The first steps to legalising online gambling in South Africa will soon be taken when the draft Remote Gambling bill is published and DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, Geordin Hill-Lewis, introduces it to parliament.
During an e-mail interview with MyBroadband, gaming lawyer and lobbyist Adheera Bodasing said that the bill is expected to be published before the end of the first week of February 2014.
Asked about the process that still needs to be followed, Hill-Lewis told MyBroadband that there is still a long road ahead.
After being published and tabled in parliament, the bill must be opened for public comment. “Then it will be debated in the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry who will take a decision on it before Parliament is required to vote on it finally,” Hill-Lewis said.
It would take 9 months for this process to run its course, Hill-Lewis estimated. However, a number of things could influence the amount of time it takes to process the bill, so it may take longer, he added.
“It is important to note that Parliament and Portfolio Committee take the final decision on whether the Bill is passed into law or not,” Hill-Lewis said. “So it is at this stage far from certain that the Bill will definitely become law.”
If the bill is enacted it also doesn’t mean online gambling establishments will immediately be able to operate in South Africa, Bodasing said.
“Once passed by both houses the regulations will need to be drafted and an appropriate tax legislation will need to be passed,” she said.
Wayne Lurie, an attorney who specialises in gambling and technology law, said that the bill seems to be a very well constructed and well-informed piece of legislation of an international standard.
However, he added that he believes that the bill needs a few “tweaks” to bring it in line with the exiting National Gambling Act.
“The provisions of the National Gambling Act dealing with interactive gambling, licensing of manufacturers of software, and so forth need to be specifically repealed by the new standalone act,” Lurie said. “It is a minor issue and can be remedied very easily with the passing of the new Act with the proper provisions.”
Lurie said that he will also hope to see the regulations and ‘norms and standards’ provided for in the Bill maintaining the same standards as the core legislation.
Why the delay?
Asked why it has been a “long seven-year wait”, as Lurie put it, Bodasing, who was also a commissioner on the Gambling Review Commission (GRC) which was established by the Minister of Trade and Industry in 2010 to review the entire gambling industry, said that there are several reasons.
“Firstly, the position taken by the department was that they would wait for the recommendations from both Houses of Parliament in the GRC before dealing with legislation,” Bodasing said.
In 2008 legislation to regulate interactive gambling was passed, but Bodasing said that regulations were not passed and no licenses were given.
“Over the years, this industry has grown, SA has lost revenue, and the SA public have not been afforded proper protection,” Bodasing said. “The bill seeks to address these issues and also provides, we believe, protection to the player.”
Thanks to Tyrone Dobbin, CEO of SportingBet South Africa, for letting us know about the upcoming bill.