Online gamers in South Africa may finally be able to breathe easy as they may not have to worry about being fined and escorted to jail for partaking in Internet gambling. A bill calling for the legalization of Internet gambling has made it the Select Committee of National Provinces and will soon make it to the National Assembly for final approval.
The bill, introduced by the Department of Trade and Industry, will allow for the licensing of online casinos in South Africa.
Forming the basis of the draft bill is a report conducted by the National Gambling Board (NGB), which stated that there is a dire need in South Africa to license and regulate online gambling. Legalization of the online gambling industry has the potential to create millions of dollars in revenue for the cash-strapped South African government. Themba Marasha, chief operations officer of the NGB, has been forced to make the rounds to various bodies that have contravened the restriction on advertising, promoting and marketing online gambling organizations for fear of undue action against small-time online gamblers. His concern stems from the fact that there is no protection for online gamblers and those players who engage in this activity are subject to arrest for engaging in an illegal activity.
“The new law will enable people to license Internet gambling, and South African citizens will be able to operate within a protected environment,” said Marasha. He went on to note that current offenders have little chance of obtaining licenses. “Acts of wrongdoing will disqualify them should they want to apply for a license in the new South African gambling environment,” he said.
Control systems have been provided for in the regulations that will help to identify problem gambling, money laundering and other criminal activities.
Astrid Ludin, the Deputy Director General of the consumer and corporate regulation division of the department, said that they had decided to “outlaw” online gambling until passage of the bill. "We do not believe outlawing will stop [interactive] gambling, therefore it is better to regulate it," said Ludin.
Evelyn Masotja, Director for regulated industries at the trade and industry department, said that Internet gambling is currently prohibited in SA under the terms of the National Gambling Act, Act 7 of 2004. Under the Act, the penalty for anyone convicted of an offence is a fine of up to R10-million or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years — or they could face both a fine and imprisonment.
Masotja said the intention behind regulating the online gambling environment in South Africa was to protect consumers, not to punish them — and to put proper control and monitoring systems in place.
“Players involved in interactive gambling currently play at their own risk and there’s no regulatory environment [within South Africa] to protect them,” he said.
If the legislation to legalize online gambling is passed, it has the possibility to bring in a new source of revenue for the South African government. South Africa’s brick and mortar casinos are known for their integrity and the government’s hope is that this reputation will be passed on to their online gambling sites. At any rate, the issue is nearing completion and South Africa could soon be rewarded with a reliable, regulated online gambling industry wherein all parties benefit.