Gaming investment company Grand Parade Investments (GPI) yesterday announced a R170m deal to give it a controlling stake in Thuo Gaming, operator of limited payout machines.

GPI will take full ownership of Carentan Investments, a subsidiary of the Australian-based Tatts Group, which owns 90% of Thuo Gaming.

The deal, which remains subject to regulatory approval, will see GPI add an operating component to its business . Thuo Gaming holds licences to operate limited payout machines in KwaZulu- Natal and the Western Cape.

“There is an adjustment, as we move into the operating arena,” said GPI CEO Adrian Funkey. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a change of direction. Our vision is to become a leading force in the gaming industry, and we see this as a natural progression towards that.”

Launched in 1997, GPI is a broad-based black economic empowerment enterprise with 6000 direct shareholders drawn largely from historically disadvantaged areas of the Western Cape. It was the empowerment partner in SunWest International’s successful 1999 bid for the Cape Metropole casino licence, and was listed on the JSE last year.

GPI chairman Hassen Adams said he saw potential for limited payout machines operations in KwaZulu-Natal, where Thuo Gaming is yet to break even.

“We’re going to drive it actively, the way we’ve driven the Western Cape,” he said.

GPI intended to expand into Gauteng and African countries, such as Namibia and Mauritius.

The recession had presented GPI with new opportunities. “This opportunity would never have arisen in good times — due to the current economic climate, Tatts are now having to concentrate on their business in Australia.

“The industry services a particular sector of the community – payouts are low and denominations are low. During these recessionary times, limited payout machine sites are quite resilient.”