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SA parliament approves online gambling bill
Parliamentary papers showed on Monday that South Africa's parliament approved the National Gambling Amendment Bill, according to a report from Reuters.
The bill was introduced in the parliament in order to set up regulations for the online gambling industry in South Africa more than a year ago. Currently online gambling is considered illegal while the government works on the legislation.
The bill was drafted in response to a report conducted by South Africa's National Gambling Board, which found that there is a need for licensing and regulating online gambling in the nation.
The overall object of the National Gambling Amendment is to address the socioeconomic implications of an unregulated interactive gambling industry by establishing an effective and efficient regulatory framework, based on sound policy objectives that are in line with the government's policy framework for the regulation of all forms of gambling.
To do this, it must amend the 2004 National Gambling Act to legalize online gambling and set up a licensing and regulatory system that includes the following components:
The bill provides for the registration of players and for player exclusion on a voluntary basis. It also ensures that registered players are treated fairly by the online gambling providers. Dispute resolution between players and online gambling operators will also be provided.
Protection of children and other vulnerable persons
The bill will ensure that minors and other vulnerable persons are protected by stipulating that registered players be at least 18 years old, and provide a way for the minister to prescribe mechanisms and procedures to ensure that unregistered players and children can't access interactive gambling facilities.
Only licensed online gambling providers will be allowed to advertise, and they will be subject to the same restrictions set out in the National Gambling Act for other forms of gambling. The minister will also have the power to set the manner and form for online gambling advertising.
Licensing, compliance and enforcement
The bill gives the minister authority to prescribe procedural requirements for licensing by the board in order to ensure compliance with certain technical specifications and standards for equipment, software and premises. The National Gambling Board will be obligated to ensure compliance by all stakeholders with the provisions of the bill.
Provisions in the bill allow for the monitoring and reporting of registered players' gambling habits to assist the National Gambling Board in detecting problems associated with addictive or compulsive gambling. The bill also obligates online gambling providers to develop self-diagnosis systems to provide players with early warning signs.
The minister will have the ability to prescribe control systems in respect to money laundering, which will allow for flexibility in dealing with technological developments. Internet gambling sites will also be obligated to report suspicious and illegal activities.
According to a memorandum attached to the National Gambling Amendment Bill, "The interactive gambling industry in South Africa is currently unregulated and is generally plagued by crime, criminal elements, little or no protection of players, uncontrolled exposure of children and other persons vulnerable to gambling and a host of other negative factors."
Lawmakers note that the situation has resulted in a loss of revenue to the nation as well as compromised the country's reputation as a responsible global citizen and the reputation of the gambling industry in general.
The bill is actually late in coming for the South African nation. The 2004 National Gambling Act contains an item that requires the minister to introduce in Parliament, within two years of the effective date of the act, legislation for the regulation of interactive gambling.
The National Gambling Act went into operation on Nov. 1, 2004. Initially it was hoped the National Gambling Amendment would be passed by the end of the first quarter of 2007, but it has gone through a few amendment processes and debates since its introduction.
The bill still needs to be signed by President Thabo Mbeki before it can become law.