A hearing regarding changes to gambling laws in KwaZulu-Natal was the scene of noisy demonstrations and heated debates against the proposed introduction of Electronic Bingo Terminals in the South African province. Representatives of civil, welfare, religious and political groups met in Durban on July 29th to discuss the proposed changes to the KZN Gaming and Betting Amendment Bill 2015.
The majority of those who attended the hearing made their objections to the changes known – some carrying placards and demonstrating against the changes. The People’s Forum, a group which officially opposes Electronic Bingo Terminals in the province, demanded that the government guarantee that the public would not be harmed before any changes to the law were made.
The group’s legal representative, Stephan Franke, noted that the People’s Forum demanded that the public be protected from the “over stimulation” of gambling and the increase of gambling addiction numbers,
“The spirit of ibuntu [compassion and humanity] should flow into the gambling legislation,” said Franke at the hearing. “It is the forum’s contention that EBTs are unlawful because the legislation and the national regulator for Compulsory Specifications does not make it a requirement to have measures in place to assist compulsive gamblers, and it does not offer consumer protection.”
A number of demands were made by those objecting to the changes, such as :
• The inclusion of clauses banning other gaming machines in shopping malls that are located within 5 km of a church, school or pension payment center.
• Compulsory research into gambling every five years.
The KZN gambling authorities tried to calm the crowds at the hearing. KZN Gaming and Betting chief executive, Portia Bloyi said that the applications being made were for licensing and that no EBTs were operating in the province just yet.
“Application for an EBT license is one thing and operating the machines involves another process, with requires another application,” she said.
Another group objecting to Electronic Bingo Terminals was the Casino Association of South Africa (CASA), which represents licensed casino operators in the country.
Themba Ngobese, the chief executive of CASA said that the government would be irresponsible if it allowed EBTs to roll out without some kind of national framework.
“We need to ensure that these machines are not rolled out without the framework,” he said. “No policy has yet been determined in relation to the roll-out of the EBTs in the country.”