Betfair to pull out of SA

Nicola Mawson
By Nicola Mawson, Contributor.
Johannesburg, 06 Feb 2012

UK-based betting community Betfair will no longer offer its services to South Africans from next Tuesday.

The company says it will block access to its services from SA-based IP addresses, following the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling last September that declared online, or interactive, gambling illegal, says Betfair public affairs manager Tom Tuxworth.

The Supreme Court of Appeal decision settled once and for all the question of where online gambling takes place, and made advertising and online gambling illegal in SA.

Swaziland-based Casino Enterprises, operator of Piggs Peak Casino, Piggs Peak Poker, Piggs Peak Bingo and Volcanic Gold Casino, had appealed a North Gauteng High Court ruling that declared online gambling illegal.

The operator lost its bid to have its operations declared legal in SA, in the landmark judgment handed down in the Bloemfontein Supreme Court of Appeal. The site has since ceased operating in SA.

Game off

Tuxworth says, following the Piggs Peak decision, Betfair has decided not to take any more bets from South Africans. “Our Web site is in the process of being IP-blocked to the entire country.”

On 14 February, all existing accounts will be suspended and Betfair says South Africans must withdraw their funds before then.

Tuxworth says the betting company took a while to suspend operations in SA as it had to review the legal position following the case and then go through necessary internal processes.

In addition, “the technical work required to put the block in place needed to be planned and tested prior to being implemented”, Tuxworth says. “It was also necessary to communicate with our customers to ensure an orderly closure of their accounts.”

Betfair is applying for a traditional back-only sportsbook licence in the Western Cape under the existing framework, says Tuxworth. Sports betting is legal in SA under the current gambling framework.

However, the Gambling Review Commission has recommended that online wagering be legalised, and that more than 10 licences be issued. Changes to the legislation could take about two years to come into effect.