Section 54 of the National Gambling Act, which enforces the gambling and betting industries in the country, ensures that these are not closed off to competition but subject to normal market forces.
But now the Minister has waded in again – as is his and the ANC’s wont – the more regulation the better.
Some views support this: the South African Casino Association (CASA) has warned that an unregulated online gambling industry remains dangerous.
The Casino Association of South Africa CEO, Themba Ngobese, said: “We believe that there are two options available to government – either maintain the status quo with respect to online gambling being illegal, but then take decisive action against illegal operators, or legalise it and subject it to an effective and credible legislative and regulatory dispensation.”
The key words are “effective and credible”.
This amendment bill emanates from the flawed gambling policy of 2016 which believes, amongst other things, that online gaming should be banned.
Minister Davies says online gambling is strictly prohibited and he wants tougher measures to be implemented to curb it.
According to Mr Davies, the National Gambling Board (NGB) must be given more powers and become the regulator.
Proposals include clamping down on advertising and unsolicited messages to entice vulnerable groups to gamble.
The biggest clampdown will be made on unlawful winnings via online gambling.
He says the Financial Intelligence Centre will work with financial institutions to verify and cease online winnings.
The very financial institutions he and his ANC are busy hobbling. He wants to confiscate winnings when he is hardly able to collect a prize, that is, if someone were deranged enough to give him one.
He says: “If you go online, we may not be able to stop you when you play the game, but when you win, we get you.”
This approach is at odds with that of erstwhile Chief Director of Policy and Legislation at the Department, MacDonald Netshitenzhe, the man responsible for this mess in the first place. He goes further and says, “we can stop online gaming – by banning the internet.” This genius has re-emerged as Chief Director in CCRD.
The unassailable fact is online gambling is a thriving industry with a constantly growing number of fans.
Online gambling has increased worldwide, and South Africa is no exception.
The bill was introduced to the committee in 2018 and when the committee met, there was a strong view that an amendment bill should look at gambling holistically, including online gambling.
The ANC voted this down and only wanted to deal with three matters: the regulator, the National Central Electronic Management System (NCEMS), and the policy council. The bill was considered by the committee in record time, only a few months after being introduced, and speaks to how flawed this process is.
Here again we see the usual undue haste, the railroading, the strong-arm tactics of an ill-considered bunch of legislators, led by the nose by a minister who believes that the State’s duty is to facilitate the spiritual redemption of men by impoverishing them in this life.
This conflation of Communism and religious flagellation is mind-boggling.
The National Credit Regulator was presented as the only comparison in terms of a regulator and it became very clear in the process that this was going to be a bad idea.
The DD-G kept referring to the rationalisation report but would never actually present it until we demanded it, which she duly agreed to, one day before the Committee was to consider the bill line-by-line.
Fact – the DTI hid from the Committee a review document it commissioned on the rationalisation of the gambling entities under its aegis.
What the document found is that the NGB and NLC should be merged to form a commission to provide a holistic overview and regulation of gambling.
So the big question is this: why did the DTI ignore its own commissioned advice?
The Committee cannot say it applied its mind because the ANC never read the report and didn’t want to hear about it before going line-by-line.
On the NCEMS, there has been no study into it. It duplicates functions and costs 6% of gross gambling revenues to administer. No one can tell us how they get to that figure. What it does do is generate R1.6 billion a year for the national pot – another stealth tax.
In the end, this represents a fatal mistake to deal with legislation in a piecemeal approach. The committee has not applied its mind, the provinces are opposed to this bill, and there will be legal challenges, which the DTI will lose hands down.
Overall, Minister Davies’s broad policy direction, and his decisions over the last 12 months, are damaging to the South African economy, deterring to investment and, ultimately, are costing jobs.
Increasingly, the minister’s policy disposition is towards greater state control, greater punitive measures, wider ministerial powers, and heightened mistrust and antagonism of the business community.
This amendment bill is no exception.
There was nothing stopping the administrator from carrying on for another six months and for the 6th Parliament to deal with gambling in an inclusive and holistic manner.
Instead, we are presented with one piece of shoddy legislation after another by a portfolio committee whose ANC MPs are so desperate for re-election that all they do is wave acts of Parliament in front of their political masters as a sign of their commitment to concepts they are unable to grasp.
Lest I am accused of being ungenerous to this government and its minister, let me assure you that generosity is part of my character, and you must know that I will never make an allegation of dishonesty when a simple explanation of stupidity will suffice.
Accordingly, the DA cannot support this bill.