Draft online gambling bill published in South Africa

By Emma Rumney
A draft version of a South African online gambling bill which would provide a legal basis for e-gaming in the country has been released.

Officials published a preliminary version of the Remote Gambling Bill 2014 last week. It is now available for public review as the country moves towards legalisation, although swift developments are thought to be unlikely.

Geordin Hill-Lewis, DA shadow minister of trade and industry, said: "It is important to note that Parliament and Portfolio Committee take the final decision on whether the bill is passed into law or not. So it is, at this stage, far from certain that the bill will definitely become law."

The provisions made in the bill include a requirement for providers to hold a remote gambling licence if they wish to offer internet gaming in the country. Applications for a licence would be submitted to the provincial licensing authorities and issued by the National Gambling Board.

Players outside of South Africa would be able to use the services of licensed South African operators once they had registered as a customer.

Remote gambling operators will not be permitted to extend credit to players for the purposes of engaging in remote gambling.

Operators would also have to keep "some part of the remote gambling equipment" within the province where the application was made.

Each province would be responsible for imposing the tax rate on licensed operators. Of this tax revenue, 70% would go to the provincial revenue fund and 30% to the national revenue fund.

The legislation states that unregulated online gambling in South Africa encourages illegal activity, leaves vulnerable people and the wider public unprotected and sees revenues and jobs lost to other jurisdictions.

The country's National Gambling Act 2004 prohibited the offering and playing of real-money online games in South Africa, although licensed sports betting is permitted. The Act had declared that legislation to regulate online gambling should be introduced in parliament within two years.

The new draft bill refers to two previous proposals, from 2008 and 2009, neither of which were brought into operation. The Interactive Gambling Regulations legislation introduced in 2009 by the Department of Trade and Industry, for example, was not approved by the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry.

This is the body that will also decide on the current proposal once the period of public review has passed. If approved there the bill will then be put before parliament for a final vote.

Should the bill be passed into law it is thought it could take as long as six months before appropriate regulations and standards are drawn up, while it is estimated that the licence issuing process could itself take 18 months. Related tax legislation would also have to be passed.

The deadline for public comments on the bill is 23 May.

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