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SA Online Gambling Debate Continues

Published on 12 Mar 2012 at 11:55

March 12 - Last Friday, the latest public hearing was held regarding the introduction of online gambling in South Africa.

Parliament's trade and industry committee heard that online gambling had the potential to open the door to cases of illegal activities, and was told that controlling this industry would not be an easy job.

Some of the concerns voiced pertained to the prevention of money laundering, underage gambling and illegal gambling operators, all of which could become a reality with the introduction of online gambling in South Africa.

According to Democratic Alliance MP, Geordin Hill-Lewis, "online gambling is a fact in SA. Prohibition is impossible and at the moment it is taking place in a completely unregulated environment and we are deriving no economic benefit from it."

The chairman of the committee, Joan Fubbs said that online gambling was omnipresent in the country and needed to be dealt with.

The South African Gambling Review Commission recommended that the government allow a restricted form of online gambling.  As such, the Department of Trade and Industry has set out to formulate a platform that would work in terms of legislative amendments and crime prevention.

Calls to Prohibit SA Online Poker

Speaking at Friday's SA online gambling debate, Pieter Smit of the Financial Intelligence Center said that online gambling could increase cases of money laundering and even terrorism.  As such, he urged the government to ban online betting exchanges and online poker sites outright.

According to Smit, these sites could be abused by criminals wishing to transport money to one another in the case of money laundering, as transactions were difficult to trace. He said that special technology would need to be put in place to track these potential criminals.

Smit that the authorities should have the option to "not only supervise licensed operators, but also to identify unlicensed or illegal operators and deny them access to the South African market."

Another authority which warned about the difficulties of policing online gambling was the Banking Association of South Africa, which said that it would be near impossible for banking establishments to identify and differentiate between legal and illegal internet gambling transactions.  This was due, in part, to the fact that many illegal gambling operators used front companies to hide their true identities.

The blocking of illegal websites in South Africa would be not only an expensive process, but also unsustainable in the long run, it was heard.

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