Durban - There has been an outcry from the public and casinos against the introduction of electronic bingo terminals (EBTs) in shopping malls.

Their objections are being heard by the KwaZulu-Natal Gaming and Betting Board, which is hosting public hearings around the province.

At two hearings on Thursday in La Lucia and Phoenix, members of the public and leaders of organisations made impassioned pleas not to “allow gambling slots to invade our shopping centres where we take our families and where our children hang out”. Board chairwoman Sibusisiwe Zulu threatened to remove people from the hall in Phoenix as some disrupted proceedings.

In Phoenix, Pastor Mervin Reddy told how his brother, Dion, committed suicide after squandering R1 million of his pension on gambling. “I’m opposing this because I’ve seen what a gambling addiction can do to a family,” he said.

Sibaya Casino’s chairman, Durban tycoon Vivian Reddy, argued that owners of established casinos had to invest billions developing the venues and paid millions in fees to the board.

“EBTs at shopping malls are like creating mini-casinos, only without the struggle… Sibaya paid a R45 million exclusivity fee to stop competition from operating within our catchment area, but the Galaxy Bingos and Gold Rush want to just come in and generate more than R100m in annual revenue without paying their dues.”

Representing Galaxy Bingo (Gateway and Pavilion), advocate Anna Annandale said her client’s venue was away from the shopping area and had a dedicated entrance where no minors were allowed.

Finance MEC Belinda Scott has said the board has applications from 12 malls to install electronic bingo terminals. They want Scott and the board to amend their trading conditions and allow them to have EBTs. These include the Liberty Midlands Mall, the Pavilion and Galleria.

The hearings continue on Friday in Richards Bay and Empangeni.

The Mercury