Africa: Technology Is Disrupting the Gambling Industry

Johannesburg — AS gambling gets more diverse and adopts new technologies, regulators and stakeholders have initiated dialogue to ensure an effectively regulated and economically sustainable industry in South Africa.

This has been the prevailing theme at the just-concluded National Gambling Board's (NGB) conference held in Pretoria under the theme, "The Gambling Regulators' and Operators' Dialogue."

"The crux of the conference is for NGB, as the gambling industry regulator, to engage with the various stakeholders in the value chain," said Caroline Kongwa, NGB Administrator.

The topic of technology and regulation of the industry therefore were of extreme interest to delegates.

"As gambling becomes more diverse and embraces new technologies, it poses the question whether there is sufficient agility within the existing regulatory framework," she said.

Kongwa said the regulator should always bear in mind whether it was prepared to amend the legal framework continuously to regulate gambling products and services, which continuously evolve with technological advancements, or to develop a legal framework that was technologically neutral.

She said it was expected that virtual and mixed reality products and services would become prevalent across the globe in various industries.

Access to these products and services will also be influenced by internet of things (IoT) products and services, she said, adding that operators and manufacturers should ask themselves how new products introduced into the market aligned with the South African regulated industry and legal framework.

"Continuous dialogue between regulators and industry stakeholders is paramount, prior to introduction of new products and services in the market," Kongwa said.

She described technology as a disruptor, and in history, disruptors changed the way of doing business.

"This is also true for the regulatory environment. We acknowledge that we all wish to do what is best for the community and use risk management strategies to manage any pitfalls."

The NGB conference covered vital technological issues such as regulators' state of readiness for the fourth industrial revolution, evolution of gambling products and services, online betting and crypto currency, among others.

"Technology continues to add the edge to businesses and the gambling industry is no exception," Kongwa concluded.

The South African gambling industry is projected to grow to reach nearly R35 billion ($2,5 billion) by 2021.

Gambling revenues are expected to rise to R30 billion in 2019, according to a recent Price-Waterhouse-Coopers report.

In 2017/18, the industry contributed R2,8 billion to the South African economy.

However, it is facing threats from illegal gambling activities and online gambling.

Excluding the National Lottery, other lotteries including society lotteries, promotional competitions and sports pools, are regulated by the NGB, subject to the National Gambling Act, 2004.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) presented the National Gambling Amendment Bill to Parliament in 2018.

It proposes the barring of new forms of gambling.

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