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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