Bingo! There’s still life in the old dog of a gambling sector

Business

Bingo! There’s still life in the old dog of a gambling sector

Investment company RECM says ‘alternative gaming’ such as bingo and sports betting are cooking

Marc Hasenfuss

The local casino sector is spinning slower these days as discretionary spending dries up, but diversified investment company RECM & Calibre (RAC) is betting its fast-growing alternative gaming subsidiary Goldrush is ready for listing on the JSE. 
RAC holds a 51% stake in Goldrush – which holds limited payout machines (LPMs), electronic bingo terminals (EBTs) and sports betting operations.
RAC’s year to end March results released on Tuesday showed that in two years the value of the stake in Goldrush had more than doubled from R446-million (at the end of March 2016) to R941-million. At financial year end Goldrush represented a chunky 46% of RAC’s total assets of R2-billion.RAC executive director Jan van Niekerk said there was no need to raise fresh capital for Goldrush – but that a listing, which was always part of an agreement with the company’s management, would rather be a “price discovery event”.
He said listing plans could be tabled at the end of the year.
Alternative gaming assets have surprised punters with their profit prowess in the last five years. Listed gaming giants Sun International and Tsogo Sun have both advanced on the alternative gaming sector via the respective acquisitions of GrandSlots (now SunSlots) from Grand Parade Investments and Vukani and Galaxy from Niveus.
Van Niekerk added that Goldrush was still subject to  interest from potential suitors. “We get contacted about Goldrush two or three times a year. But we are not sellers.”
RAC CEO Piet Viljoen said Goldrush was entrenching its position as the largest alternative gaming group in SA with 24 EBT sites, 1671 LPMs and 28 sports betting shops.
He said GoldRush’s recent acquisition of Boss Gaming Group provided a kicker at bottom line. “This has so far turned out to be a very good transaction for Goldrush as Boss contributed significantly to this year’s earnings, especially when compared to the price we paid.”Viljoen noted all Goldrush operations performed well – aside from the Pretoria EBT properties and one Johannesburg EBT property.
He explained that the relocation of the Sun International casino licence from the Morula complex to the new Time Square casino at Menlyn Maine in Pretoria impacted Goldrush’s Atterbury and Kolonnade Bingo properties severely.  “We have not seen any recovery from this impact as yet.  We mitigated some of the impact on a third Pretoria property by relocating the licence from Centurion to the vacated Morula complex.”
While the Gauteng market is constrained by additional competition, Goldrush looks set to cash in a decision late last year by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature to formally approve EBT operations in that province.
Aside from Goldrush, RAC’s other investments include a 28% stake in JSE-listed investment company Astoria (now subject to a takeover bid), a 90% stake in JB Private Equity (which controls JSE-listed Unicorn Capital Partners) and a 32% stake in diamond miner Trans Hex as well as a hedge fund holding an array of undervalued companies.
Smaller interests include stakes in La Concorde (which holds the old KWV’s properties and art), private education business College SA, insurance company Conduit Capital and building supplies firm Distribution & Warehousing Network (Dawn).

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