National lottery operator Ithuba bets R250m on tech

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Charmaine Mabuza, CEO of Ithuba.
Charmaine Mabuza, CEO of Ithuba.

National lottery operator Ithuba has put technology at the centre of its operations.

So says Charmaine Mabuza, CEO of Ithuba, in an e-mail interview with ITWeb, after she was recently named by international publication iGaming Business as one of the 10 most influential women in the global gaming industry.

As the national lottery operator, Ithuba has invested R250 million in technology to ensure the company maintains global gaming standards, says Mabuza.

She tells ITWeb that since Ithuba was awarded the licence to operate the national lottery in June 2015, it has used Paytronix Systems – a 100% locally-owned South African technology company – as its strategic technology partner, providing Ithuba with the necessary tools to reinvigorate the national lottery.

According to Mabuza, Paytronix has managed the data operations of more than 1.636 billion transactions on Ithuba’s behalf since inception of the lottery operations.

“Paytronix plays a critical role in the delivery of projects within Ithuba and its teams to the operation of the national lottery supporting the following core functions – business process, software development, project management, infrastructure, ICT risk and governance, quality assurance, disaster recovery, and business intelligence reporting, to name a few.

“Since Ithuba took over the national lottery operations, it has doubled the number of games in the lottery product portfolio by strategically expanding accessibility of the national lottery to players at their convenience and on various online platforms – becoming the first lottery operator to have four major banks integrated into the central gaming system, making all lottery products available to players via banking app and USSD.”

She adds that Ithuba launched the first-ever national lottery website and mobile app in 2018 and further mobilised the national lottery offering through the approximately 175 000 handheld devices that have been rolled out.

“Technology and innovation have been the cornerstone of success at Ithuba,” says Mabuza, noting the operator has leveraged state-of-the-art technology in all the six years of the national lottery operations.

She explains that Ithuba decided to move the national lottery to a digital platform years before the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in national lockdown.

“The foresight means that when South Africa was faced with the national lockdown, lottery players could access their products on the national lottery website with multiple payment gateway options at the convenience of players. Players also had access to the national lottery mobile app, as well as the digital platforms of its banking channel partners Absa, FNB, Standard Bank and Nedbank.”

Ithuba also had in place the random number generator (RNG) draw system, a new method of drawing lottery numbers, which is now the industry standard.

According to Mabuza, the RNG has a high level of systems security, as well as internal and independent audit systems that can verify the complete integrity of draws. This process has remained uninterrupted through the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, she says.

“In its localisation and skills transfer efforts, Ithuba has invested over R250 million towards Africa’s first Lottery Central Gaming System with the development of Paytronix’s Lottery System (PLS). Ithuba’s partner Paytronix is a World Lottery Association member and has the necessary ISO certification.”

However, regulator the National Lottery Commission (NLC) is challenging Ithuba’s move to replace IGT, a global company that has provided software services to the lottery provider since 2015, with Paytronix.

It is the NLC’s argument that by appointing Paytronix as the service provider, Ithuba acted illegally and breached the Lottery Technology Supply and Support agreement.

However, Ithuba dismissed the allegations.

Says Mabuza on the court case: “A decision by the court was made that no implementation of the PLS system can go ahead on the 1st of December 2021 until the full matter has been heard.”

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