Govt winning fight against illegal gambling

Monday, April 18, 2011

Durban - Government's battle against illegal gambling is on the right track, with 86 raids having been conducted and 350 illegal gambling machines destroyed since July 2010.

"Illegal gambling has been curtailed and this is demonstrated by the number of raids conducted in various provinces in an effort to deal with unscrupulous elements involved in [this activity]," said Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe, speaking at the 6th Biennial South African Gambling Conference earlier today.

Thabethe said the country's regulatory regime was functioning well since the establishment of the National Gambling Board (NGB) and other regulatory authorities.

However, she said more innovative ways on how best to deal with illegal gambling were needed and called on operators at the event to assist in overcoming this challenge.

With the theme of the conference being 'Gambling driven by technology', Thabethe urged delegates to examine how technology can advance efforts of curbing illegal gambling.

However, she was quick to add: "My assertion does not suggest that we should not allow technological innovation to advance growth and inhibit development. As government, we will continue to embrace it."

South Africa is also facing the challenge of interactive gambling, which is taking place illegally. 

"I am glad that initiatives like the banks' intervention not to pay winnings from unlawful gambling activities and forfeit them to the state through the NGB, and the blocking of processing of credit card transactions relating to illegal online gambling ... are being explored," said Thabethe.

The gambling industry is growing at a rapid pace with positive economic consequences, however, government is concerned with the social implications. "I am extremely excited and optimistic about the future of this industry. As we nurture and develop it, we need to be mindful of proliferation and excessive gambling by the vulnerable," Thabethe warned.

The deputy minister said there was a need to sharpen responsible gambling programmes to keep up with the ever growing industry. 

"An effective self exclusion programme is one of the pivotal tools used to protect the vulnerable. We also need to put more effort on public education and increase awareness on the dangers of irresponsible gambling. We must take this message to all our communities," said Thabethe, who added that the
conference should find ways in which self-exclusion can be utilised in the betting environment, even though it might be difficult to employ the register in this environment as compared to casinos. 

"Research shows that as the country, we are at the forefront when it comes to treatment and responsible gambling programmes and ongoing management of the programme by the foundation remains a cornerstone of our society," said the deputy minister.

Significant strides in regulating the industry have been made, but challenges on an operational level still persist.

"Having concurrent functions as regulatory bodies, inevitably we will certainly encounter friction in the manner in which we regulate. We need to coherently work together as national and provincial regulators, within the prescripts of our Constitution in order to continue to effectively regulate the industry," said Thabethe.

South Africa will continue to participate in various fora such as International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR), Gaming Regulators Africa Forum and the Asian Racing Federation. 

A South African, Serobi Maja, is the current chair of the IAGR. 

Local racing is televised in more than 40 countries around the world. "This shows the esteem the gambling regulatory regime [has] created, hence the international community has confidence by partnering with us," said the deputy minister. - BuaNews