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11/17/09 – The sluggish progress of the South African government's initiative to legalise and license online gambling in the country remains bogged down in legal and technical issues and is unlikely to be implemented in the immediate future, it appears.
In a review of progress this week, the publication ITWeb reports that loopholes in the law exist and IT systems, which could curb fraudulent activities, are not in place.
After extensive research, in 2008 the SA government finally passed amendments to the National Gambling Act allowing for the implementation of a regulatory and licensing regime for interactive gambling.
However, in August, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry requested that the implementation of the regulations be delayed. Following the publishing of regulations for public comment in February 2009, the department acknowledged that the legalization needed to be reviewed.
Meanwhile, government delegations travelled to various international online gambling jurisdictions to study their practices and infrastructure.
Currently, Parliament and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are holding public hearings on interactive gambling regulations and will only table the final Bill once hearings have been completed.
DTI spokesmen have revealed that the National Gambling Board (NGB) will be tasked with monitoring all the operators, but that it is still “developing its IT skills to handle this concern”.
The NGB has put measures in place to deal with illegal activities, such as the problems of cloning and hacking, but the DTI is concerned the measures are not “sufficient and strong enough”.
"While the National Gambling Act introduced measures to deal with illegal activities, through an umbrella provision prohibiting such actions, there were loopholes with regards to interactive gambling," ITWeb observes.
"The legalization needed to be amended to deal with specifics, such as software tampering, cyber crime and money laundering, the DTI says."
DTI officials have informed Parliament that players would be protected against the negative effects of gambling, but that the regulations supporting the amended Gambling Act would also focus on the prevention of criminal acts like money laundering.
Officials said that licensed operators would have to comply with Financial Intelligence Centre Act stipulations, as they would be in possession of important personal information. The Act requires that players must disclose personal details, such as ID number and proof of residential address. Players would have to create an account linked to a credit card or cheque account and present a bank stamp, as no cash transactions would be allowed. A maximum of Rands 20 000 would be allowed in the individual player's account.
“Gambling operators would be required to meet all these requirements, but the department and the NGB have the biggest responsibility and we are currently preparing ourselves for it,” says the DTI.
The NGB initially plans to issue only 10 interactive gambling licences, all of them on a national level to operators that can prove they have a physical presence locally, and all financial transactions would also have to be located within the country's borders.