Two gaming facilities in Koforidua have been shut down by the Gaming Commission for allowing adolescents to patronise their facilities.
The premises of Winnabets and Premierbets were locked up after an inspection of their facilities by officials of the commission last Thursday.
During the inspection on the premises of Premierbets at about 5 p.m. two minors, aged 16 and 17, were found, while at Winnabets two 16-year-olds and a uniformed policeman were also seen playing the game.
The shutdown of the two facilities, which also did not have bouncers to turn away children, was supervised by the Deputy Commissioner of the Gaming Commission, Mr Kobby Annan.
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The operations also led to the confiscation of 17 slot machines at Nsawam and Suhum in the Eastern Region, as well as Amansaman in the Greater Accra Region.
The machines, popularly called Jackpot, were seen being operated in the open contrary to the law which requires them to be confined to enclosed spaces to prevent minors from accessing them.
The operations formed part of the Commission’s efforts to curb gambling among adolescents whose interest in it seem to be growing.
Briefing the Daily Graphic after the operations, Mr Annan said owners of the centres would have to pay some administrative penalty after which they would be arraigned before court.
“It is the court that will determine whether they are in violation of section 48 of the Gaming Act and other sections or not,” he said.
Section 48 of the Gaming ACT, 2006 (Act 721) states that: “A person responsible for a gambling machine shall not permit a child to use the gambling machine or to enter a place where the gambling machine is operated.”
Besides, section 56 clause (2) of the Act also indicates that: “A person who permits a child to use a gambling machine or to enter a place in which a gambling machine is used commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than 250 penalty units or a term of imprisonment of not more than 12 months or both.”
Mr Annan explained that the commission embarked on the pilot inspection exercise after it received intelligence reports that children were involved in gambling at various gaming centres in the country.
Mr Annan said although many registered gaming facilities were required by the law to have bouncers to prevent adolescents from accessing them, this was not done.
“I am deeply worried that there are many facilities, especially the registered ones, which are supposed to have bouncers to turn away minors from accessing them but, unfortunately, they do not adhere to the regulations religiously.
“Gaming or gambling, which is entertainment, is a risk that needs to be taken by responsible adults. People get addicted so when you expose children to gaming early, you are exposing them to illegal activities or irresponsible risks whose consequences to their future they cannot comprehend,” he said.
The deputy commissioner added that the commission would deploy between 200 to 400 people to work with the police nationwide to clamp down on illegal gambling.
“The future of our children is doomed if we fail to check irresponsible gambling operators. As a nation, we have to tackle underage gambling head-on now,” he added.