Last year, the South African Government mulled over plans to implement tighter legislation surrounding its gambling industry.
Rob Davies, the country’s Minister of Trade and Industry, tabled the National Gambling Amendment Bill in mid-July 2018.
These changes would lead to the prohibition of greyhound racing and betting, enforce limitations on casinos and bingo halls as well as place restrictions on land-based casino premises and the placement of automated tellers.
Despite significant protestations from industry experts and independents alike, the South African authorities have forged on with their new legislation.
Since the blanket ban on gambling lifted back in 1994, the National Gaming Board has overseen the licensing of land-based casinos and South Africa’s online sportsbooks.
Online casinos remain prohibited under the National Gambling Act despite various protests to legalize them through the years. That remains a head-scratcher given South Africans’ growing desire for technology and connectivity.
If South Africa isn’t careful, its punitive laws could thwart millions in revenue from generating by South Africa-based players.
It could also deter South African entrepreneurs and innovators from attempting to push the boundaries of what’s possible in iGaming.
However, the South African Government should look at positive case studies in Israel where many entrepreneurs have developed IGaming software giants that have gone on to become global pioneers for the industry despite the national lottery being the only legalized form of gambling available to its citizens.
The South African Government has taken an aggressive standpoint against offshore iGaming operators offering casino games to South African residents, with financial penalties and even criminal offenses levied to such operators.
There is an argument that the government has a genuine lack of foresight given that Africa is one of the biggest untapped markets on the planet for iGaming.
With disposable income increasing in the continent steadily, this has resulted in growing revenue to licensed gambling firms. In 2017, the continent’s gambling industry was worth over $2 billion, up from $1.93 billion in 2016.
Another reason why some protesters argue that the new National Gambling Amendment Act is shortsighted is that the new restrictions will see many of the country’s smaller gambling operators forced to close their doors.
The outcome will be that only the significant players of the South African gambling industry will have the capacity to lock horns, reducing the levels of industry competition and weakening the offering to consumers.
Given the government’s firm commitment to seeing this bill through, there may be more challenges ahead for the South African gambling industry before there is any chance of improvement.
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