South Africa

The high cost of illegal gambling

Pretoria - Taking part in illegal gambling activities such as fa-fi, cards, dice and the steadily growing online gambling phenomenon can land you 10 years in jail, a hefty R10 million fine, or both.

So, finding ways to curb illegal gambling and better ways of investigating and prosecuting gambling and money laundering crimes was the closing focus of the two-day National Gambling Board conference held at the Maslow, Times Square, on Friday.

The conference, which started on Thursday, brought together stakeholders to discuss new gambling technologies, industry transformation, industry certification and gambling regulations.

Bawinile Ngcobo, senior inspector with the National Gambling Board Enforcement section, said they were trying to get stakeholders together to discuss issues affecting the industry - mainly illegal gambling, which had become a big problem in the country.

Ngcobos said allowing illegal gambling to continue unchecked affected the revenue of licensed and established gambling facilities and, in turn, affected the South African economy. To date, she said, they already had a national committee formed by operations and national intelligence structures.

The committee, said Ngcobo, involved all security structures in the country, including the SAPS, defence force, Home Affairs and even the National Prosecuting Authority, several of whose members were present at the conference.

“We’ve had cases taken to court only for them to be returned to us because of technicalities, so we want to fix those loopholes. There are standard operational procedures that will be applied nationally, however.Provincially they also have their own legislation, speaking to one objective.”

For now, Ngcobo said, the national framework had been approved in the past financial year to provide a guide for the whole country to deal with illegal gambling.

“Lack of knowledge and understanding this new environment; hence our work to have a national task team to give a way for SAPS members know-how to go about investigating

“Walking into any casino, limited payout point facilities, betting on sports and horse racing, bingo operations are legalised. However fa-fi, card games on the streets and now internet cafés or anything else will result in gamblers being charged 10 years jail, a R10m fine or both.”

Brigadier Judy le Roux, of the SAPS firearms, liquor and second-hand goods section, said they had recently been tasked with probing illegal gambling. She said illegal gambling activities such as cards, dice and others mostly played in townships, were under control.

These, as well as the second level, which dealt with machines, where the police got involved with checking compliance in taverns and small outlets.

The top problematic levels were online betting and internet cafés, as they were difficult to prove due to their technological platform, Le Roux said.

She said within the SAPS there was no uniform approach for all provinces and that was their biggest concern at the moment, hence the need to find one integrated approach.

“There has to be an intelligence level approach for syndicates and in instances where we need to do undercover network approach. We need to deal with developed technology at the same pace.

“We need to build knowledge of the police and create awareness to the community in terms of what is considered illegal. Few people know what the repercussions are so we have to let them know of these things.”

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