Early in June, 2016, efforts by members of the South African Democratic Alliance Party to expand the venues for legal online gambling in South Africa met with rejection in the National Assembly. Legislators decided to adopt the findings of the Trade and Industry Committee, which had issued a report soundly rejecting a proposed Remote Gambling Bill.
South Africa presently permits legalized online sports betting. However, the southern African nation rejects other forms of online gambling activity. A significant number of regulated brick-and-mortar casinos operate within South Africa. These operations bring significant tourism revenues to the country. Legislators have been reluctant to expand permission for regulated gambling to encompass virtual Internet gaming sites.
A Significant Illicit Gaming Problem
Some news reports have described a significant level of illicit online gambling activity occurring within South Africa. The National Gambling Board reported recently that many citizens have engaged in games of chance using the Internet.
Wisani Ngobeni, a spokesman for the Board, noted that even with rigorous law enforcement efforts directed against online casino gambling in South Africa, illicit gambling “keeps increasing”. Many observers attribute this problem largely to the impact of the nation’s struggling economy.
Many Legal Gambling Venues
South Africans enjoy many legal gambling venues. Like neighboring Zimbabwe, the nation enjoys a wealth of tightly regulated casinos. Both Port Elizabeth and Cape Town boast numerous gambling establishments.
Additionally, South Africans can place sports bets online through licensed bookmakers. The South African government regulates casinos and sports betting at the provincial level.
Efforts to Control Illicit Online Gaming in South Africa
Yet despite the wide availability of regulated gambling venue in South Africa, many illegal casinos have attracted large numbers of consumers. Wisani Ngobeni told reporter Azizzar Mosupi that operators of unregulated gaming sites in South Africa sometimes skirt the law by loading their websites onto servers located outside the country.
Legislators who support legislation in South Africa to legalize online gambling argue that this step would help curb the activities of illicit Internet casino operators by offering the public a licensed, regulated alternative for online gambling. These arguments have not swayed the majority of South African legislators in the National Assembly, asthe recent tabling of the Remote Gambling Bill demonstrated.
Online Gambling Sanctions
Instead, at the present time, the South African government seeks to enforce prohibitions against online gambling by imposing heavy fines on owners of illicit casinos. The government has adopted a punitive approach.
Individuals convicted of violations of gambling laws face steep fines of up to $6.3 million in South Africa. Additionally, South Africans apprehended by law enforcement in the process of sponsoring illicit online sites, or gambling at unlicensed sites, risk a potential 10 year imprisonment.
Opposition to Online Gaming From Casinos
Many leading casinos in South Africa strongly oppose efforts to permit legal online casino gambling. The Casino Association of South Africa argues that illegal online gambling sites detract from the profits of regulated South African brick-and-mortar casinos and siphon away potential tax revenues.
The CEO of the Association maintains that illegal gambling has already damaged some South African casinos.Themba Ngobese credits this problem with causing casino revenues to plunge during 2013-14 to an abysmal 0.6%. He asserts that the shift has cost South African taxpayers an estimated $9.5 million in lost tax revenues.
South Africa’s New Campaign Against Illicit Online Gambling
In April, the South African government proposed some very tough new initiatives seeking to combat the problem of illegal online casino websites in South Africa. Perhaps concerned by the lost of tax revenues, the South African government announced plans for a “National Gambling Policy 2016“.
The plan envisions establishing a national center to regulate gambling in the nation. The National Gambling Regulator would possess the power to fine Internet service providers who enable South Africans to enjoy cyber access to illegal online casinos. Additionally, any banks or credit card companies discovered transferring money between unregulated casinos and players would face severe fines and the confiscation of player winnings. These monies would go into a fund for use to assist people with gambling problems. ISPs and banks would receive notification from the National Gambling Regulator about illicit gambling sites. They would risk criminal liability by failing to take action to terminate their services to illicit sites.