If you haven't heard by now, there has been a lot of noise in the news and on social media about the public not being able to play the national lottery today. With thousands of ticket dispensers out of commission this morning, millions of players could not purchase tickets. Today's events are part of a longstanding narrative of uncertainty and tender awards.
In recent months Gidani, the previous recipient of the national lottery tender award, announced that the second licence was coming to an end as it was not awarded the tender for another term. In this announcement, they warned that since they were challenging the selection process in court, the possibility existed that there may be some delays with the incoming national operator.
Last week, the National Lotteries Board, took a reassuring step by confirming that Ithuba Holdings would officially take over the reins from 1 June 2015 as the new operator. However, on 2 June 2015, the incoming operator issued a statement claiming that the "handover and transition process from the outgoing operator to ITHUBA has caused some operational delays at local retailers".
With much uncertainty in the air, many national lottery players were rather disappointed this morning when the lottery machines were still out of order. Local retailers with ticket dispensers across the country were unable to process what would have been millions of tickets, including many winning bets.
So why is Gidani challenging the selection process?
In 2013, the National Lotteries Board recommended Gidani as the preferred bidder and Ithuba as a reserve applicant should Gidani not be able to fulfil its mandate. However, recommendations are not final and this gave leeway for Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to name Ithuba as the preferred bidder instead.
Gidani then approached the Pretoria High Court to have the decision overturned, but last year the court decided that they needed a judicial review to inform their ruling. Gidani is still pursuing this advice and as a result, the legal battle is still underway. Gidani's core reasoning is that Minister Davies' decision was arbitrary and without due consideration.
Ithuba claims it won the lottery tender because of its "compelling plans for development and solid asset base". Its managing director Charmaine Mabuza also claimed that it had a range of new games planned, including brand new offerings based on indigenous games.
Complications abound - nothing new
To further complicate matters, there is also outcry from those who placed their bets before May 30. Ithuba has been unable to process winning tickets properly and called for patience while assuring the public that winning tickets would be paid out by 6 June 2015.
Despite these complications, history tells us that delays are to be expected. This is the third license for the lottery. When the lottery was first handed over from Uthingo to Gidani, the former operator also challenged the decision in court. The result was an absence in national lottery games for six months.
The legal complications unfolding in court seem to echo those of eight years ago. Gidani's CEO Bongani Khumalo intends to abide by the selection until the legal process is properly concluded. However, he also stated that all of the Gidani equipment "will remain in place in all our retail outlets but will not be operational" for the duration of the review process. This means that it's still uncertain as to when the public will be able to play the lotto again.
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