Bill Healey

The Casino Association of South Africa – A visit with Advocate Themba Ngobese, CEO of CASA

This issue’s International Road trip takes us to South Africa, the largest casino gaming nation on the African continent. Joining in the discussion is Advocate Themba Ngobese, Chief Executive Officer of the Casino Association of South Africa (CASA).

CASA Then & Now

CASA was established in 2003 and represents the interests of 36 of the 38 legal land-based casinos operating in the country, as well as the public they serve. CASA’s emphasis is on playing a constructive and positive role in the evolution of good public policy and good governance in respect of the casino industry.

In their most recently released Annual Survey for the last fiscal year (ended March 2017), CASA shows the industry supports more than 64,000 quality jobs in the national economy. Of the R16,5 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) in value generated by CASA members, casino and related service employees received 21% or R3,5 billion (US$ 250 million). This makes employees one of the largest recipients of value generated by the casino industry, taking home even more than the providers of capital.

The CASA survey shows that of the 64,000 people working in the sector, 10,649 were directly employed in casino operations while a further 5,513 were employed for outsourced services such as security and cleaning services for casino operations only. Non-casino operations, such as hotels, convention centers, restaurants and theaters, accounted for the balance.

Cultivating the principles of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) and gender equality remained high on the list of priorities for CASA members during the last fiscal year. Based on the Tourism Sector Code, 36% of CASA’s 36 members are rated Level 1 B-BBEE, up from 25% in the previous period, while 31% are rated at Level 2, also an improvement from the year ended March 2016.

The CASA survey also shows that, for the first time since the inception of the casino industry in South Africa under the new democratic dispensation, there was a decrease (1.8%) in revenue. This decrease was attributed only in part to the general economic downturn, with illegal gambling eroding substantial revenue from the legal operators. Despite this, the licensed casino industry made a significant contribution toward employment, social responsibility and infrastructure development, and continues to be a vital economic driver.

Advocate Themba Ngobese, CASA CEO

Playing a leading role in the direction of CASA is Advocate Themba Ngobese, CASA’s Chief Executive Officer. He has been literally working in the SA casino industry since its early days, in both the regulatory authorities and later the casinos.

Prior to joining CASA in 2013, Adv Ngobese held senior positions at Peermont Hotels, Casinos and Resorts, the Gauteng Gambling Regulatory Authority and the National Gambling Regulatory Authority of South Africa. (It should be noted that South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own regulatory authority and then the national regulatory authority. Adv Ngobese for instance, worked for the Gauteng Gambling Regulatory Authority in Gauteng Province and then the National Gambling Regulatory Authority.)

Cultivating the principles of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) and gender equality remained high on the list of priorities for CASA members during the last fiscal year. Based on the Tourism Sector Code, 36% of CASA’s 36 members are rated Level 1 B-BBEE, up from 25% in the previous period, while 31% are rated at Level 2, also an improvement from the year ended March 2016.

The CASA survey also shows that, for the first time since the inception of the casino industry in South Africa under the new democratic dispensation, there was a decrease (1.8%) in revenue. This decrease was attributed only in part to the general economic downturn, with illegal gambling eroding substantial revenue from the legal operators. Despite this, the licensed casino industry made a significant contribution toward employment, social responsibility and infrastructure development, and continues to be a vital economic driver.

Advocate Themba Ngobese, CASA CEO

Playing a leading role in the direction of CASA is Advocate Themba Ngobese, CASA’s Chief Executive Officer. He has been literally working in the SA casino industry since its early days, in both the regulatory authorities and later the casinos.

Prior to joining CASA in 2013, Adv Ngobese held senior positions at Peermont Hotels, Casinos and Resorts, the Gauteng Gambling Regulatory Authority and the National Gambling Regulatory Authority of South Africa. (It should be noted that South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own regulatory authority and then the national regulatory authority. Adv Ngobese for instance, worked for the Gauteng Gambling Regulatory Authority in Gauteng Province and then the National Gambling Regulatory Authority.)

