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South African MPs criticize online gambling bill
What has seemed like smooth sailing up to this point for an online gambling bill in South Africa hit a snag this past week as some Members of Parliament (MPs) are speaking out against legalizing the industry in the nation.
The National Gambling Amendment seeks to legalize and regulate online gambling in South Africa. Currently the industry is banned while the nation works on legislation and standards to subject it to.
The bill was introduced to the Department of Trade and Industry by Fungai Sibanda, the acting director general of the department. It had been hoped the department would be able to submit the bill to Parliament in July.
But now a few MPs are speaking out against the bill. Leading the charge is Ben Turok, who said the only reason to legislate Internet gambling would be in order to abolish it or curb it.
"This is a moral issue," Turok is quoted as saying in an article on myadsl.co.za.
"In my view, your approach is the wrong one," he said in response to the argument that the bill will allow financial benefits for the government. "It is a social evil that we may have to regulate to curb, but we must not make money out of it."
Those in favor of regulation and legalization have argued that without regulation, Internet gambling facilitates criminal activity, offers little or no protection to players and permits children to participate.
In a Business Report article, Turok again points to the morality of gambling in his argument against the legislation.
"The legislation before us isn't sufficiently critical of gambling as an activity," he said, and he also suggested that the legislation allowed the advertising of "an evil activity."
He also compared taxing Internet gambling to taxing other immoral activities such as prostitution or other crimes.
Turok would prefer to see gambling, both the online and offline versions, abolished completely in South Africa as it "eats the moral fiber of society."
Other MPs have stepped up against the bill for that reason and some of their own. In Business Report, Mandlenkosi Rasmeni also speaks out against the legislation because the online gambling industry is solely owned by whites in South Africa, and the black majority should be benefiting from it instead.
Les Labuschagne, though his political affiliation is the opposite of Turok's, agreed that the bill wasn't necessary.
"I wonder why we need this bill," he says in Business Report, Why don't we just prohibit [online gambling]?"
Sibanda told the committee the same thing he's been saying all along: The bill isn't meant to encourage gambling, but to regulate it. The rationale behind regulating the industry is that the government will have some control over it to help with problem gambling and other issues.
The bill will include measures to deal with problem gamblers, minors who try to gamble online and illicit activities associated with online gambling.