South African MP and member of the official opposition, Geordin Hill-Lewis, is nothing if not determined and is taking another run at legalising online gambling with a private member’s bill despite government’s avowed opposition to the concept.
Zodwa Ntuli, deputy director-general for the Department of Trade and Industry, reiterated government’s opposition to the idea this week, saying the legalisation of online gambling would be inappropriate in a country where many are unemployed and in poverty.
Hill-Lewis, who is the shadow minister for trade and industry, voiced the opinion that prohibition does not work and regulation can be both effective and affordable.
However, Parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry will make the decision on whether to adopt the proposal, which will be considered in public hearings next week.
The proposed bill covers all forms of remote gambling and associated technologies.
Opposing the progress of the bill, DTI’s policy and legislation director MacDonald Netshitenzhe said no regulatory or problem gambling impact assessment had been done, and this was a serious concern.
He was also worried about the possibility that remote gambling might lead to unfair competition with existing traditional forms of legal gambling, and doubted that the genre would be a significant job creator.
Netshitenzhe noted that the government in Singapore has recently made remote gambling illegal, and has introduced website and financial transaction blocking that appeared to be effective. South Africa has the capacity to follow suit, he opined.
Hill Lewis pointed out that South Africa was losing out on the funds South Africans use to gamble illegally on offshore sites, and said that licence fees and tax revenues from legalised operators could be deployed in problem gambling awareness campaigns and enforcement.
He argued that enforcing an online gambling ban would be expensive and consume resources with little or no return for government..
“Regulation is inherently self-funding. It is funded by licence fees of the operators and the tax they pay to the South African fiscus, not foreign governments,” Hill-Lewis explained.