South Africa's Online Gambling Bill Stalled But Not Dead

October 11, 2023
South Africa’s draft bill that intends to “fill the gap in the law” around online gambling has stalled for more than a year; however, industry sources say it is not dead in the water just yet.

South Africa’s draft bill that intends to “fill the gap in the law” around online gambling has stalled for more than a year; however, industry sources say it is not dead in the water just yet.

In September 2022 there appeared to be momentum, as the Democratic Alliance (DA), the country’s second-largest political group, invited stakeholders to comment on the draft Remote Gambling Bill following its publication in the Government Gazette.

However, there has been no major update on the bill since then, raising the question of whether or not the draft legislation is dead in the water.

DA member of parliament Dean Macpherson, who was responsible for introducing the bill, told Vixio in February that he was hopeful it would be published in 30 days.

However, in August, Macpherson told Vixio that “unfortunately [the bill] is with the parliament legal services and we are pushing them but they can’t give us a date yet”.

In the past few months, the bill appeared to have finally vanished, with Macpherson no longer responding to inquiries from Vixio about its release date.

That was until Caroline Kongwa, the chief strategic advisor for the South African National Gambling Board (NGB), told Vixio at SBC Barcelona on September 21 that the gambling industry is currently “waiting for a final draft” and dismissed the notion that the bill is dead.

Kongwa, however, emphasised that she is “not involved” in the process of advancing the bill and would not provide any prediction as to when the final version of the bill would be published.

During a separate panel talk on the same day, Kongwa stressed that online casino games are still “outlawed” but added that the regulator “knows what is happening”.

“There are some small pockets of non-compliance. Provincial regulators, ourselves and operators are in the process of taking unlicensed operators to court,” Kongwa said.

Another industry source, who did not want to be named, told Vixio that the bill is very much alive but said some industry stakeholders who were invited to discuss the proposals are arguing against the idea of online casino licensees being required to have a connection to a land-based casino.

The Remote Gambling Bill aims to allow for the relevant provincial authorities to control the issuing of licences, regulate online gambling advertising, improve consumer protection online and ensure there is compliance with the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

There have been years of failed attempts to fully open up the online gambling sector.

Online gambling in South Africa is prohibited, but online betting licences are available and are issued by the nine different provincial lottery authorities (PLAs). Live dealer casino games are also permitted in the Western Cape and Mpumalanga.

The previous National Gambling Amendment Bill sought to make major changes to the 2004 National Gambling Act, such as amending and deleting certain definitions and transferring the regulation of bets on the national lottery, foreign lottery, lottery results and sports pools to the National Lotteries Commission.

The bill would also have repositioned the National Gambling Board as the National Gambling Regulator, enhancing its powers and duties, as well as providing for new offences and transitional agreements.

This point proved unpopular with several of the PLAs and played a major part in its failure to gain approval for several years.

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