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Emily D. Swoboda

South African Province Warns Citizens Against I-gaming

6 December 2005

The Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board, an organization that oversees all gambling and betting activity in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, issued a warning Oct. 24 alerting citizens of the province to the illegalities of Internet gambling.

The warning, published in the Sunday Times, was designed to remind citizens that not only is Internet gambling unlawful in South Africa, but that a personal computer can be considered a gambling device, and using a computer for purposes of gambling is a criminal offense.

A gambling device is defined as any machine in which a person directly or indirectly (using a credit card, for instance) pays money to play a gambling game that may result in winning a cash prize.

VG Mati, CEO of the ECGBB, said the warning was not ignited by any particular event. It was done more to reiterate Eastern Cape laws regarding Internet gambling.

"Section 11 of the National Gambling Act, 2004 (Act No. 7 of 2004) provides, 'A person must not engage in or make available an interactive game except as authorized in terms of this Act or any other national law,'" Mati said. "It thus seeks to prevent Internet casinos unless such activities are permitted by a national Act, and no national Act currently permits Internet casinos."

While the National Gambling Act exists to regulate matters of gambling in South Africa, each province determines its own regulations on gambling. The federal government and provincial governments can both pass legislations regarding gambling, but the federal government steps in only when a conflict exists that cannot be settled by a province.

"In terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, the regulation of gambling is a concurrent competence of both the federal government and the government of each province of state," said Mati. "And provincial legislation overrides national legislation unless the national legislation applies uniformly to the country. It deals with a matter that cannot be regulated effectively by provincial legislation."

In 1997 the Eastern Cape Province passed the Gambling and Betting Act, which applies solely to the province. Among other things, the Act specifically addresses the issue of Internet gambling.

Section 74 of the Act states that no person physically present in the province may participate in a gambling game via telephone, fax, interactive television, e-mail or Internet. This section also states that it is illegal to invite a person physically present in the Province to participate in a gambling game by way of the aforementioned modes of communication, thus ruling out advertising.

Section 70 of the Act deals with advertising and says that a person physically present in the Eastern Cape Province may only advertise a gambling business that is licensed in the Eastern Cape, thus ruling out Internet gambling.

The warning was caveated by stating that gambling may only take place with a bookmaker or a totalisator or on premises licensed by the ECGBB, which leaves only a handful of legal options for Eastern Cape punters. According to the ECGBB Website, only three land-based casinos and 11 bookmakers or totalisators are licensed in the Eastern Cape.

But at least three online casinos,, and, all of which are licensed outside of South Africa, do business in rands, the currency of South Africa. This would appear to be a violation of the National Gambling Act. However, the three casinos have so far managed to welcome gamblers from South Africa.

The ECGBB has vowed to bring criminal charges against anyone found to be participating in illegal gambling activities. That includes anyone in possession of software which enables a player to download credits won on a gambling game to another computer or external data storage device; or any person who uses a personal computer to gamble or invites others to gamble; or anyone who distributes or avails any software that enables players in the province to link to gambling companies. If convicted, a person faces a fine of up to two million rand or imprisonment of up to 10 years, or both.

Mati said that the ECGBB works closely with the South African Police Service on the issue of unlawful gambling and any action taken is done in conjunction with the police. As far as determining who is gambling illegally without violating constitutional rights, Mati offered only a vague answer.

"We have different methods of lawfully determining this, but giving a more detailed response may adversely affect the effectiveness of this Board," he said. "I am, unfortunately, unable to expand on this."

South African Province Warns Citizens Against I-gaming is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda