For the people who make good money running casinos and their associated hospitality and entertainment businesses the gambling industry is a winner all the way. And if you take a look at the governments around the world who rake in huge revenues from gaming activities – directly as a tax and indirectly from workers’ wages– you’ll see a similarly positive picture.
The South African National Gambling Board (NGB) estimates that gambling has accounted for 100,000 jobs since it was legalised in 1994. And the Casino Industry of South Africa (CASA) contributed R4.7 billion directly in taxes in 2012 and to be worth as much as R50 billion to the overall national economy.
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Gambling gets a bad press, but as those figures suggest, it has plenty to recommend it. So, let’s get the first thing clear: From a business perspective gambling is anything but a mug’s game.
A changing picture
The next part of the story concerns the opportunity that the gambling sector offers the entrepreneurially-minded right now.
Demand is outstripping the licenced supply of outlets but South Africa’s gaming regulations are lagging behind the market. Online sports betting is legal, but the increasingly popular non-sports casino gaming is not – not yet at least.
But it seems inevitable that at some point soon the legislators are going to cut their losses, fall into line with the rest of the international community, and do away with the current muddle of regulations and restrictions. Online casinos in South Africa look set to become wholly ratified as part and parcel of the industry alongside their land-based equivalents.
Earlier this year a Remote Gaming Bill aimed at bringing the current legislation up to date was proposed in the national Assembly by shadow minister of Trade and Industry Geordin Hill-Lewis. That bill is working its way through parliament and its success is by no means assured. But the pressure for reform is growing.
The bottom line is that the SA government is losing out on revenue currently, and, as we all know, that’s the sort of situation that makes people sit up and take notice.
A golden opportunity
Realistically, the only way the authorities can play their hand is to incentivise businesses to base themselves in South Africa – otherwise all that potential revenue will simply continue to disappear offshore. Current objections from the vested interests of the land-based casino lobby look set to be put aside.
And that represents a gilt-edged opportunity for anyone with an eye for a margin.
5.3 million South African computer users – 11 percent of the total population – represent a huge, affluent and undersupplied potential market that sometime soon is going to be opened up to the gaming business. It’s just a matter of time.
So here’s a rich opportunity for the entrepreneurially minded. The market is undersupplied, demand is growing, and the regulatory framework is about to flip from being restrictive to positively encouraging.
That scenario is starting to make online gaming look pretty tempting, don’t you think? Some people would say you’d be a mug to ignore it.