05th March, 2012 :: 06:36:05

Source: Casinos Online

Online gambling is 'ubiquitous' & enforcing a ban is a problem, parliamentarians are told

Online gambling was the subject of further committee discussions last Friday when Parliament‚EUR™s trade & industry committee sat through yet another public hearing on the pros & cons of legalising & regulating the pastime.

Business Day reports that members of the committee discussed potential problem areas such as the prevention of money laundering, underage gambling & illegal gambling operators. Current legislation prohibits gambling via internet sites that offer casinos & poker, & wagering on non-South African betting sites is also not allowed.

Following the recommendations of a gambling review commission that internet gambling be regulated & taxed (see previous reports), the Department of Trade & Industry, together with the trade & industry committee, is trying to formulate legislative amendments to make this possible.

Committee chairman Joan Fubbs said online gambling could not be ignored & was ubiquitous in SA, whilst Democratic Alliance MP Geordin Hill-Lewis observed that "online gambling is a fact in SA. Prohibition is impossible & at the moment it is taking place in a completely unregulated environment & we are deriving no economic benefit from it.‚EURќ

Pieter Smit of the Financial Intelligence Centre briefed the committee on possible vulnerabilities arising from online gambling & urged that online betting exchanges & online poker be prohibited. If they were allowed, operators would have to be subject to the regulatory measures as required by the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, he suggested, asserting that gaming facilities could be used by online punters to transfer funds from one person or location to another, increasing the risk of money laundering.

Such transactions would be difficult to trace & as it was not a face-to-face business, new technology would be needed to identify customers, he opined. Smit also hinted at measures to identify & exclude unlicensed operators from the South African market.

National Gambling Board representatives recommended that if legalisation is approved, the number of online gambling licenses should be restricted to manageable numbers & be strictly regulated. Licenses should only be valid for eight years & measures would be needed to protect gamblers against fraudulent operators & exclude underage or problem gamblers, they emphasised.

The Board again cautioned that excluding unlicensed operators would be a difficult challenge, & indicated that blocking South African access to illegal operators was both expensive & unsustainable. Cooperation with other licensing jurisdictions would have to be obtained in the case of illegal operators based in other countries, they said.

Experts from the Banking Association of SA warned that illegal operators often used front companies to conceal their real activities, & it would be difficult for banks to identify & differentiate between legal & illegal transactions related to internet gambling.


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