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Online gambling comes under the spotlight

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The regulation and combating of online gambling remains a challenge for South Africa with a number of illegal sites operating in the country without clear enforcement and control.

This is the word from MacDonald Netshitenzhe, chief director: policy and legislation at the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), speaking at a seminar hosted by the department and the National Gambling Board (NGB) to highlight the issues around online gambling.

Netshitenzhe believes the introduction of another form of gambling in the country would not have a positive impact on the economy, as the negative social consequences would outweigh the benefits.

He says that, in light of this, policy makers should rather focus on building capacity and putting systems in place that will be able to combat and fight illegal gambling as a whole.

“There are number of challenges that make it impossible to control and combat illegal gambling in the country. One major challenge is that South Africa has no control over borderless activities of other countries. Our main task as policy makers is to come up with strategies that will make it easy for all stakeholders involved to fight these challenges,” Netshitenzhe says.

The policy position and act on online gambling in South Africa is clear that it is illegal and should be treated as such, he adds.

According to NGB representative, Estelle Jonkheid, a multi-disciplinary task team which includes law enforcement agencies, gambling regulators and license holders has recently been established to address illegal gambling in South Africa.

“The establishment of a multi-disciplinary task team is to consider strategies, interventions and actions against more than 2000 illegal operators and sites across all provinces in South Africa.”

This task team will determine the impact of illegal and online gambling and find ways to strengthen the capacity to combat illegal gambling, she says.

The CEO of Casino Association of Southern Africa (CASA), Advocate Themba Ngobese, adds that there is a need for illegal gambling to be controlled or legalised as it erodes the revenue of the regulated side of gambling.

He says combating and regulation will remain government’s problem if other proposals and options are not followed through. He emphasises, however, that the association hopes that, if online gambling is allowed, there be restrictions
and controls.

The seminar focused 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 of online gambling.