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CASINO BETS ON R1,5BN EXPANSION

Gaming and leisure group Tsogo Sun is betting on securing approval for an ambitious R1.5 billion expansion of its Suncoast Casino and entertainment complex on the Durban beachfront, despite a dispute with the city over a smaller expansion of its gaming floor within the existing casino.

The new proposal includes major expansion to the casino, a new retail and restaurant complex, 1 500 additional parking bays, a new entertainment area, additional banqueting facilities and an “iconic elevated outdoor pool and serviced leisure entertainment deck”.

These were presented in Tsogo Sun’s application to the KwaZulu-Natal Gaming and Betting Board for an amendment to its licence to expand the facility. A notice appeared in the provincial Government Gazette on June 13, and public comment closed on July 4.

Previously mooted Suncoast expansion plans, including blocks of flats, a parkade and moving the Umgeni Bird Park to the site, were shot down by the city’s previous leadership.

JSE-listed Tsogo Sun is currently spending R220 million on the redevelopment of the Elangeni and Maharani hotel complex nearby. This project, with the new Suncoast plan, may well be a sweetener to convince the city to approve the latest proposal.

Tsogo Sun chief executive Marcel von Aulock said the dispute with the city over the smaller, internal expansion was still in progress, but was separate.

“We have agreed with the council to let it run its course through the legal system and keep it separate from the application process relating to the larger new development. The dispute relates to an application to convert one of the restaurants to a gaming area, as we need more space. Importantly, we are still proceeding with the larger redevelopment application regardless of the outcome of this dispute,” he said.

Von Aulock said he could not comment on other, older expansion proposals, as he was not chief executive at Tsogo Sun at the time. However, the current plan was a “voluntary expansion” that represented an important investment for the group.

Suncoast is a very successful entertainment complex. This expansion will substantially enhance Suncoast’s position as the premier entertainment destination in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Soobs Moonsammy, eThekwini Municipality’s head of development planning, said the city was aware of Suncoast’s expansion plans, which needed to go through all the assessment processes.

“The project will be given due consideration based on its merits and its impact on the Durban beachfront. It needs to fit in with the Integrated Development Plan and the wider upgraded beachfront promenade. My department has received the application for expansion, but it needs to go through the statutory processes, including environmental and planning approvals,” she said.

KwaZulu-Natal Gaming and Betting Board chief executive Portia Baloyi said yesterday that she could not comment on the plans. However, the Gazette notice for the expansion revealed that Tsogo Sun was applying to increase its gaming machines from 1 450 to 2 350 and gaming tables from 64 to 80.

Von Aulock said Tsogo Sun hoped to get all approvals from the gaming board and city by the end of the year.

“We have the financial resources and, once the regulatory approvals are in place, we can begin construction. Suncoast is our second-biggest operation after Montecasino in Joburg. We have a major presence on the Durban beachfront, which includes the Garden Court hotels, the Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani and the Suncoast Casino, which contributes about 20 percent of our (earnings).

“Anything we do in this area is important to Tsogo Sun. The city has done a great job of fixing and upgrading the beachfront promenade and this has made it attractive for Tsogo to commit capital to the area, in Suncoast and our hotels,” he said.

“We are working closely with the city to deal with any concerns they may have and achieve the approvals we need. There is a lot that has to be evaluated in a project like this, and they have been very supportive,” Von Aulock said. – The Mercury

Source: Business Report – Suren Naidoo