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Narrowed South Africa Gambling Bill Finally Given the Green Light in 2018, Despite Concerns

After a long and bumpy legalization process, South Africa finally greenlighted the country’s new gambling bill in November.

The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry at the Parliament approved the newly-issued 2018 National Gambling Amendment Bill a few weeks ago, despite the fact the original scope of the gambling act has been narrowed to three issues only in order for a quicker passage to be guaranteed.

Initially, the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) rolled out a more thorough bill. The Committee, however, made a decision to reduce the major issues included in the bill to a total of three in order to be able to address the possible challenges regarding the passage of the legislation more quickly.

As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the three issues included in the 2018 National Gambling Amendment Bill regarded the rearrangement of the regulatory oversight with the newly-established National Gambling Regulator taking over the National Gambling Board’s powers; expansion of the National Central Electronic Monitoring System; and the changes associated with the National Gambling Policy Council.

Several Key Points Included in Gambling Amendment Bill

Despite the fact that the Government of South Africa had already launched the new Gambling Amendment Bill, the piece of legislation has faced strong criticism. Some of the experts who voiced their opinion called the piece of legislation unrealistic and said it was flawed and full of policies which did not make sense.

As mentioned above, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry eventually approved the new piece of legislation, reducing the major issues included in the bill to three only in order to ensure a safe and quicker passage of the 2018 Gambling Amendment Bill.

However, the Amendment Bill originally included a number of key points, which deserve some attention. The piece of legislation described the National Gambling Board as the main gambling watchdog in the country, but it is the National Lotteries Commission which is to regulate the matters related to betting on the national and foreign lotteries and sports pools. The national gambling regulatory body will severely penalize all operators that generate winnings by offering illegal gambling operations in the country.

Horse racing remained legal under the Gambling Amendment Bill, with such operations be subject to regulation by NGR. Betting on dog races, however, is illegal, and so is the sport itself. As far as casino gambling, bingo and limited payout machines are concerned, the country has planned to impose a stricter regulatory regime, with the number of bingo licenses and machines across South Africa to be limited. Operating licenses may be suspended or fully withdrawn in case that operators fail to meet the targets set by the local authorities.

Gambling advertising was also part of the main aspects of the Gambling Amendment Bill, with new restrictions planned to be imposed on gambling operators’ advertising.

Most of the above-mentioned aspects of the bill, however, have been left behind by lawmakers who wanted to make sure that the piece of legislation would be passed without much turbulence. These issues are expected to be once again taken into consideration at a later stage when the new gambling amendment has already proved to be working smoothly.

New Gambling Amendment Has Fuelled Concerns

The Government of South Africa has preferred to limit the ongoing restrictions for the time being due to the strong criticism demonstrated by both independent experts and gambling industry officials, who called the planned changes illogical and described them as too restrictive.

The bill has been a work in progress since 2016. Due to the significant wave of criticism faced by the piece of legislation, local lawmakers decided to put on hold many of the planned changes, until things calm a bit and the bill is safely passed and brought into action.

Lately, the entire continent has seen a massive growth of gambling operations with the South African gambling market being currently the largest one on the continent.

Despite this, gambling operators have voiced their concerns that this trend would change soon after the legislation changes take place. For now, online gambling remains banned in the country, and there are still restrictions in terms of the existing land-based casinos. There are approximately 60 gambling facilities in South Africa, including horse racing tracks and casino venues.

Popularity of Sports Betting Would Continue to Grow

The country has also been exploring sports betting and other types of gambling in which it could see its gambling market expand in the months and years to come, but unfortunately, it has witnessed some negative impact inflicted on players. The thing is that utilized money transactions are considered as one of the main factors which influence the growth of the sports betting field.

In fact, sports betting and mobile money transactions are bound in a mutually beneficial relationship. Since the National Act of 2004 banned online gambling operations in the country and the National Gambling Board became the major gambling regulator, this relationship became more complex, with some campaigners sharing concerns regarding certain illegal practices like money laundering, as well as negative impact faced by more vulnerable people.

According to a report published earlier in 2018, gambling revenue is expected to grow by 11.2% by 2020. On the other hand, gambling operators have revealed that most people who participate in these gambling activities are below 35 years of age. In addition, most of them seemed to be interested in sports betting, which resulted in benefits for the Government and the local community.

Some experts have projected that sports betting would continue to grow in popularity in the upcoming years. Despite the fact it has been considered less harmful than many other forms of gambling, fascination with sports bets is very likely to be no longer reserved for richer people and could affect people who are more disadvantaged as well. This is why local authorities would have to make sure they address problem gambling with adequate measures in order to keep players well protected against gambling-related harm.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.