January 17, 2015

South Africa governmentt says online gambling “must remain a banned activity”

South Africa‘s government has poured a great big bucket of ice water on a member of the opposition’s plan to promote the legalization of online gambling.

Earlier this week, Democratic Alliance shadow minister for trade and industry Geordin Hill-Lewis announced plans to reintroduce the Remote Gambling Bill he debuted last year. Hill-Lewis said he hoped the bill – which would expand the scope of legal online gambling beyond sports betting – would force the government “to engage properly around this argument.”

Well, sod that nonsense, says the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). On Friday, the DTI issued a statement saying it wanted to make it “publicly clear that there is no intention on the part of the government to propose the legislation of online gambling.”

The DTI insists that online gambling was “not desirable” due to “a number of social ills associated with gambling, especially online gambling.” The DTI believes “no amount of control will adequately curb the harm that may be caused” by online casino and poker games and thus “it must remain a banned activity.”

The DTI underscored its position by reminding everyone that offering anything online other than sports betting was against the law and “law enforcement agencies will act on this illegal activity with immediate effect.” The penalties for any operator offering illegal services or anyone “participating as individuals” include fines of up to R10m (US $865k) and prison sentences of up to 10 years. The DTI even offered a hotline number for finking on suspected illegal gambling.

South Africa has been flirting with the idea of an expanded online gambling market for years now but analysts at PricewaterhouseCoopers sounded an extremely pessimistic note in November on the prospects of the government acting anytime soon. Seems about right.

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