The conference, which is the 12th in the series and first to be hosted in West Africa, creates a platform for discussions on developing common norms and standards in the control and regulation of all legalised gambling modes, to enhance gaming operations, not only in Africa, but globally.
It has participants including Chief Executives of various gaming jurisdictions in Africa and Europe, gaming operators, as well as GRAF members from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, Botswana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia and Malawi.
Mr Prosper Bani, the Minister for the Interior, commended the Technical Committee of GRAF for selecting Ghana as a host, at a time when gaming was rapidly expanding, with Sports Betting taking a firm lead in the Ghanaian industry.
He said Ghana’s regulation of gaming just as other African countries began quite recently, but there have already been reports of the industry being besieged with numerous problems.
The challenges include the rise in sports betting and incidence of match fixing in some quarters, robbing sports patrons and players of enjoying healthy competition.
Mr Bani said there is also the issue of underage gambling, as there was the tendency for children to become addicted and begin to skip school due to the financial gains they may be making, saying these challenges if not effectively tackled could lead to adverse consequences on the economies and social life of countries.
He urged GRAF to urgently develop cutting-edge strategies to expose money launderers and terrorist financiers, and also double efforts to craft policies and approaches to aid governments to keep underage children from adult gaming facilities, as it was simply not enough for gaming operators to put up signage, warning kids not to patronise gaming facilities.
“We are counting on your skills to systematically put a brake on Gambling Operators who in their zeal to make money, look the other way when punters swoop into their facilities to launder money, which may eventually land on the doorsteps of terrorists”, he said.
Mr Bani said not only does the issue of money laundering cause alarm, but also the recruitment at these facilities of young impressionable minds desperate for cash to join the ranks of terrorists.
He said money laundering and terrorism-financing has become a huge global menace to governments and the security of populations, because some powerful cabals use gaming operators to launder illicit money from narco-trafficking and other criminal operations to finance the activities of terrorists”.
Mr Bani said no matter how watertight gaming regulations may be in any one jurisdiction, no state anywhere on the planet was immune from the economic fallout from money laundering and the human horror of terrorism.
He said the lack of the ability of regulators and governments to track the increasingly sophisticated sources of both legitimate and illicit funds that finance operations, and dealing with the illegal and aggressive tactics of some gaming operators to hook underage children onto gambling poses a great challenge to curbing the menace.
There is also the challenge of balancing the attraction of legal gaming as a lucrative source of State revenue against the threat of addiction, social collapse among poor and desperate citizens who gamble as a source of livelihood rather than leisure, Mr Bani said.
He said Gaming regulators also lack the capacity to keep up with ever-changing technologies of delivering and participating in gaming products, as well as evolving physical and virtual sites.
Mr Bani called for strengthened partnership between gaming regulators, operators and governments in various parts of Africa and the world, to fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.
Mr Lancester Clever Museka, the Chairman of GRAF, said the annual engagements were to create platforms for discussions on developing common norms and standards in the control and regulation of all legalised gambling modes on the continent.
He called for wider collaboration to expand the league of jurisdictions constituent of the GRAF, in order to eradicate all forms of illegal gaming on the continent.