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What is the future of online gambling?

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The Department of Trade and Industry (dti), in partnership with the National Gambling Board, will host a seminar on Online Gambling in South Africa under the theme “Online Gambling in South Africa: What is at Stake?” tomorrow (15 July).

Policy makers, regulators, banks, academics, counsellors of gambling addiction, consultants, cyber experts, psycho social professionals and other specialists in the field of gambling will attend the seminar.

The seminar follows the publication of the Draft Gambling Policy Review Document, which the public was invited to comment on by 5 July 2015. Online gambling is a banned activity in South Africa and one of the proposals in this review document calls for South Africa to maintain the prohibition or ban on online gambling.

It further calls for South Africa not to legalise any new forms of gambling, but rather to strengthen the regulation of existing modes, that is casinos, limited pay-out machines, bingo and betting on horse racing, in order to combat the increasing levels of problem gambling and other social ills related to gambling.

The seminar will focus on the policy position of prohibition of online gambling in South Africa, the social and harmful effects of online gambling in the country, practical strategies to prohibit it and approaches to effectively enforce the ban on online gambling. This will include discussion on strategies to eradicate existing illegal operations that masquerade as internet cafes in various locations around the country.

Currently there are several illegal online sites offering online gambling, mostly offshore, preying on unsuspecting South Africans that are not aware that online gambling is illegal, and could lose significantly as their winnings constitute illegal winnings.

Further, online gambling goes against the destination approach to gambling by bringing gambling activities to the living rooms and workplaces of South Africans. Research and studies show that this is likely to increase problem gambling and other social ills that flow from addiction, and likely to attract young people who have wide access to the internet.

Online gambling by its nature does not contribute significantly to the economy in terms of physical investment on infrastructure and job creation, but equal if not more negative socio-economic effects. With South Africa battling with the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, the continued ban on online gambling seems justifiable.

This seminar aims to raise awareness of online gambling as an illegal activity in this country and encourage punters from staying away from this harmful illegal activity. Further, it is hoped the public will assist by reporting to the National Gambling Board any known illegal online gambling offered to South Africans.