His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation; Mr LPHM Mtshali, MPP, Premier of KwaZulu Natal; members of the Cabinet; the Durban Unicity Mayor, Councillor Obed Mlaba; the Chairman of Afrisun KZN, Dr Oscar Dhlomo: Kersaf and Sun International (South Africa); Chairman of the KwaZulu Natal Gambling Board, Advocate Alan Doorsamy, and members of the Board; representatives of the media; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

Standing in a place like this, amidst an atmosphere of excitement, I am reminded that there are certain things in life which level us all down, whether rich or poor, Zulu or Xhosa, black or white, and make us all equal. One of such things is the whimsical and blindfolded Lady Luck herself, and in a place like Sugarmill Casino anyone can let their dreams take flight thinking what they would do should they chance to win. For each, there is an equal chance at failure or success. Historical circumstances do not change that. Social status has no effect to swing the odds one iota to the left or the right. When we all stand an equal chance, we are indeed all equal.

I am honoured to congratulate the Board of Directors of Afrisun KZN on the official opening of this R200 million project, Sugarmill Casino. I believe that this project shall prove to be an important development for this province, and hope that it may spearhead additional development in the surrounding areas. Through the completion and licensing of this casino, the cycle of development may receive the jump-start it requires to move KwaZulu Natal forward, towards dynamic growth and improvement in all areas of business, economic and community life. This is truly a remarkable achievement both for black economic empowerment in KwaZulu Natal and for the economy of this province as a whole.

I am pleased that Sugarmill Casino stands as clear evidence that the casino licensing process which floundered under severe and protracted controversy, has indeed delivered as intended. Government has proven itself willing and able in licensing Sugarmill Casino, and must now confirm its continuing role in the casino industry by meeting the regulatory requirements and protecting the interests of consumers.

We have now entered a stage where gambling activities in KwaZulu Natal are going to be more tightly scrutinised and regulated to ensure that only those who are licensed can engage in the industry and that the terms and conditions of their licences are respected and enforced.

The opening of this temporary casino is the culmination of a long process which highlights the confidence of domestic and foreign investors alike in the economy of KwaZulu Natal. The licensing process has been a prolonged one and has been filled with uncertainties, and yet those who brought about this initial development have had the courage, determination and the confidence to take the risk. Their confidence should be an example for all potential investors, both domestically and internationally, that KwaZulu Natal is a place in which the risk / reward ratio remains extremely attractive.

I wish to acknowledge and congratulate Dr Oscar Dhlomo and his colleagues in Dolcost Investments for their resolve in standing by the development of this project through the difficult stages of the licensing process.

I must also recognise and salute Afrisun KZN, Sun International, African Leisure Investments and Moreland Developments, who have been the engines of this project and have made the investments which make it possible. Their willingness to invest in KwaZulu Natal, in its people, and in its development shows the stability and solidity of our provincial economy. The investment in a casino venture is not an isolated one. It shows confidence in the potentials of our tourism enterprise and, in turn, creates vast externalities and positive ramifications which will further promote tourism, commerce and employment within KwaZulu Natal.

On an occasion such as this, I cannot but restate what I have preached for many decades, that employment generation is not brought about through government action alone. Government must set in place conditions which enable private enterprises to take risks and establish new developments and industries. Only the growth promoted through private enterprise can be relied on as a source of sustainable employment generation. We need to ensure that the licensing and establishment of this and other casinos are not isolated actions, but are part of a comprehensive vision which our provincial government must put forward to create the conditions under which tourism, the entertainment industry, and other forms of development may flourish and become increasingly attractive for domestic and foreign investors.

There are some people who look at the establishment of the various casinos throughout South Africa as the swan song of large developments in our country.

I have heard analysts commenting that the shift of both government and consumer priorities towards grassroots development will divert attention from major commercial developments. Some people feel that in our immediate horizon there is no project waiting, such as another Sandton City, Sun City, Century City or Cape Town Waterfront. Throughout my life I have enjoyed proving prophets of doom wrong and I know that in KwaZulu Natal we are not now celebrating the swan song of development, but rather the overturn of a new age of development still to be played out.

This development must flourish from an integrated vision which understands that both at the macro-economic level and in practical terms, poverty alleviation programmes in rural areas and large-scale commercial industrial developments in urban areas, are not only complimentary but are necessarily predicated on their respective successes.

We need to focus energies, resources and political will in alleviating the evils of abject social and economic conditions in our poorest areas. We need to bring our people above the breadline by developing the agricultural potentials of our province, ensuring food security and promoting market places and productive capacity at grassroots level.

However, at the same time we must create the conditions which promote essential projects which can no longer be delayed such as the development of the waterfront in Durban, the establishment of a new airport in the north of Durban, and the creation of a large-scale container facility in the south of Durban which can meet the growing challenges of the maritime industry.

We must also promote tourism in our province by creating the conditions under which tourism can be brought to enjoy a number of ecologically and culturally important sites in our province, including those which have been identified in the Lebombo region and in northern KwaZulu Natal.

Worldwide tourism and the container based shipping industry are amongst the two fastest growing industries and they are the two industries for which our province is uniquely qualified.

On an occasion such as this we are reminded that development is not only physical, but also hinges on the upliftment and growth of our human resources. In our actions we must ensure that our people are elevated and that the social conditions defining their daily lives are improved upon. The education of our people is an important responsibility that must be shared amongst all stakeholders and role-players, as it cannot be fulfilled by government alone. Training programmes are taking place in all industries, and yet even this is not sufficient to meet the requirements of a modern and open society.

It is important that all those who have the opportunity to do so share in the responsibility of enabling people to learn how to live better and do more with the possibilities offered to them. These considerations are particularly relevant when dealing with casinos and gambling.

We must consider the need to educate our people to be financially responsibility so as to minimise the potential social evil associated with gambling. I trust that it is a shared interest of all participants in the gaming industry to ensure that all their potential customers remain financially viable and sound in the long-run.

We must avoid large numbers of our families spending substantial quantities of their scarce disposable income in gambling activities, thereby impoverishing them to the point that they might not be able to be customers of casinos again. We need to find ways and means to run educational programmes through our provincial government with the involvement of the Gambling Board and in co-operation and with the assistance of the industry.

I hope that the gambling industry of KwaZulu Natal will give the example in paving the way for a new age of entertainment and tourism in our province.

Our province can become the garden of the world which attracts large numbers of tourists and creates employment and growth potentials for all its citizens through its tourist and recreation industry. We can begin concretising this dream from this first important project with the certainty that if all stakeholders in the province work together, this will be the first of many other developments to come.

Let this be the beginning of a new cycle of growth. Dr Dhlomo and his colleagues have shown great capacity of leadership in their unwavering commitment to KwaZulu Natal. I wish them every success in this venture and in the other ventures which our province eagerly awaits for them to undertake. I wish good luck to all those who will use this casino for their entertainment. May fortune smile on you and may fortune continue to smile on KwaZulu Natal.


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