He holds a B. Proc and LLB degrees; both from the University of the Witwatersrand as well as a Certificate in Legal Practice from the University of South Africa, and is a qualified advocate.

While with Peermont Hotels, Casinos and Resorts, Adv Ngobese was Group Compliance and Legal Services Executive where he was responsible for ensuring compliance of the group with gambling legislation as well as other applicable legislation. He was also responsible for the provision of legal services to group operations including the drafting and vetting of operational agreements, rendering of legal advice and liaison with external legal advisors.

Adv Ngobese strongly believes that governments need to create a stable operating environment through an explicit regulatory and taxation framework which encourages investment, job creation and economic growth. In his role as CEO at CASA, Adv Ngobese strives toward ensuring that the government offers the lowest possible costs of doing business, including low taxation rates, low license fees and minimal regulatory costs for the industry. He advocates strongly that the government must have clear policies in place that are consistent with the fiscal and regulatory environment of gaming within the country.

Responsible Gambling

Of specific interest to Adv Ngobese and CASA is how they promote responsible gambling in South Africa. He mentions it is in their best interest to ensure the longevity of both their member casinos and the public they serve. An example he used, if a person spends everything they have and is forced into bankruptcy, they would no longer be a regular valued visitor to the casinos. CASA and its member casinos strive to promote the well-being of the guests in order to ensure they are visitors for the long term. It helps the casino cover maintenance and cost of growth well into the future.

CASA is the leading contributor to the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation NPC (SARGF), which delivers the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP). Its board consists of an equal number of gambling industry executives and government regulators as well as the executive director, an independent director, and an independent chair, Adv. Fana Johannes Nalane.

The SARGF is a public-private sector partnership which is incorporated as a non-profit company in terms of South Africa’s Companies Act, 71 of 2008, as amended. It was founded in June 2000 and is acknowledged internationally to be highly effective, economical, amongst the most comprehensive in the world, and especially well adapted to the particular needs of all South Africans.

The NRGP includes the following programs:

  • Treatment Program
  • Industry Support and Mentorship Program
  • Prevention Programs

Corporate Social Investment

As a socially responsible sector, CASA members are fully committed to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) as one of the cornerstones of their ethical business model. And with CSI becoming more strategically focused, it also makes sense to align CSI spending with core business objectives and imperatives. Such an approach moves CSI out of the charitable sphere and into one with true partnerships and beneficiaries; government and NGO’s bring about long-term sustainable development to the benefit of all. It is against this background, and guided by the key socio-economic development needs highlighted by the communities in which they operate, that members of CASA select and support the association’s CSI projects.

The collective efforts of CASA’s members run the entire scope from education, poverty alleviation, skills development, community upliftment, sports development and sponsorship, health care, altruistic infrastructural improvement, HIV treatment and assistance to those most in need, namely the young and elderly.

In total, CASA members spent R712-million (US$ 51 million) over the past five years. But, while financial assistance makes up a portion of CASA’s CSI programs, their members do not believe that just throwing money at a problem will solve it; they also give their time, skill and assistance in any way possible. So, where an education scholarship is important, so is the recycling of linen from the hotels which is donated to homes for the aged – each little bit helps.

Adv Ngobese and I briefly touched on the demographics of guests visiting South African casinos. Though there have been efforts by some venues to attract visitors from abroad, the success has been marginal. Aside from a few of the larger casinos, the vast majority of visitors come from within the country.

Further information can be found on their website at: www.casasa.org.za.

Gaming & Leisure Magazine would like to thank Adv Themba Ngobese for his time and contribution.

Based in Bali, Bill Healey has been consulting, installing, and supporting solutions in the global golf and leisure industry since 1982. He has been involved with over 1,000 systems installations in 40+ countries from North America to Africa to Asia and Australia.