Owners of unlicensed gambling machines now face hefty fines or imprisonment. This is according to the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, in a Motivation Statement of the Gambling and Entertainment Control Bill that was read in Parliament last week.
The minister further revealed that there are approximately 20,000 unlicensed gambling machines across the country.
Shifeta said the Bill that provides for the establishment of the board as an administrative body or agency of the government, gives power to the board to establish and maintain a register of every gambling machine manufactured within or imported into Namibia.
He said the Bill also gives power to the board to establish and maintain a central electronic monitoring system capable of – detecting and monitoring significant events associated with a gambling machine or any device associated with the gambling machine that is made available for play in the country.
According to him, a person who at the commencement of the Gambling and Entertainment Control Act has in his or her possession a gambling machine, which requires to be registered or to be linked to the central electronic monitoring system in terms of this Act, must, in the prescribed manner, register the gambling machine and link it to the central electronic system within a period of six months after the commencement date of this Act or within such further period not exceeding 12 months as may be determined by the board.
Otherwise, he said, failing to do so, such person will face hefty fines or imprisonment.
Shifeta said it is also important to highlight that the board will only issue a gambling house licence to the person, who on application conducts an accommodation establishment, or retail liquor business.
“The transfer of gambling house licences from one area to another will no longer be possible and thus the practice of individuals who buy the gambling machines from others and place them in various shebeens that do not belong to them will no longer be possible,” he said.
Furthermore, Shifeta said the Bill further makes provision for the maximum number of licences per region. He said the minister may, after considering the criteria, prescribe the maximum number of licenses, other than key employee licenses, that may be granted by the board in Namibia or in any region or part of Namibia.
However, he said, this will be done in consultation with the Competition Commission established by the Competition Act in order to enhance the promotion and safeguarding of competition in the gambling industry.
“This will also be done considering the impact of incidence and social consequences of compulsive and addictive gambling or gambling activity, the promotion of economic empowerment of previously economically and socially disadvantaged persons in Namibia,” he said.
He added that other considerations will be the promotion of new entrants to the gambling industry, job creation within the gambling industry, diversity of ownership within the gambling industry, efficiency of operation of the gambling industry or competition within the gambling industry.
Shifeta also revealed that there are 260 licence holders (six casinos and 254 gambling houses) and 2,845 registered gambling machines (1,145 casinos and 1,700 gambling houses).
He said the gambling industry contributes to the State Revenue Fund about N$22 million annually in Namibia.
“We must note that this Act also regulates casinos. We have so far 6 casino licences that have been granted. It must also be pointed out that the Damaseb Commission of Inquiry did not find any challenges with the way the casino sector is being regulated,” he said.
He said the main objectives of the Gaming and Entertainment Control Bill is “to regulate the gambling and gambling activities in Namibia; to set out the principles for gambling and gambling activities; establish the Gambling Board; to establish the Gambling Trust Fund; and to provide for incidental matters”.