In the ongoing attempts to see legalized online gambling activity in South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry has shocked the gaming industry by issuing a statement, saying that it objected to the legalization and regulation of the industry in the near future. This is a blatant shoulder-shrugging of recommendations made by the government’s own gambling review commission which recommended the legalization of Online Gambling.
Following reports last week that the government may soon adopt these recommendations, the Department of Trade and Industry said in a statement: “In our view, no amount of control will adequately curb the harm that may be caused in South African citizens by online gambling, hence we reiterate that it must remain a banned activity.”
In 2010, the government set up the gambling review commission to conduct an in-depth analysis of the country’s gambling industry, with a focus on seeking additional forms of gambling and making recommendations, with a view to adopting them. In 2012, the Department of Trade and Industry adopted the report.
As such, the department’s sudden about-turn shocked many in the industry. One of the members of the commission, Stephen Louw, who is a senior lecturer at Wits, was quoted by Business Report as saying: “This announcement goes completely against the trend in South Africa. It is difficult to understand where it is coming from, but it is not through a democratic process. We were told that our report and its recommendations were adopted.”
According to Louw and other members of the commission, it was simply impossible to stop the rise of Online Gambling in South Africa, due to the development in technology and growing access to the internet through smartphones.
“Americans couldn’t do it [stop online gambling]. Australians couldn’t do it. How could we do it?” asked Louw
When asked by Business Report about ignoring the commission’s recommendations, the deputy director general for the DTI, Zodwa Ntuli denied this. Instead, she said that online gambling regulations were still being considered, however the government’s main focus was to protect players. She added: “Maybe in the future it might be allowed as parliamentary processes are still underway”.
Ntuli pointed out that the government did not have enough cyber resources to monitor and control online gambling, and this was the main reason for stalling in the adoption of the commission’s report.
A bill, the Remote Gambling Bill, introduced by Democratic Alliance Parliament Member, Geordin Hill-Lewis, is slated for discussion this month and there are still hopes that it may pass.