Need for change to tackle illegal gambling in South Africa

Since the relaxation of gambling regulations in the 1960s, the country has continuously experienced a surge in illegal gambling. The most recent, illegal online gambling threatens to kill an industry that contributes a vast sum of revenue.

The recent surge in illegal gambling in South Africa is now a disquiet for legal entities struggling to meet legal requirements. The country’s gambling industry is one of the oldest in Africa, whose regulation began as early as the 1670s. It is also the biggest gambling market in Africa, although poor law enforcement has been a counteracting issue towards its development.

Since the relaxation of gambling regulations in the 1960s, the country has continuously experienced a surge in illegal gambling. The most recent, illegal online gambling threatens to kill an industry that contributes a vast sum of revenue.

Development of Gambling in South Africa

In the 1670s, in South Africa gambling was first regulated with the establishment of the first legislation. Back then, all forms of gambling were considered illegal, and anyone who was involved in any of the activities would be heavily penalized.

Everything was in control until 1965, when horse racing and gambling were categorized as a sport, loosening previous regulations to allow people to wage on competitions. It was also a strategy to popularize some sports. It was after then that the emergence of illegal gambling was observed, especially in the 70s. The first surge was between 1970 and 1990, when the nation began to feel the impacts of the increasing number of illegal gambling businesses.

Later in 1996, a reform on the law allowed establishing a national lottery and licensing for casinos. The reform was made in efforts to provide more revenue streams by attracting tourism. When reviewing the status of online casinos In South Africa, it all starts with the technological storm in the 2000s that further necessitated the regulation of online gambling activities. However, it wasn’t until 2010 that harsh implications were implemented for whoever engaged in any online gambling besides sports betting.

With time, the illegal gambling cartels still found comfort and ways to dodge the law, thanks to law enforcers who see it as a lesser offense when compared to other cybercrimes.

Policy Flaws

According to the Casino Association of South Africa (CASA), law enforcers are reluctant to enforce change. Legal gamblers’ advocates can only point out the issues but not solve them independently.

Currently, most illegal gambling businesses operate openly in shopping malls, in the name of internet cafés and lounges. Besides, some of them have employed security to keep watch of law enforcers and advocates.

The regulation independence of the nine provinces in South Africa has also contributed enormously to this trend. Besides, it has only made it more difficult for legal businesses to get around law requirements, weakening them against unregulated counterparts. Despite a means for stakeholders to submit norms and standards suggestions, the National Gambling Board hardly responds even after consistent contacting.

A result of the disabling policies is the increase in other illegal businesses such as drug trafficking. Illegal gambling businesses fund such illegal activities as they cannot store money in banks.

Their expanding market is evident from the over 2% drop in legal gambling revenues, which might result from punters preferring illegal entities over legal ones.

Way Forward

Since most civilians see illegal gambling as a harmless crime with no direct victims, they are less likely to refrain from participating. Law enforcers are also less willing to delve into tackling these issues. Therefore, the only way forward is for the law to change, taking the example of advanced gambling landscapes like the UK.

From the UK, South Africa could learn that enabling laws empower legal businesses. For example, legal casinos are currently the UK’s favourite online gambling destinations making it hard for illegal establishments to thrive. Through such management, the country protects consumers while at the same time controlling competition from external operators.

Consistency in the laws governing gambling activities in South Africa’s nine provinces could reduce the regulation costs, thereby encouraging legal establishments. Over years of strict law enforcement, control over illegal gambling has not been effective. If the trend continues, the result will be the succumbing of Africa’s largest gambling market and a highly potent government revenue source for South Africa.

The government should monitor internet cafés and lounges’ activities and impose high implications for premise owners who rent to unlicensed operators. This way, it will create a disabling environment for illegal gambling and encouraging legal ones.

Also, affected businesses are more committed to tracking illegal competitors and coming up with solutions. Therefore, the government should play an active role in enabling communication with their representatives, to find a way forward.


About Post Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.