In South Africa, a decision by Trade And Industry Minister Rob Davies to award a new casino licence to the province of North West has angered operators and could be challenged in court.

According to a report in Business Day, the African National Congress minister last week increased the maximum number of South African casino licenses by one to 41, which represented the first such move since gambling was legalised over 20 years ago. Davies told the newspaper that the one-off resolution was adopted by the National Gambling Policy Council in order to provide redress to those living in North West after Johannesburg-based operator Sun International relocated the licence for its Morula Sun Casino And Hotel to the under-construction Time Square Casino at Menlyn Maine near Pretoria.

However, the Casino Association Of South Africa has declared that the move should have had no effect on the total number of casino licences allowed in the nation and also questioned the lack of empirical data to support a deviation of the cap as contained in the 1995 Wiehahn Gambling Report and the 2011 Gambling Review Commission Report.

“We are taking legal advice with the intention to take the decision of the minister on review in the high court,” Themba Ngobese, Chief Executive Officer for the Casino Association Of South Africa, told the newspaper. “We have already commenced with legal consultations and we will file our papers as soon as possible.”

In response, Davies stated that any research would have served only to advise and recommend policy positions but that it was up to decision-makers, which in this case was his department, to make the final judgement.

“The capping of licences at 40 does not prevent any future consideration to increase the cap as the National Gambling Act, Section 45, does empower consideration to increase the limit,” Davies told the newspaper.

The number of casino licences in South Arica had been capped at 40 since 1995 with North West, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape each holding five. There are four licences apiece for Mpumalanga and Free State with Northern Cape having three while South Africa’s most populous province, Gauteng, has seven.