Pretoria's ban raises stakes for Sun City: John Carlin in Johannesburg on a gambling bill that has drawn accusations of hypocrisy

ONCE you've negotiated three sets of iron gates at King's Casino, on Johannesburg's Louis Botha Avenue, the gaming room itself has a homespun feel to it. The fish fingers and the cheese and tomato sandwiches are free, and a blonde waitress in skin-tight jeans minces around the tables asking, 'Anybody here for spaghetti?'

Mercifully, the Israeli, the Latvian and the two Italians in the blackjack huddle I was observing did not express a great deal of interest in spaghetti, mesmerised as they were by the black female croupier's dexterity with the cards, and the insouciant nimbleness with which she hoovered up their 20 rand chips ( pounds 4).

A bill the South African government plans to table in parliament this week threatens to put the waitress, the croupier and the man who makes the spaghetti out on the street - along with 15,000 others employed in South Africa's burgeoning gambling industry.

Political killings may be the order of the day, constitutional negotiations may be in peril and the economy may be sliding way beyond John Major's worst nightmares, but President F W de Klerk has deemed the time has come to put his foot down and appease the moral majority. All gambling on South African soil, he has decreed, is to be outlawed.

Uproar has been the response. A protest march has been held in Cape Town and the media have been inundated with calls and letters from indignant punters. On the talk shows it is the only issue.

In an article in the Star, a national daily, Tony Leon MP, of the liberal Democratic Party, denounced the government's 'double standards and hypocrisy'. 'The Gambling Amendment Bill,' he railed, 'is legislative junk food. It bloats the system, takes time to digest and diverts attention from the main course . . . making progress towards a democratic South Africa.'

The double standards and hypocrisy eating at Mr Leon derive from apartheid's greatest aberration, the system of independent homelands, devised as dumping grounds for blacks not wanted in the big cities. The creation within South African territory of the sovereign states of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei - all of which entertain diplomatic missions from just one country - gave the entrepreneur Sol Kerzner the smart idea of building a business around the principle of the forbidden fruit.

Black leaders Pretoria appointed to head these statelets did not share their Calvinist masters' scruples about gambling, topless dancers and dirty movies. Mr Kerzner established Sun City in Bophuthatswana, and it spawned 30 Sun Hotel complexes in all four homelands.

It has made Mr Kernzer colossally wealthy - it is reported he will be paying Ronald and Nancy Reagan their usual fees to attend the opening later this year of his latest venture in Bophuthatswana, the Lost City, venue of the Miss World contest in December.

Mr Kerzner is among the most enthusiastic proponents of the anti-gambling bill. Desperate not to lose his billion-rand investment in the homelands, he has been appearing on radio and television fiercely arguing his case, the essence of which is that he is a philanthropist with a job-creation scheme under threat.

Mr Leon sees it differently. 'In effect, it means the monopoly enjoyed in the homelands by Sun International will be shored up by an Act of Parliament.'

Grant Kaplan of the South African Gaming Association explained that the monopoly was broken in July last year, after a court ruled that a local variation of blackjack was not 'a game of chance', but - as betting on the horses is legally defined - 'a game of skill'. Exploiting the loophole, 500 casinos have mushroomed, with a turnover of more than pounds 20m a month.

Mr Kerzner has been the loser. Gamblers in Johannesburg no longer have to drive two hours north to Sun City for their fun. They can drive around the corner to King's, or to Sleepy Hollow, a converted mansion in the Spanish colonial style, in the affluent suburb of Sandton.

The co-managers of Sleepy Hollow, Chris from Ottawa and Kevin from Birmingham, struggle to restrain their loathing for Mr Kerzner and their contempt for the government. 'We're crucifying some of Sun International's establishments,' said Kevin, a former Sun International employee.

If he spoke with relish it was because he was present last year when the police, in the company of two Sun employees, raided the casino he was working in and locked him up for 24 hours, because he did not have a work permit - a detail his former employers had overlooked. The fear now is that he will be locked up for far longer.

'It's ludicrous,' Chris said. 'I mean, they'll put us away for 20 years, but if we go out and murder, if we go out and kill eight blacks on the streets like that guy Barend Strydom, and then say it was political, they'll let us free after a couple of months. Meanwhile, a couple of hours up the road in Sun City, people are playing roulette and everything and it's all perfectly legal.'

A curious twist, Chris and Kevin remarked, is that the furore is bringing the African National Congress support from the most unexpected quarters. The ANC position, founded on non-recognition of homeland sovereignty, is that the proposed legislation is biased, illegitimate and absurd and, at a time of economic hardship, will deprive thousands of jobs.

'Lots of our staff and many of our clients,' Chris said, 'are saying they're going to vote ANC.'

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

£1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week