By Francois Rodgers, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance:
The DA will, at Tuesday’s Finance portfolio committee, object to the current proposed KZN Gaming and Betting Amendment Bill and will table amendments to ensure that this Bill addresses the various challenges currently facing the industry in our province.
The DA firmly believes that the Bill in its present form does not adequately address current problems related to the issuing of licences and the location of gambling sites in our province.
This is borne out by the groundswell of community protest against gaming licences in shopping malls, near learning institutes and places of worship over the past year in KZN. It is patently clear that that they would have a negative impact on vulnerable communities.
Certain clauses within the Bill also signal a worrying shift of certain strategic powers relating to the gaming industry being removed from KZN’s Legislature and handed to provincial Finance MEC, Belinda Scott and the KZN Executive.
This is unconstitutional. The MEC already fulfils an executive function and the conferring of legislative and judiciary functions is in direct conflict with the doctrine of separation of powers.
The DA will oppose this dangerous amendment and ensure that a sole mandate is not given to the Executive so that all relevant stakeholders are able to play a constructive role in the gaming industry.
A further serious concern is the Bill’s proposal that MEC Scott issue directives to the Gaming and Betting Board relating to the single exclusive right racecourse operator licence, with the proposal that this licence be valid for a period of at least 15 years.
This amendment is in direct contravention of section 54 of the National Act which enforces that the gambling and betting industries in the country are not closed off to competition but subject to normal market forces.
This proposal will spell the death knell for other role players in the province and will entrench a monopolistic position of race course and totalizator operators in the province.
It is also clear that if this clause is adopted, Gold Circle will be given sole rights in this province.
The DA has been reliably informed that MEC Scott and many of her close family are current members of Gold Circle. If this is true then the MEC has a vested interest in the outcome of the clause and it is then no small wonder that she has played a key role in this proposal and the motivation thereof.
KZN’s Gaming and Betting Bill has divided the ANC caucus in the provincial legislature and it is no longer clear who is calling the shots. This Bill has stumbled through the legislative process, from being a matter of ‘life or death’ to being placed on the backburner.
It is currently being driven with some aggression in KZN again – despite the fact that the legal team dealing with its contents are still awaiting opinions on certain contentious amendments.
The question is why – especially when the National Act is still under review. Surely it would be more beneficial to await the finalisation of this process.
The DA can only assume that this rush is pre-empted by a proposed change of leadership in the province which has led to certain individuals taking a keen interest in the adoption of the Bill ahead of a much-rumoured KZN cabinet reshuffle.