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Mature South Africa – from inside

The Casino Association of South Africa’s Themba Ngobese took the time to speak with Casino International about his country’s gaming market, the potential for online gaming and its many obstacles, plus much more…


he South African casino industry is worth somewhere in the region of 17 billion Rand a year, with 38 casino licences operating around the country. A mature market by all

accounts, it is yet to embrace online gaming so far, but the gaming sector overall has seen growth outside of casinos. Advocate Themba Ngobese, CEO, Casino Association of South Africa, spoke with Casino International about the organisation’s role now and in the future, and the country’s gaming market overall.

Casino International: How did you arrive

at your position, CEO of the Casino Association South Africa [CASA]? Themba Ngobese: I trained and qualified as a

lawyer, and joined the provincial gambling regulator at the time – 1998 – the Gauteng Gambling Board. I spent two years there, and two years with the national regulator for South Africa; then I moved to the operator side of things with Peermont Hotels, Casinos and Resorts for ten years. I was then approached by the Casino Association of South Africa, because of my experience and exposure in the industry both as operator and regulator, and have been serving the organisation for the past few years. I recently agreed a new three-year contract extension so I will be here for a while yet.

CI: What’s changed in South Africa

recently? Has online gaming opened up yet? TN: Certainly not. We are still at the stage

where it is illegal, but we know that illegal operators are working in South Africa. The only development that has happened since the courts confirmed its illegality is that, in the beginning of 2015, the opposition party in government introduced a bill called the Remote Gambling Bill to try and legalise online gambling. How far and whether that bill


eventually becomes law is still a moot point at this stage.

CI: It seems to be taking a long time…

TN: It really

does. To be honest, the view that is held by the current department responsible for gambling in South

Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry, is that it should not be legalised and introduced at this stage. A number of reasons have been quoted: one,

they believe that we have enough gambling in this country at the moment, and two, it will expose players to further gambling and perhaps they are not ready or capable of controlling or managing the socio-economic impacts it might expose people to.

Monte Casino, Fourways, Johannesburg

reasons often introduced to not get things rolling – a study has not been done on whether we can introduce another form of gambling and still be fine in terms of protection of the populace, etc. But they have their reasons not to permit it.

CI: There was talk a few years ago about

introducing online gaming but only giving licences to operators with land-based approval. Why not try that? What is the CASA’s stance on this, or your members? TN: At this stage we are neither for nor against online gambling. Recently we had a campaign where we were targeting illegal online gambling which was unfortunately misinterpreted and people thought that we were against online gambling, which we are not. We take a view at this stage that if it is legalised, our members would probably participate in that space and in fact, members have always been ready, willing and capable to do so. It’s just not been possible legally to do it yet.

CI: If you look at gaming in Africa as a whole, it’s not legal in many countries – has anybody used the South African model as a legislative template? TN: Not necessarily to the extent that we

have, in terms of just the framework, the strict regulation etc; what you do find, especially in the southern region, more and more countries have legalised casino gaming. They are moving from the grey market, where it happens because it is neither legal nor illegal, more and more countries have some form of legislation. Certainly not to the extent of the provisions we have in the South African market. If I could give you an example, Botswana has

CI: That’s a strange argument from a country with a mature gambling market. TN: I know, I know. There are also other

passed legislation; it is a country of around 2million people, but it is modelled on South African gaming legislation. Other countries

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