THE GOVERNMENT has ignored the recommendations of the gambling review commission to legalise online gambling, as the debate about the banned activity resurfaces.
In a new twist, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has dashed any hopes of legalising online gambling in South Africa anytime soon.
The department said it objected to legalising online gambling, after media reports last week suggested that it was to be legalised.
“In our view no amount of control will adequately curb the harm that may be caused to South African citizens by online gambling, hence we reiterate that it must remain a banned activity,” the dti said.
This is in sharp contrast with recommendations of the commission, which was set up in 2010 to assess additional forms of gambling in South Africa. It had recommended that online gambling be legalised but tightly controlled.
Its report was adopted by the department’s portfolio committee in March 2012.
Stephen Louw, a senior lecturer at Wits University, who was a member of the commission, said he was shocked by the department’s latest stance on online gambling.
“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,” Louw said.
He said it was impossible to ban online gambling as it was on the rise in the country, due to technological developments and internet access.
Online gambling is a thriving industry with a constantly growing number of fans, according to the onlinegamblingsa website.
“Americans couldn’t do it, Australians can’t do it. How could we do it?” he asked.
Zodwa Ntuli, the department’s deputy director-general, denied that the government had ignored the recommendations of the commission.
She said they were being considered, but their priority would be the protection of the players. “The policy is that online gambling is banned in the country. Maybe in the future it might be allowed as parliamentary processes are still under way. Until something is legislated by law in Parliament it remains illegal,” Ntuli said.
She said the main reason the department was opposed to online gambling was that the government did not have adequate cyber resources to monitor and control the activity.
South Africa has legalised forms of gambling such as placing horse-racing bets and casino gambling.
The industry represented R17 billion in gross gambling revenue in the 2011 financial year and is employing 60 000 people, according to the National Gambling Board.
The commission had earlier predicted that the activity was likely to grow in South Africa as more punters shifted to online betting and gambling.
In 2012, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said in Parliament that there should be a consideration of legalising online gambling.
“I think it is significant that the portfolio committee has recommended that the interactive gambling legislation, which was put on hold by Parliament, should in fact be revived and that there should be a consideration of legalising online gambling in certain forms, subject to certain conditions,” Davies said.
The dti said it would object to the proposal by the DA to legalise online gambling.