News that a casino complex - with a bigger gaming area than Montecasino - is planned at Menlyn Maine has been kept under wraps and has come as a big surprise to residents in the area.
An artist's impression of the proposed scheme.
Sun International announced yesterday by way of an advertisement that it was to close the Morula Sun and had applied to transfer the gaming licence to a new R3 billion entertainment complex being developed near the Menlyn shopping centre in Waterkloof Glen.
But the DA councillor for the area, Professor Duncan Baker, said while he had heard rumours of a casino, one had not been approved as part of the original Menlyn Maine development.
The proposed complex, which would be close to a nursery school and churches, would be called Time Square and would include a casino with 3 000 slot machines - 1 300 more than at Montecasino in Fourways - as well as gaming tables. This is if Sun International's application to transfer its casino licence from the Morula Casino in Mabopane to Menlyn Maine is successful.
Time Square would be situated at the junction of Corobay and Aramist streets, opposite the central square component of Menlyn Maine, work on which is to be started in September. It is adjacent to the Glen High School and close to a number of churches, a nursery school and retirement complexes, some of which are likely to raise objections.
Menlyn Maine is a R8 billion, 315 000m² precinct that includes corporate offices, a shopping mall with restaurants, luxury residential units and a gym.
Hotels and entertainment facilities were part of the original zoning application.
According to Baker, there was mention of a theatre, cinemas and a hotel, but no reference to a casino.
He said yesterday's newspaper notice was the first he had officially heard of the plan to build a casino in the heart of the Menlyn area.
Residents have until August 16 to lodge objections about the casino.
The plans were kept under wraps by all parties, including Menlyn Maine - which recently released impressions of the residential area and opened a site information centre - until yesterday's announcement by Sun International.
There was no official comment from the City of Tshwane at time of going to press. The member of the mayoral committee for city planning Subesh Pillay could not respond immediately to questions about how plans got so far advanced without the public being informed.
According to the notice, Morula casino had experienced a decline in business. If relocated to an area closer to its source market, it could provide a unique entertainment and conference destination.
It would become a 'must-see destination' and key attraction, not only to visitors living in the area, but also to those from surrounding areas. It would be a modern integrated development, offering a range of experiences and entertainment and special events.
It would make a significant economic contribution to the city.
Sun International's chief executive, Graeme Stephens, said their research had shown a clear demand for hotel and convention space in Tshwane, as well as the proposed entertainment arena.
'It is with great pride that Sun International would become part of Menlyn Maine, the largest green precinct in the country,' he said.
According to Stephens, zoning, environmental impact studies and traffic assessments have been completed and a land deal has been concluded with the developers of Menlyn Maine.
Detailed planning would begin as soon as the outstanding approvals had been granted, with construction to start after about six months and likely to be completed within no more than three years.
Stephens said Morula had been experiencing a decline in revenue in recent years, possibly due to its location. There was nothing more Sun International could do to save it.
According to Sun International, the development would provide approximately 10 000 jobs during construction. Employment after construction would see 2 200 jobs at full capacity, 1 228 direct jobs and 972 jobs through service provision, many more than is the case at Morula. Morula staff would have the option of keeping their jobs and relocating to the new complex.
Sun International is exploring the possibility of opening a hotel school on the premises of the Morula Sun hotel and casino, which is on Molefe Makinta (Lucas Mangope) Highway, Mabopane, on the banks of the Nooitgedacht Dam.
The public may inspect the application at the offices of the Gauteng Gambling Board at 125 Corlett Drive, Waverley Office Park, Bramley, Joburg from next Tuesday. Written representations may be submitted one month from this date.