South African lawmakers may have just reached a “positive watershed moment” with the country’s controversial National Gambling Amendment Bill following a tumultuous parliamentary hearing, according to Cape Town-based gaming lawyer Garron Whitesman.
In July, Whitesman told iGamingBusiness.com that the latest version of the bill was shrouded in “flawed, unrealistic and nonsensical policies”.
The bill featured various proposed changes to gambling structure and regulation in South Africa, including the National Gambling Board being repositioned as the country’s gambling regulator.
Other mooted changes include the National Lotteries Commission assuming responsibility for regulating wagers on the national lottery, foreign lottery, lottery results and sports pools, with plans to also ban bets on dog racing and limit bingo licences and machines.
However, when the South African Parliament met to discuss the bill yesterday (Wednesday), both the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and opposition Democratic Alliance members were critical of its content, leaving several observers, including Whitesman, optimistic.
Whitesman said in a statement issued to iGamingBusiness.com: “Whilst it is still very early days in the process, it appears that a positive watershed moment may have been reached in policy as the position overtly adopted by the members of the Portfolio Committee was materially different to that adopted a number of years ago when the issue was previously considered.
“A much more realistic and sensible view seems to be being adopted by the parliamentarians ultimately responsible for the setting of gambling policy in South Africa.
Members of both sides spoke about how South Africa now has the opportunity to address the regulation and licensing of online gambling in the country.
Whitesman was particularly encouraged by the “overtly different position” adopted by ANC members, with “good plain common sense being applied to the favourability of a regulatory, rather than prohibitory, regime and their level of insight into the issue”.
He added: “I am very hopeful that this is the beginning of a meaningful and appropriate change that is very long overdue.”
However, with the issue subject to further public hearings and comment before the Portfolio Committee, Whitesman said that it remains to be seen whether the positive momentum can be maintained.
“It seems that the tide has changed positively in favour of the creation of an appropriate regulatory regime, but time will tell whether this is indeed the case,” he said.
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