Gambler wins Shs32m, betting firm withholds pay

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Kampala. On March 11, Benon Kiwanuka walked into the Winners Betting outlet in Kabalagala, a Kampala suburb, to place a bet. Little did he know that the betting ticket he exited with, which indicated a Shs300,000 wager on 18 football matches with the maximum win total amounting to Shs38m, would be spot on.
The odds of swinging it all were heavily staked against him and were, as one would say, one in a million, or rather in this case one in 38 million (Shs32 million after tax), but he did.
Mr Kiwanuka hit the jackpot stunning all in the know of the bet he had placed, especially the betting house, which has since withheld the payout, citing irregularities in the computation of his ticket.
“They say I only bet Shs3,000 and not Shs300,000 and yet that is not true. I placed a wager on Shs300,000 and the ticket I was issued is very clear on that amount. I do not know why they are denying it and have refused to honour the deal,” says Mr Kiwanuka in a frustrated tone.

What the betting company says
When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Jigar Chandarana, the owner of Winners Betting, he refused to comment on the matter, opting to have the company’s lawyer John Patrick Barenzi comment on the company’s behalf. Barenzi explained that the Mr Kiwanuka’s jackpot was a result of a typing error.
“He paid Shs3,000,” he said. “The person in charge of computing the figure made an error and it is that glitch that has caused all this,” he said.
Mr Barenzi says his client does acknowledge that the ticket belongs to his company and adds that when they discovered the error, the company immediately reported the case to police even before the games were played in a bid to invalidate the ticket.
However, Mr Kiwanuka was in the dark about this move as he was not contacted.
“The problems is whenever people place bets and are issued tickets, they are not required to leave their contacts behind and my client’s attempts to contact Kiwanuka in this case were all futile,” Barenzi explains, adding, “So when he returned days later, we offered to pay him his Shs3,000 wager’s worth – which is about Shs300, 000 but he refused.”
Sam Eriatu, the police officer who was on duty at the Kabalagala Police Station on the day the betting house reported the issue, acknowledges that they did receive the information pertaining to the alleged computer error but did not register the case citing no criminality in the event.
“The representatives of the company came around and reported the matter but since it had no criminal basis, we recommended it be resolved between the concerned parties,” he recalls.

The rules
The National Lotteries Board, which regulates lotteries, has rules and regulations that stipulate a person can seek redress from the board once the operator fails, on their part, to meet their obligations. But there is a catch. Before they get an operator licence, the operator, which is the betting house in this case, has to have deposited a bank guarantee of Shs500m which serves as security bond with the government and is used to pay out the aggrieved.
Mr Manzi Tumubweine, the chairman of National Lotteries Board, says he got wind of Mr Kiwanuka’s predicament. Mr Tumubweine, however, says the board cannot intervene since Winners Betting had not paid the bank guarantee.
“We cannot compensate him since the operator has not paid its dues. He approached me on the matter and I recommended that they negotiate and reach a compromise,” he says.
Tumubweine, nonetheless, points out that Winners Betting’s failure to fulfil the guarantee requirement was a violation of the National Lotteries Board’s regulations.
He adds that Winners Betting has received an ultimatum from the board to deposit the guarantee before the end of March or it will be put out of business.
Whether the business is closed or the matter is dragged on to court, the bottom line for Kiwanuka, who depends on his boda boda business for a living, is that what had initially seemed the happiest day of his life has turned out to be a sour tussle whose outcome only time will determine.
“I will not give up. I shall pursue this till they pay me what is due,” he says.

kdidas@ug.nationationmedia.com-monitor.co.ug

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