Since 1996 and the passage of the Gambling Act in South Africa, the national government has worked diligently to close down illegal operations while touting the virtues of its legally established casinos. In the subsequent two decades following the legislation’s entrance into law, South Africa is quietly becoming a great location for gambling tourism, with casino-and-entertainment complexes rivaling the world’s best in terms of luxuriousness and straight-up gaming fun.
The following is a list of seven great casinos in South Africa that should instantly draw the attention of the gambling-first tourist – or just those who’d like to get in a few spins at the slot machine or a few hands of blackjack after checking out the country’s natural attractions…
A great many of South Africa’s larger casino are touted as part of a well more grandiose full-on entertainment complex, and the Sun Grand West Casino and Entertainment World in the Goodwood area of Capetown is no exception – unless you want to consider the actual size of the amenities involved. All things considered, the Grand West. On a complex which includes an arena for concerts, several restaurants, a full bowling alley and an ice-skating rink (!) is the casino loaded with a couple dozen table games featuring blackjack, roulette and poker variations plus a colossal 2,560 video slot machines.
Close competition for the Grand West may be found at the Rio Casino Resort in Klerksdorp. Known as the Tusk Rio Casino Resort until 2006, spaciousness is the key for this gaming hall: Would you believe an incredible 266,000-plus square feet of floor space for casino games? These dimensions allow the folks at Rio to claim their casino is one of the very biggest in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Spread out over this area are some 275 slot machines (open for playing 24 hours a day), 11 table games and a characteristically South African “Salon Privé” for the high-rollers.
The Southern Sun Montecasino, located just outside of Johannesburg proper, helped put the suburb of Fourways on the international gambling tourist’s map. Constructed in the 1990s to harken back stylistically to a 15th-century Italian palazzo, the lengthily-monikered Montecasino Gaming and Entertainment Complex includes shops, restaurants, a multi-screen cinema and, of course, the casino. This gaming hall boasts quite a range of choices in gaming, with over 1,850 slot machines and a big 70 table games; here, blackjack, table poker, baccarat, roulette, craps and the Wheel of Fortune may be enjoyed.
In the city of Johannesburg itself is the Gold Reef City Casino. Located next door to a theme park and the Apartheid Museum, the Gold Reef is actually built upon the remains of a late 19th-century gold mine. This casino – including its Salon Privé – is open 24 hours a day, beckoning players with over 1,700 slot machines including most of South Africa’s highest-paying progressive jackpot slots. Two restaurants, a hotel and a live performance theatre round out the offerings.
And then there’s the Emperor’s Palace, also in Johannesburg. This casino certainly lives up to its name with a facility that recently underwent a ZAR 1 billion (about $70 million) revitalization to its hotel and casino facilities. The Emperor’s Palace has long been a major South African venue for professional boxing events and today is known as a premier entertainment destination in the country. Aside from approximately 725 slot machines, 66 table games and the near-standard Salon Privé, the Palace hosts an internationally-renowned poker room. Stuff for the younger ones like a video arcade and cinema are also on the premises, as is a cigar lounge for the tobacco-and-whiskey loving lot.
If you’re visiting Port Elizabeth, you may not be there for gambling – but hey, the Boardwalk Casino there is definitely worth a look. Done up in Victorian-style trappings, the Boardwalk Casino atmosphere is hardly stodgy. The complex itself includes a convention center, specialty shops, an arcade, an ampitheatre and four hotels.
The Silverstar Casino is a few minutes away from the Johannesburg environs, but a trip to Mogale City and into the Magaliesberg Mountains is certainly worth it to the gambling aficionado. For the international tourist, this may be the most South African of all South African facilities, with amenities such as game reserves, cave exploration and art galleries. The Silverstar Casino itself includes 700 slot machines and 30 table games. Welcoming folks is the largest water show in Africa, a fountain setup which culminates in a 370-meter long wave every half-hour or so. (Take that, Vegas!)