The role of government in the South African gambling industry : regulator versus stakeholder
Additional tax on gambling winnings was announced by the Minister of Finance, Mr. Pravin Gordhan in the 2010 National Budget Speech. This additional tax was proposed to discourage excessive gambling in South Africa. In 2011, it was proposed that all winnings above R25 000 will be subject to a final 15 per cent withholding tax. Gambling plays a significant role in the South African economy and contributes to job creation, infrastructure investment and overall economic growth. The Government faced negative comments from the gambling industry where the administrative challenges of implementing a withholding tax were emphasised. Challenges such as the difficulty in implementing, controlling and administering the proposed tax were mentioned. The objective of the proposal was questioned because excessive gambling declined in South Africa during the last few years. This led to the Government changing their proposed method in 2012 from a withholding tax at 15 per cent to a national gambling tax, based on gross gambling revenue, on a uniform provincial gambling tax base, which constitutes an additional 1% national levy. This raised two main problem statements. The first is which role of government, regulator versus stakeholder, is taking precedence through the implementation of the proposals to levy additional taxes on gambling in South Africa? And the second, is this role (identified above) the correct role that government should play that best supports government‟s objective of curbing excessive gambling in South Africa and does it justify the need for an additional tax to be levied on South African gambling? The two proposed methods were scrutinised to identify the ultimate role of the government. The fact that only the winnings will be subject to a withholding tax system did not contribute to a regulator role to decrease excessive gambling and thereby minimising negative externalities. Not all gamblers will be directly affected by this type of tax. The provincial tax base taxes all gambling activities, as all gamblers participating in gambling will be subject to the additional levy. The problem here is that the gambler will not be directly taxed and will then not be directly influenced to have any effect on their gambling behaviour. The government also recognised that they want to decrease the negative externalities that are associated with excessive gambling. It would seem that the main objective should rather be to address the negative externalities rather than the excessive gambling. It is debatable whether an additional tax levied in any form other than a sin tax would achieve this goal and give the role of regulator precedence. The role as stakeholder took precedence when the government decided to move to a provincial tax base. Research indicated that the main motivational factor behind the election was purely driven on how government would be successful in implementing an additional tax in the most administratively efficient and cost effective manner, while still benefiting from it through the collection of additional state revenue.