South Africa targets illegal online gambling sites

South African authorities have shut down a number of sites offering illegal gambling services.

On Friday, officers of South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (aka the Hawks), operating alongside local branches of the South Africa Police Service, raided 27 premises in the Northern Cape and North West provinces that were suspected of offering illegal online gambling services.

The raids, which followed months of police surveillance, resulted in the closure of 19 venues at which punters could access computers that connected to unauthorized gambling sites. Police seized numerous computers, other IT gear, some on-site gambling machines in addition to an undisclosed amount of cash.

Three individuals believed to be behind the venues’ operation have been arrested, with police vowing more arrests are imminent. The suspects, who were due in Kimberly Magistrates Court on Monday, will likely face charges including corruption, money laundering and racketeering, as well as violations of national and provincial gambling laws.

National Hawks chief Mthandazo Ntlemeza called the raids “a huge knock to the network of criminal enterprise in both provinces.” Ntlemeza promised that the raids were just the beginning of a program to clamp down on unauthorized gambling operators across South Africa, and warned that police were “soon going to be knocking at their doors unannounced.”

Despite opposition parties making multiple attempts to convince South Africa’s government to liberalize its online gambling market, the country currently permits only online sports betting at a handful of locally licensed operators.

Indeed, the government has proposed boosting penalties for unauthorized online gambling operators and requiring financial institutions to shun any dealings with operators on a government blacklist. The government has also sought to eliminate legal impediments to confiscation of punters’ winnings obtained from unauthorized gambling activities.

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