Somewhere in my record collection is an album called “Sun City,” a project put together in 1985 by Steve Van Zandt, Miles Davis, “News Dissector” Danny Schechter and others to protest the apartheid regime in South Africa. Please click on the clip below — if you haven’t seen it before, you’ll be amazed. It might be the greatest music video ever made. It’s certainly the most socially conscious.
Sun City was a resort casino aimed at luring a wealthy white clientele. The idea was that money from high rollers would be used to prop up a crumbling, corrupt system that had exploited and oppressed the black population, whose most visible symbol, Nelson Mandela, had been imprisoned for many years. Eventually, of course, the regime fell, but not until incalculable damage had been done.
Who would be willing to profit from such evil? Sol Kerzner, for one. In today’s Boston Globe, Sean Murphy reports that Kerzner was the developer of Sun City, earning him accolades from Frank Sinatra as “the world’s best saloon keeper.” It’s not a secret. I had known about Kerzner’s South African ties. But I hadn’t made the connection to Sun City.
The main theme of Murphy’s story is not Sun City, but the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. It seems that Kerzner and Len Wolman, the principal investors in Mohegan Sun, found a loophole in a federal law that has allowed them to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars while the Indian tribe that nominally controls the casino receives relative pennies.
Getting rich by exploiting an oppressed native people? Well, that’s really old hat to Kerzner.
Kerzner and Wolman, as you may have heard, are also the lead investors in the proposed Middleborough casino. And Kerzner, as Stephanie Vosk and George Brennan remind us in today’s Cape Cod Times, “was charged in 1986 with bribing a South African official in exchange for exclusive gaming rights. The charge was dropped in 1997, but it has followed him each time he has bid on a casino license.”
The Middleborough deal was negotiated on behalf of the investors by Glenn Marshall, who chaired the tribal council of the Mashpee Wampanoags until he was forced to resign in August after his lies about his military service and a past rape conviction were brought to light. Tribal members tell the Globe that the details of the Middleborough deal remain a secret to them to this day.
And so it goes. This is what you get when you try to make common cause with casino gambling. This is what the Middleborough selectmen fail to understand. This is what Gov. Deval Patrick thinks he can avoid through extensive governmental regulation.
What legislators need to understand is that the best way to avoid such sleaze is not to head down this road in the first place. We ain’t gonna play Sun City.