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Casino Association of South Africa to Launch Campaign Against Illegal Online Gambling

South Africa’s leading casino group is not exactly against online poker, but as long as online gaming is illegal in the country, it will be working to thwart its spread. The Casino Association of South Africa (CASA) recently released a statement announcing a new campaign aimed at educating South Africans of the dangers of illegal online gambling. CASA represents 35 of the 36 casinos in the country; its membership is comprised of London Clubs International, Peermont Global, Sun International, and Tsogo Sun.

CASA Chief Executive Themba Ngobese

CASA Chief Executive Themba Ngobese

In the statement, CASA Chief Executive Themba Ngobese said, “We’ve been tracking the incidence of illegal and unregulated online gambling as an industry and are very concerned at the growth in usage and operations which are targeting unsuspecting South African players. It may all seem like harmless fun to gamble online, but players are completely unprotected and operators are not registered or regulated to run a business in our country.”

The marketing campaign against illegal online gambling will hit a variety of outlets, including radio, social media, and print advertising. It will broadcast the country’s definition of illegal online gambling as well as the penalties for participating, either as a player or website operator. Ngobese went on to say:

Players need to be warned that if they win online, firstly there is no legislation or guarantee that the operator will pay at all; and secondly any winnings will be forfeited by your credit card company to the state. It is extremely concerning to see numerous websites which blatantly use the South African flag on their home page and state they accept South African Rands (ZAR) and are ‘verified’, when it’s all completely illegal. They are luring unsuspecting players to spend and lose their hard-earned money offshore with no protection to players and tax return back into our country.

The marketing effort will also serve to warn property owners that they must be diligent in making sure no online gambling is going on under their noses. Anyone found to have been operating an illegal gambling business, intentionally or not, will be prohibited from acquiring a license if internet gaming does become legal in South Africa in the future.

In an interview with South African financial website Moneyweb Today published Tuesday, Ngobese said that the country’s casinos paid about 2.2 billion South African Rand (USD $190.5 million) in gaming taxes as of the year ended March 2014. While there are no official, accurate figures on how much illegal online gambling is going on, he made the point that if that number is only five percent of what the casinos do, that’s R110 million in gaming taxes not being paid.

Despite being upset about illegal gambling, Ngobese is not anti-online gambling. Just “illegal” online gambling. Basically, he wants people and companies to play by the rules. Of internet gambling, he said, “We believe that it is the future… What we are saying is please just stay away from online gambling because of the negatives associated with it in terms of tax, etc. And until it’s legislated stay away from it. And, of course, if it’s legalised then it’s a fair playing field and everyone should be able to participate in it.”

At the the same time, though, Ngobese didn’t sound thrilled about the prospects of legalized online gambling, taking the common line that it will cannibalize brick-and-mortar sales. “….we’ve looked at some countries that have legalised it in Europe, and they have reported in fact in one of the… 2013 they indicated that visitation dropped by about 20% when these operations were legalised in those specific countries. If that were to happen here, that would have a significant impact on current bricks-and-mortar casinos and other forms of gambling, of course.”

Despite his seeming reluctant acceptance that online gambling is inevitable, Ngobese does seem fairly level-headed about the whole thing. Near the end of the interview, he discussed some of the things the South African government needs to consider when looking at the legalizing and regulating internet gaming:

….look at issues for example around what are the requirements for these online gaming sites, where they should be based, what are the controls that should be put in place to ensure that people don’t get to gamble irresponsibly or that people who are under age are not able to access and gamble online.

Then obviously there are issues around tax in terms of collection. What happens with the current gambling operations that are legalised, each province collects its revenue. One of the decisions that government would have to make is how they are going to collect tax from those that are licensed to operate. Would it be a national collection or a provincial collection, and how that would work really in practice.

South Africa National Assembly member Geordin Hill-Lewis recently introduced a gaming bill which would legalize online gambling in the country. Ngobese said CASA has and will be involved in ongoing discussions about the bill.


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