The fate of 29 employees of the Riviera Casino in Kisumu hangs in the balance, following a dispute between the government, a local bank, businessmen Kamlesh Pattni and Ketan Somaia.
Ten employees of the establishment, a subsidiary of the International Casino, have been sent on unpaid leave while the rest, including the manager, have not received salaries for five months.
Customers who win games at the casino have to contend with pledges in the form of deposit slips. By June this year, the casino owed its customers over Sh180,000. Food and stationery suppliers, who are owed well over Sh3 million, are camping outside the premises.
The International Casino is at the centre of a row over an alleged Sh76.7 million debt in rent arrears, following a dispute between Kamlesh Pattni and Ketan Somaia\u2019s Dolphin Group over its ownership.
Documents availed to the The Sunday Standard reveal that the Riviera, situated in Magak Building, Central Square, is facing court action over rent arrears amounting to Sh13 million. When workers protested over salary delays, they were reportedly advised to pay themselves from profits made from The Riviera Vault Restaurant. However, given the empty roulette tables, pontoons and black jacks, this was not possible.
On June 16, 2004, the Provincial Labour Officer wrote to the casino\u2019s general manager and warned him that it is a criminal offence to fail to pay wages under the Employment Act Cap 226 Section 4 of the Laws of Kenya.
But it seemed the letter, signed by a BF Muganda, had no effect as the workers were not paid. Another letter from the Labour office dated May 12, 2005, and addressed to the receiver manager of Tourist Paradise Investment protested what it termed as unlawful labour practices. It cited the sending on indefinite, compulsory and unpaid leave of Messrs Jared Oningu, Pascal Nafula and Joseph Okech with effect from April 1. But it, too, bore no fruits.
The casino also owes the Kenya Revenue Authority millions of shillings.
On July 17, 2003, Riviera 9, then Belcoy Leisure Limited and TPI Limited filed a court injunction stopping KRA from recovering unpaid Value Added Tax to the tune of Sh4, 415,200.
The Penal Notice by Mugambi, Imanyara and Company Advocates read in part: "Take notice that if you, Commissioner General of Kenya Revenue Authority and Commissioner General of Value Added Tax Department, your officers, servants and or agents disobey this court order, you and each of you will be liable to be imprisoned for a period of six months." Since the injunction two years ago, Riviera has not paid the tax.
Investigations reveal the casino has not renewed its gaming license, premise liquor and liquor license since June this year when they expired.