Gaming equipment inspection sparks furore

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PLAYERS in the casino industry have accused Home Affairs secretary Melusi Matshiya of compromising his position after he went on an all-paid trip sponsored by two firms to inspect casino gaming machinery in South Africa, our sister paper NewsDay has leant.

CHARLES LAITON
SENIOR REPORTER

According to documents at hand, the trip in which Matshiya was accompanied by Lotteries Gaming Board chief executive/secretary Heavens Simbarashe Gonga was approved by the President and Cabinet chief secretary Misheck Sibanda. The three-day trip last week was co-sponsored by Enterpro (Pvt) Ltd owned by businessman Max Tshuma and Hotel Redcliff reportedly owned by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife Auxilia.

Informed sources argued that as regulators of the Lotteries and Gaming Board which licenses casino operators, both Matshiya and Gonga were not supposed to undertake the trip sponsored by an applicant.

Tshuma owns several casinos in the country that include, Regency Casino at the Rainbow Towers, Maruwati in Marondera, Kadoma Ranch, Golden Miles in Gweru, Chinotimba in Victoria Falls and Beitbridge.

The sources also said the inspection should have been carried out by punters as they were well versed with the operations of the machinery. This, the players said, was to ensure that the regulators remained objective in their duties. By undertaking the sponsored trip, the players argued that Matshiya and Gonga will never be impartial in carrying out their duties.

But, Matshiya yesterday defended his decision to conduct the inspection saying as a regulator it was important for his ministry to familiarise with the equipment before it was imported into the country.

“It is just a matter of failure to appreciate the procedure that is taken before gaming equipment is brought into the country,” Matshiya said.

“As a regulating authority, if an operator approaches us and advises that he intends to purchase such equipment, we are duty bound to go and inspect the machine before it is brought into the country.

“We do so in order to satisfy ourselves that the equipment which the operator intends to use is not likely going to prejudice players and the operator himself.

“We check on the software and find out how it operates and we also check on the seals and satisfy ourselves that the machine has not been tampered with, all this is done to protect the public and ensure a fair gamming practice.”

Matshiya added the trip did not compromise his objectivity.

“If an operator wants us to inspect the equipment he/she intends to import and use locally, we advise the operator to wait for us to organise for the trip and if he/she feels we might delay in raising our (State) funds for the trip, he/she may offer to fund the trip, but we do not force them to do so,” he said.

“In this case, the operators offered to sponsor the trip, but that is not what is important. What is of paramount importance is the inspection of the equipment to be used by the operators.

“We want people to play and win as opposed to be cheated by some equipment that may have been tampered with.”