1.7 billion and in 2007 contributed more than USD 508 million in taxes.

Each year casinos provide a source of entertainment for millions of South Africans and overseas visitors, although not all of these people are gamblers. The SA industry developed resort casinos with a wide range of non-gambling entertainment and act as entertainment hubs that encompass entertainment choices ranging from ice rinks to theatres.

“Casa is the industry’s voice and deals with the issues and challenges facing the industry as a whole. We represent the industry’s interests with policy- makers and the various provincial gambling boards on generic issues. We do not act for individual casinos or casino operators or deal with company-specific issues,” Auret said.

Internationally, the casino industry is one of the most regulated, even more so than the banking industry. If a casino does not obey regulations, it stands to lose its license or even face court proceedings.

Casa also performs an important role in ensuring ethical conduct through its code of conduct and the possible ejection of any member who refuses to match the standards required of the industry. “In the three years in which we have had the code of conduct there has not been any incident where any member has transgressed to the point where the rest of the members have had to take action.

“Even more importantly, there have not been any casinos that have transgressed any regulation or rule to the extent that they have had to be prosecuted,” said Auret.

The association also focuses on research and provides the industry with information about developments in other countries. In addition, it examines legislative changes and their implications for the industry and makes submissions to legislators. For example, Casa recently contributed to the Competitions Bill and the Consumer Protection Bill.

Casa is also a member of Business Unity South Africa and represents the industry in that capacity. “We take an active role in the general economic fabric of society,” Auret said.

Casa also performs an important role by communicating with and through the media and making information on the industry available to the public. The association actively participates on the international casino scene, often taking part in overseas conferences.

“Part of our role is to represent the South African casino industry abroad. The industry we have created in this country is on a par with the best in the world. South Africa’s legislation incorporates international best practice across the board and this means that we are able to provide some useful insights,” Auret said.