x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Verdict in gaming machine case due next week

The verdict in the trial of 23 workers accused of gambling is expected to be delivered next week.

ABU DHABI // The verdict in the trial of 23 workers accused of gambling is expected to be delivered next week. The workers, employees of 12 different companies, are accused of operating and maintaining illegal gaming machines at hotels across the capital. "They are employees, janitors and handlers. Where is the evidence that any of them were gambling? Where is it?" a defence lawyer, Saoud Abdul Aziz, told the court in the previous session, which was open to the media. Yesterday's session was closed.

In the earlier session, the court was told the machines had been licensed by four separate authorities: the Abu Dhabi Municipality, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and the police. The machines were licensed as gaming machines, but the public prosecution insisted they were being used for gambling. As gambling for money is illegal under Sharia law, the machines offered winners food and drink tokens to be used in the hotels' restaurants.

"These machines were brought into the country and approved upon entry as gaming devices. If we want to enforce no gambling in Abu Dhabi, then bring to justice the people who were gambling, not the employees," Mr Aziz said in court last week. "We cannot allow these companies to operate, give them the permits to operate and tax them 16 per cent, as the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority was taxing them, and then punish their employees all of a sudden."

The accused include four Emiratis, five Indians, two Filipinos and others of various Arab nationalities. Details of yesterday's hearing were not made public, but defence lawyers confirmed that the judge would issue a verdict on July 22. myoussef@thenational.ae