Casino bid to shut down bingo halls comes under fire

CLOSURE MOVE: The entrance to Bingo Royale in Cleary Park. Picture: Supplied
entrance to Bingo Royale in Cleary Park. Picture: Supplied

The Bingo Association of South Africa has thrown its weight behind two Port Elizabeth bingo operators as they fight to fend off a challenge by the owners of the Boardwalk Casino to have them shut down.

Basa chairman Lawrence Smith said yesterday it was surprised by a report in The Herald last week about the casino’s attempt to shut down the bingo halls.

Sun International subsidiary Emfuleni Resorts filed an application in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday to have a 2014 decision by the Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board set aside.

The decision relates to the board sanctioning electronic bingo terminals (EBTs) being made available to interested parties. Subsequently, Galaxy Bingo, in the Moffett-on-Main complex, and Bingo Royale, in Cleary Park, opened in 2014.

Sun International corporate brand and communications general manager Michael Farr argued that the two bingo halls were operating in an area where the Boardwalk had gambling exclusivity rights.

He said this had a material impact on the Boardwalk’s casino revenue.

Smith said: “The reality is that Sun International are attempting to place blame for their purported difficulties with their business model on other participants in the gaming industry. “It is unfortunate and indicative of Sun International’s malice that the media was made aware of the court application before the respondents had even been served papers.”

Farr said the Boardwalk’s gambling licence was renewed for 15 years in 2010 after the casino’s owners agreed to invest R1-billion in upgrading the complex on the understanding that no other licences would be issued in its catchment area.

“We did engage with the [board] in 2013 when we were informed they were considering availing the E B Ts. We raised our concerns,” he said. “We have [now] exhausted all other channels and the high court application was our last option. “The two bingo operators initially used the traditional paper-based bingo before switching to slot machines. These machines are the same as ours, and in effect these two bingo halls are operating as mini-casinos in our catchment area.” The board could not be reached for comment yesterday, while Galaxy Bingo and Bingo Royale declined to comment.

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