The two groups battling to win the sole casino license for Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, recently presented their proposals during two days of public hearings. The presentations featured a sentimental journey by current license holder Emfuleni, a surprise announcement from challenger Embo and heated reactions on both sides to each other’s plans.
Sun International, which owns part of Emfuleni, delivered an appeal to emotion by speaking of the thousands of jobs that would be lost if they are not chosen to continue to operate the Boardwalk Casino complex, according to local news source The Herald.
Emfuleni Resorts Director David Coutts-Trotter spoke strongly of the contribution the Boardwalk has made to the Port Elizabeth area.
“Over the last 10 years, ZAR 600 million was spent on the Boardwalk, 1,700 jobs were created overall and 24 million people visited the Boardwalk,” said Coutts-Trotter.
The attending public responded well to the presentation, which included still photos and video shot at the Boardwalk during the past decade. Boardwalk staff featured in recorded messages, talking about their reliance on the jobs provided to feed large families.
But a lawyer for challenger Embo, Michael White, criticized the presentation as playing on the public’s emotions and asked whether this was “the best Emfuleni could offer.”
Coutts-Trotter responded by saying, “The reality of it is that it is emotional. The casino is the largest contributor of jobs at the Boardwalk.”
However, the Emfuleni argument on job provision could be used just as strongly for the Embo proposal.
The challenger plans total investment of ZAR 1.8 billion for a casino, hotel, restaurants, retail shopping, a train station, cruise ship terminal, ice skating rink and IMAX theater, plus parking and child care facilities. The existing Boardwalk facility would be converted into a convention center capable of holding 4,000 people—eight times more than the existing meeting space at the Boardwalk complex.
The big surprise from Embo was its announcement to build a Hilton Hotel as part of its Mandela Bay Waterfront Casino project. The move took on weight when Embo CEO Ben Nyaumwe told the crowd that Deepak Seth, vice president of Hilton Europe, Africa and Middle East, was in attendance to give his support to the Embo bid.
The surprise may have cut both ways, however. Emfuleni stated that the proposal was not the same one that had been provided in writing in January. At issue was the tract of land for the planned development, which was not the same as that listed in the original proposal.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipal Manager Graeme Richards said, “We are not in a position to prefer one application over another. Both applications have their own merits and express wishes to develop the city in a positive way.”
Richards added, “We hope there will be clauses that the applicants carry out their plans subject to adhering to municipal regulations.”
The successful bidder is expected to be announced in August.