21 February 2019

Namibia: Gamble for Leisure, Not for Gain - Minister

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday said the public should use lottery and gambling machines for leisure, and not for financial benefit.

He made these remarks during a consultative two-day workshop being held in Windhoek on the draft regulations of the new Lotteries Act and the Gaming and Entertainment Control Act.

The minister said there are people, including pensioners, who take their money to gambling houses, hoping to make more money from their earnings. He added that gambling has never made anyone rich, and that it is just there for entertainment.

Shifeta said the new lottery and gambling law protects both the public and the licence holder, and safeguards anyone who is underage from participating without proving that they are at the required legal age.

"We want to keep gaming crime-free, make sure that gaming is fair and open, and we want to protect the player as well as the licence holder, and children and vulnerable adults from being harmed and exploited," he stated.

Shifeta said a gaming board could also require that licensed gambling operators who provide products to consumers put in place measures to help people who might develop a gaming addiction.

"The mission is to promote the industry in a more productive and positive light to remove any stigma that exists," he said.

Shifeta added that casino gaming could also be used to attract foreign direct investments.

Currently, the gambling industry is regulated under the Casinos and Gambling Houses Act of 1994, which will be repealed by the new Gaming and Entertainment Control Act.

While tabling the draft law last year, the minister observed that the country has 260 licensed slot machine operators, of which six are casinos while 254 are gambling houses. There was a total of 2 845 registered slot machines (1 145 in casinos and 1 700 in gambling houses), which contribute N$22 million to government coffers annually. According to the minister, the government estimates that there are roughly 20 000 unlicensed gambling machines in about 2 600 illegal gambling houses countrywide. The tourism ministry's executive director, Teofilus Nghitila, said the state had received revenue all these years only from the legally registered gambling houses and casinos. However, this will change through the new act.

"Under the new act, all gambling houses must be registered. There will be an electronic monitoring system, and there will be gambling inspectors with the powers to arrest people, and to seize assets," he stated.

Nghitila added that there would be significant sentences for offenders, which will include both hefty amounts and stiff prison terms, or both. The lotteries sector would also receive an entirely new legal framework, with all lotteries being controlled and regulated.

"There will be only one state lottery, and the state intends to protect that state lottery to ensure that it generates much-needed revenue for social welfare," he said.

Restrictions would likewise be placed on all other lotteries, including promotion competitions and private lotteries.

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