Spaces of social compulsion : a case study of the Sugarmill Casino, Durban.
This thesis explores gambling as a leisure activity and consumption experience. Casino development in South Africa - formerly illegal in the country - is occurring at an unprecedented rate. In 1996. the new democratic Govemment passed legislation to allow up to forty casinos to be developed throughout South Africa. This was viewed as a means of developing tourism as well as the input of revenue into the country's economy. South Africa's gambling industry is now similar to that of the United States and Australia. Starting with remotely situated casinos, accessible primarily to upper income clientele, legislation has softened to allow for the licensing of casinos within the major urban areas of this country. This has led to casino gambling being accessible to thousands of people, those who can afford to indulge in this leisure activity and those who cannot. This thesis explores the engineering of space to create an atmosphere of compulsion, and the response of communities given access, for the first time, to casino gambling close to home. The second legal casino in KwaZulu-Natal, the "SugarMill Casino", opened on 2 February 2001, on a temporary site in Mount Edgccombe, north of Durban, adjacent to the predominantly Indian suburb of Phoenix. Phoenix was planned and developed in 1976, as a residential area for the low-income Indian population. Therefore, the location of this casino has been subject 10 much criticism. This study looks at the symbolic economy of the SugarMill casino in terms of the symbols used in marketing the casino as well as its architectural symbolism. The symbolic economy of the casino uses locally based ' cultural capital ' to create a space of compulsion, through space planning and marketing campaigns. Although the casino has only being in operation for a short time, an important aim of this thesis is to determine whether these strategies are working and why. The perceptions and attitudes of Phoenix residents towards the casino, their use of and expenditure at the facility as well as the creation of problem or compulsive gamblers are explored. The importance of gambling in relation to other leisure activities is also assessed. The findings of this study suggest that the architectural theme and symbols as well as the marketing campaigns employed by the SugarMill casino have been successful in attracting gamblers to the casino because the majority of respondents have visited the casino and gambled there. Whilst gambling is not the main leisure activity that respondents engage in, it is certainly a significant form of leisure since forty-eight percent of the sample cited gambling as their main leisure activity. Reasons for this vary but contribut ing factors include the accessibility of the casino in close proximity to their homes as well as the general lack of a variety of recreational alternatives in Phoenix.