An investigation into the economic impact of legalising the casino gambling industry in South Africa : a study on the perceptions of and impact on the Pietermaritzburg community as a microscopic view.
Casino gambling in South Africa was in the past not perceived as a mainstream economic activity but rather a reluctant concession. Consequently, it remained an "exiled industry" geographically isolated and strictly regulated. The rationale for this conceptualisation has varied - from religious objections concerning the immorality and irrationality of gambling, to public concern over the establishment of organised and street crime around casinos themselves. Despite the persistence of these arguments, there has over the past decade been a vast and rapid expansion of the industry throughout both South Africa and the world. It is difficult to precisely pinpoint the rationale for this paradigm shift. Popular explanations emphasise a liberalisation of public values concerning gambling, or changes in modes of governance from paternalistic prohibition to regulatory liberalisation. Many scholarly writings on casino gambling on the other hand, point to a far more sinister political agenda (Hunter and Bleinberger 1995; Rose 1998) that manipulates public perceptions of morality to serve more utilitarian needs. The political expediency of a restricted activity like gambling cannot be discounted. It remains an effective means of attracting capital investment in depressed areas without governments having to offer any quid pro quo. As a regulated industry, a premium is set on immorality, which translates into significant revenue. Gambling in South Africa has so far generated Rl 1,7 billion in investment, and in the 2002/03 financial year generated R526,4 million in tax revenue1. It has also created about 50 000 direct and indirect jobs.2 Without a doubt, in a fledgling democracy, trying to balance growth with redress and redistribution, the macro economic advantages from the gambling industry are immediately apparent but macro economic gains should not be at the expense of the country's poorest or at the expense of the moral, physical and spiritual well-being of society. This study is an attempt to probe the intersections of these sometimes conflicting imperatives on the South African society by looking specifically at the Pietermaritzburg community.