South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry plans to abolish all forms of online gambling and curb the number of electronic bingo terminals in the country. Discussions take place at the National Gambling Policy Council with a draft policy expected to be finalized and submitted to the Cabinet for approval before being released for public comment.
Leading the effort to ban online gambling are the department’s Deputy Director-General Zodwa Ntuli and Chief Director MacDonald Netshitenzh, both of whom explained the proposal as way to enforce regulations of the industry and limit residents’ exposure to a growing number of gambling options available to them. Ntuli lamented the ease of access South Africans have to gambling and wants to put stringent controls and make accessibility much more difficult to have.
A framework to regulate horse racing was also included in the proposal, even though the proposal mostly centers on tying up that industry with the issuing of licenses to operators who may want to run and take bets from the sport.
Ntuli and Netshitenzh acknowledged that there are several hurdles their proposal needs to overcome, including the issue of separating powers between national and provincial governments and how it can be re-calibrated so that these powers can be combined to serve a bigger purpose.
The perceived lack of structure on the issue has allowed provinces to operate electronic bingo terminals because there aren’t any national policies to reign them in under a specific set of guidelines. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has since imposed a moratorium, restricting the number of electronic bingo licenses being offered these days.
While the DTI’s proposal has its share of backers, it was also met with opposition from a number of sectors, none more vocal than the Democratic Alliance who called the proposed ban on online gambling a “very, very bad decision”. DA Spokesman Geordin Hill-Lewis expounded on his party’s stance, describing the proposal “shortsighted”.
“I fiercely disagree with that view,” Hill-Lewis said, as quoted by Business Day Live. “It is completely short-sighted to say that it is better for South Africans not to be allowed to gamble online when there is patently significant demand in the country to do that. It is for government to facilitate that in the safest way possible.”