IFP supports SA gambling bill


Last week while the South African Parliament was on the verge of passing the National Gambling Amendment Bill that would legalize online gambling in the nation, the Inkatha Freedom Party expressed its support of the bill.

Prof. E.S. Chang spoke on the behalf of the party on Sept. 11 in a speech to the Parliament expressing the IFP's opinion on the online gambling issue.

"Many people imagine gambling to be the answer to their financial trouble. They think that if they can just win one big jackpot, all their financial woes will be over," Chang said.

"It is the people who can least afford to gamble, the poorest members of our society, who are usually the worst affected by this vice. They end up becoming addicted and ultimately losing their hard-earned money which leads them even further into poverty."

Chang brought up the fact that technological advances and the rapid expansion of the Internet made it inevitable that gambling would eventually be accessible by people online as well.

"Whether we do or do not approve, or agree with it, the reality of the situation is that interactive gambling is taking place in South Africa, and is currently not regulated," she said.

"What is particularly alarming about the current non-regulation of interactive gambling is the ease with which underage children have access to this activity and the scope for the development and expansion of criminal activities."

During the public hearings for the National Gambling Amendment Bill, several points and concerns were raised including the issue that interactive gambling could facilitate money laundering. It could also have negative consequences on the poor.

"The relevant authorities must be aware and take action against some of the concerns raised if this bill is to truly attempt to regulate interactive gambling," Chang said.

She said the bill must accomplish removing all criminal and illegal elements and activities from gambling while at the same time ensuring that vulnerable members of society are protected and taught about the realities of gambling and gambling responsibly.

"There are economic benefits to be gained from the efficient regulation of interactive gambling such as additional revenue to the national fiscus, increased investment and job creation," Chang said. "These benefits must not, however, be pursued at all costs and at the expense of the social ills that interactive gambling will cause if it is not properly regulated."

The National Gambling Amendment Bill would require all software vendors to provide online gambling platforms to obtain a national license for key staff as well as for the software-related equipment. In order to obtain those licenses, the business would have to meet the government's regulatory standards.

The Department of Trade and Industry said its goal for the bill is to protect players, ensure gambling revenues are properly taxed, retain interactive gambling players in South Africa and keep children away from the sites.

"I also hope that the relevant authorities have the necessary capacity and expertise to regulate this form of gambling as the interactive environment is very dynamic and constantly changing," Chang said.

While expressing the party's thoughts on online gambling, the speech came down to one final statement to sum up why Chang was speaking in front of Parliament: "The IFP supports this bill."

Now that the bill has been passed by Parliament, it is waiting for approval in the National Council of Provinces.

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