Sun International casinos paid out over R22.4 million in jackpots since reopening after lockdown

Business Insider SA
Carnival City Casino in Ekurhuleni paid out 26 jackpots of over R5 million. Supplied by Sun International.
  • In a matter of a few weeks Sun International says its casinos have paid out jackpots of over R50,000, to the total of R22.4 million, since reopening under lockdown.
  • Out of their 11 casinos in South Africa, 10 are operating, but under strict conditions including reducing the maximum capacity on the casino floor to 50% and installing Perspex screens between slot machines.
  • Two casinos in Gauteng have already forked out over R5 million each.
  • Sun City Resort, which employs some 2,500 people, remains closed until Government’s restriction on leisure and cross border travel into the North West Province is lifted.
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Since being allowed to reopen, Sun International says it created two new millionaires and paid out 142 jackpots of over R50,000, totalling a whopping R22.4 million, during the first two weeks of operation. 

“We were quite surprised in the first two weeks when we opened in July, we were probably trading at about 50 to 60% of prior year levels,” said Graham Wood, Sun International’s group COO for Hospitality. 

Like most of South Africa’s hospitality industry, Sun International says it is doing what it can to survive under Lockdown regulations. The reinstated alcohol ban and 9pm curfew has effectively shut down opportunities for restaurants to open and cut casino running time down from 24-hour shifts - casinos open at 09:00 in the morning and close at 20:30. 

“We are still generating some positive cash in the casinos. As long as that is still the case, we’ll remain open because it allows our employees to earn decent salaries and give our gamers entertainment,” said Wood. 

But, even with tighter curfews and reduced capacity, visitors are cashing in.  

Here are some of the pay-outs:

  • Flamingo Casino in Kimberley paid out two jackpots of over R150,000.
  • Golden Valley in Worcester paid out two jackpots of just over R114,000. 
  • Meropa Casino in Polokwane paid out two jackpots of just over R134,000. 
  • The Wild Coast Sun paid out four jackpots of almost R473,000. 
  • Sibaya Casino in Durban paid out 16 jackpots of just over R1.8 million. 
  • The Boardwalk Casino in Port Elizabeth paid out 10 jackpots of just over R2 million. 
  • Windmill Casino in Bloemfontein has paid 23 jackpots of almost R2.2 million. 
  • GrandWest Casino in Cape Town has created two millionaires and has paid out 29 jackpots of over R4.4 million. 
  • Carnival City Casino in Ekurhuleni paid out 26 jackpots of over R5 million. 
  • Time Square Casino in Menlyn paid out 28 jackpots of almost R5.8 million.

“What we’re tending to see, and now because of the curfew, people with close drive time to your casinos are the ones that are going to frequent you. You’re not going to get those people who drive across from town to go and gamble. They’re going to tend to stay at their local casino,” said Wood.

“We appreciate that Government has to consider the cost of lives, but we hope that the curfew will be applied only as a short-term measure to achieve a state of readiness to cope with a pandemic that we are told will be with us for a long time.” 

The chain has been able to open 10 out of its 11 casinos found in South Africa, but under strict conditions. This includes reducing the maximum capacity on the casino floor to 50% and restricting entrance into their casinos to Sun MVG members in order to track and trace visitors in case of a Covid-19 outbreak. 

In addition to cleaning and sanitising of frequently touched surfaces and areas, Sun International say every second slot machine has been switched off, as well as physical shields have been installed between slot machines and seats at gaming tables.  

Sun City Resort, which employs some 2,500 people, remains closed until government’s restriction on leisure and cross border travel into the North West Province is lifted. 

“Even though we could open the casino it would only be able to serve our Rustenburg market. But the costs of opening that casino for just the Rustenburg market, when Sun City is largely a destination resort that requires people to travel form Gauteng and other parts of the country is not viable. The casino numbers at Sun City are only about 40% of its total revenue.” 

While the numbers are still low, Woods says there has been a slight shift in who is coming to play. 

“A lot of our top end players are in the 50 to 60-year age category. So, they would fall in the high-risk category and are still hesitant to come out,” said Wood. “Your higher end contributor has not returned to the same extent as those on the lower end contributor, what we call the grinder action level.”

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