South african land casino chief rails against growing threat of online gambling

News on 30 Sep 2018

In an interview with South African newspaper Saturday Star this week, the chief executive of the Casino Association of SA (Casa), Themba Ngobese, again railed against the growing incidence of illegal online gambling in South Africa, and the lack of law enforcement activity to bring it under proper control.

Online gambling is specifically illegal under South African law after many years of legal and political argument for and against the vertical, and Ngobese as the top official of a land casino trade association, has in the past frequently urged government to be more proactive in combatting the activity.

In the interview Ngobese singled out internet cafes, saying: “These kinds of places are set up as internet cafés or entertainment lounges, but really, they are running illegal gambling operations.”

He claimed that the hundreds of operators of such facilities in suburbs and informal settlements do so without consequence, offering local punters access to  poker, roulette, slot machines, blackjack, baccarat and craps.

“Not nearly enough is being done to combat illegal gambling, said Ngobese. “There are laws in place, but they are meaningless without a firm and consistent commitment to enforce them.

“The only thing we can do is try to persuade law enforcement to do something. Every time we address the issue, they tell us that they have more serious crimes to worry about, like murders and cash heists.’

Ngobese revealed that his organisation has communicated with Minister of Police Bheki Cele asking for an urgent meeting to talk about the problem, and is now awaiting his response in the hope that  “this time, they’ll take us seriously.”

The Gambling Board in the province of Gauteng reports that there are currently more than 300 illegal gambling outlets in the province that it is aware of, with numbers on the rise.

Ngobese says that the illegal activity is sapping both society and the country of resources, competitively impacting everything from job security, corporate social investment budgets to the ability to support the economy through taxes.

He claims that estimates by the National Gambling Board are that up to 4,000 jobs are being lost due to the impact of illegal online activity…and he raises the possibility that other criminal activity may be funded by illegal gambling, and that it represents a danger to minors.

It is not just online gambling that Ngobese is concerned about; he also claimed that South African punters in informal settlements and townships are increasingly patronising unlicensed and illegal dice and lottery games, where participation has reached “epidemic proportions”.

“The government needs to step up with a deliberate and concerted effort to enforce its laws to protect the regulated gambling industry and the public,” Ngobese concluded. “We are hoping that, as the government struggles to collect the tax debt shortfall, at some stage they realise that they need to tighten the tap and not be losing money where they shouldn’t have to.”

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