South Africa’s online gambling hopes got a minor boost this week with the tabling of the latest version of the Remote Gambling Bill (PMB 3 – 2015).
The private member’s bill was tabled by Democratic Alliance MP Geordin Hill-Lewis, the shadow minister for trade and industry. Largely identical to Lewis’ previous efforts, the 2015 version seeks to expand South Africa’s online menu from the current sports-only betting regime to one that includes casino and poker verticals.
Also similar to Hill-Lewis’ previous efforts, the 2015 version is expected to die from neglect. Last month, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry emphatically declared that there is “no intention on the part of the government to propose the legislation of online gambling.” This stance was foreshadowed in November by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who said they “don’t see anything happening” for South Africa’s online gambling expansion “for quite a a period of time.”
While Hill-Lewis keeps up a stirring rendition of High Hopes, the Casino Association of South Africa (CASA) is blaming illegal online gambling for taking money out of the hands of South Africa’s legal casinos and the government’s tax coffers.
CASA CEO Themba Ngobese believes “aggressive” online gambling operators are partially responsible for South African casino revenue growth falling from 10% in the 2012-13 fiscal year to just 0.6% in 2013-14. Ngobese estimated that at least 5% of this revenue contraction was down to people choosing to gamble online rather than in CASA-approved gaming joints. Ngobese said this has cost the government R110m (US $9.5m) in tax revenue.
CASA recently launched a campaign to educate South Africans about “the consequences of illegal gambling.” The campaign will provide info on illegal online gambling across online, radio and print advertising as well as via social media. Chief among the consequences highlighted will be the possibility of R10m fines and 10-year prison sentences for South Africans caught operating or playing on illegal sites.
The campaign also seeks to alert property owners and landlords that their premises might be used for internet cafés that offer access to online gambling sites. CASA has even set up hotlines for concerned citizens to fink on suspected operators. Ngobese said the campaign has “already had some good reports to the provincial gambling boards” which are being “followed up by investigators in sting operations.”