07.03.2014 Mahesh Kalidas, who banned himself from casinos, wants the money back he played with after he was banned.

Johannesburg -

Two top casinos could face a fine of R10 million each if the Gauteng Gambling Board finds them guilty of allowing a banned person to gamble at their establishments.

But this is the least of Mahesh Kalidas’s concerns - he wants his money back.

Two years ago, the businessman from Mayfair became so addicted to gambling he banned himself from casinos around the country.

But like a man obsessed, he visited Emperors Palace on the East Rand and Montecasino in the North of Joburg several times and won jackpots of hundreds of thousands of rands. Casino management at Montecasino then realised that Kalidas had signed a banning order and had him arrested for trespassing - and no jackpot.

“I lost control. I was completely addicted to gambling. I played with a lot of money and I lost just as much. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. But I went anyway.

“At Montecasino, I played with R40 000 from my credit card. And then I won a jackpot. But (Montecasino) refused to pay me out. Which was fair enough. I thought that they would at least pay me back the money I played with. It has been two years and I have received nothing.”

This week the gambling board’s Lucky Lukhwareni confirmed that Kalidas was banned from participating in gambling facilities around the country but, despite the order, he had still been allowed to enter and play at two casinos.

“We are in a process of taking disciplinary action against the licensees. The disciplinary process entails the issuing of a charge sheet and affording the relevant licensee an opportunity to respond, convening a disciplinary hearing wherein the licensee will be given the opportunity to be heard, and finally a decision will be made on whether or not the licensee contravened gambling laws by allowing Mr Kalidas to participate in gambling while his banning order was still effective.”

Lukhwareni said the board had dealt with a similar case in the past 12 months and the licensee in question had recognised the banned punter, removed him from the floor and laid criminal charges against him for trespassing.

Meanwhile Emperors Palace and Montecasino would not say how Kalidas had bypassed security and been allowed to gamble and why his credit card was not flagged.

They also refused to be drawn on whether they would pay back the money Kalidas had initially played with.

Neither casino would say what measures, if any, they have put in place to ensure that banned customers are not allowed to gamble at their establishments, nor whether this had had happened at their casinos before.

Julie van Wyk, group public relations manager at Emperors Palace said: “The investigation by Emperors Palace around Mr Kalidas’s claim has been completed and we are satisfied that reasonable steps were taken to effect his self-exclusion. We therefore consider the matter closed.”

And Tsogo Sun’s Priya Naidoo said only: “We have received communication on the above incident and we are investigating this matter.”

Kalidas, meanwhile, is adamant. He wants his money back. At least the money that he played with.

“This happens all the time,” said the small business owner who now sees a counsellor and regularly attends support groups for problem gamblers. “Don’t think that I am the only one this has happened to.”

“We ban ourselves because we realise that we have a problem. But it is not that easy. You don’t just wake up one day and say ‘today I am not going to be an addicted gambler’. Of course you have can have those lapses in judgment.”

But Kalidas, a husband and father, swears he has never been back to any casino in the country since October 2012.

“I want a settlement. They were wrong,” he said.

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Saturday Star