OSHAKATI – Over two decades after government has imposed a moratorium on the issuing of gambling licences, lawmakers are finally ready to lift the moratorium that will allow slot machine owners to operate legally.
According to the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) Pohamba Shifeta, it is estimated that there are at least 100 000 unlicensed gambling machines in about 3 000 illegal gambling houses countrywide.
Shifeta made these remarks last Thursday during a consultative meeting he held in Oshakati with local slot machine owners.
The meeting was held prior to the drafting of the new Gaming and Entertainment Control Act of 2018 which is due to be soon completed.
Currently, the gambling industry is regulated under the Casinos and Gambling Houses Act of 1994, to be replaced by the new Act.
Shifeta acknowledge that such illegal gambling houses has been a livelihood for thousands of Namibians.
He said over the years, well established gabling houses owners wrestled the process to have licences issued to upcoming and small gambling house owners.
But according to him, that is soon to be a thing of the past as the act that will allow fairness in issuing of gambling house operators’ licences will be availed soon. “This piece of legislation will not only ensure strict regulation of gambling activities, but has new provisions to protect the public who participate in these activities, and the national economy,” says Shifeta.
Shifeta said 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 when procedures are not followed.
The proposed central electronic monitoring system would “detect and monitor significant events associated with gambling machines or any device associated with gambling machines that are made available for play in Namibia,” he stated.
He further added that the gambling board will also require that licensed gambling operators who provide products to consumers put in place measures to help people who might develop a gaming addiction. According to him, there are people, including pensioners, who take their money to gambling houses, hoping to make more money from their earnings, hence the mitigating factors.
“The mission is to promote the industry in a more productive and positive light to remove any stigma that exists, we should love one another and share a cake together no one should be left out,” he said.
Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairperson Tomas Iindji said the business people were tired of empty promises made over the years about the issue of gambling machines, maintaining that it is time for the leaders to “walk the talk”.
“We want to operate legally and access the licenses as urgently as yesterday. The process of securing licenses should not be cumbersome, it must be easy and straightforward. I am of the view that the Government of Namibia is about equal distribution of wealth buy we are now defeating our own objectives and ideals. Why is it difficult to do business in Namibia, more especially for the Namibians? The system has to change and our government has all the powers to change the system,” said Iindji.