Wynberg residents attending a Ward 62 committee meeting held earlier this month again expressed their frustration at the location of betting outlets “on the doorstep of residential areas” in Main Road.
The stretch of Main Road that runs through Wynberg accommodates no less than four betting outlets: Hollywoodbets (corner of Langley and Main roads), Supabets (Grand Central Building on Main Road), Betolimp (corner of Rockley and Main roads) and Gbets (corner of Lower Maynard and Main roads).
Capt Silvino Davids, spokesperson for the Wynberg police station, says, while the police are in no way pointing a finger at any single business, he confirms that Main Road shows a high concentration of criminal activities.
“Drug dealing and prostitution; there is a lot of activity in these specific blocks. A lot of people come together there,” he says.
Eugene Dreyer, chair of Wynberg Watch, says the main activities they witness when patrolling the area are drug dealing and drug use.
“There are a number of other issues such as public drinking, vehicles and pedestrians gathering and blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic around the outlets, and playing loud music from vehicles,” Dreyer says.
However, he adds, the betting outlets did not bring dysfunction into Wynberg. According to Dreyer, the locations they chose to open at were already the most dysfunctional parts of Wynberg before they opened.
“Certainly, they appear to have added fuel to the fire. Complaints from residents started very shortly after the outlets opened, especially Hollywoodbets which is located in a largely residential street,” he says.
An occupant of one of these nearby homes says Hollywoodbets seems to have no regard whatsoever for the residents living on the bottom of Langley Road. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source says residents are subjected to a constant flow of cars and sometimes taxis parked in front of the outlet; people sitting outside, filling out betting slips which they then proceed to throw onto the ground once finished.
“There is also urinating against residential fences and drug deals taking place at the corner,” the source says.
Commenting “on what has, regrettably, been a problem for some time”, Devin Heffer, Hollywoodbets brand and communications manager, says it is a problem that existed before the arrival of Hollywoodbets in the area.
“It is unreasonable that a legal, licensed and heavily regulated business (Hollywoodbets) should be held accountable for any alleged criminal and/or uncivil behaviour that is beyond its control. There is no evidence to suggest that the area would be improved if we were not there. The genuine concerns described are already a deterrent for the attraction of businesses,” Heffer says.
It is the responsibility of the police to regulate criminal activity in public space. Capt Davids says they do have successes with arrests for different crimes in Main Road: possession of drugs, possessions of stolen property and possession of dangerous weapons.
Dreyer confirms this, saying there are arrests and enforcement of by-laws around these properties.
“But if it was possible to stop drug dealing by arresting all the drug dealers this would have happened long ago,” he says, adding that the constant monitoring these hotspots require is a drain on an already stretched police force.
He believes betting outlets should at least take some responsibility for the criminal activities that take place right outside or close to their place of business.
“I have witnessed people who appear to be selling or using drugs in front of the security employed by these outlets walk past the security right into the outlets. If these outlets fail to take action on criminal activity on their doorstep, they are to some extent complicit in it,” Dreyer says.
Responding to this claim of security throwing a blind eye, Capt Davids says businesses do have their own right of admission.
“We can’t bust into that place every five minutes. It is not a fruitful exercise. But if there is concrete information that a business is allowing criminal activities to occur on their doorstep then obviously we will,” Capt Davids says, adding they would like the security to contact and assist the police with information should they see anything illegal going down.
Heffer states that the security of the area is enhanced, not compromised, by Hollywoodbets’ operations.
“The human and technical resources employed by Hollywoodbets provide added security, which would otherwise, be absent,” Heffer says, adding that they have always actively assisted the Wynberg Residents and Ratepayers Association (WRRA), the Cape Town Central City Community Improvement District (CCID), the police and the community policing forum (CPF) with any requests.
He says the betting outlet has made their camera footage of both the inside and outside of the branches readily available to the police should they require it for an investigation.
“However, the function of policing is performed by the police and if applicable, the CCID. Neither Hollywoodbets nor the other businesses in the area have policing powers,” Heffer says.