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'Freezeout' takes on a whole new meaning as power cuts bedevil South African online gamblers


'Freezeout' takes on a whole new meaning as power cuts bedevil South African online gamblers

One of the frustrations online gamblers would rather do without are power cuts which kick the player off the Internet, and in South Africa the phenomenon is becoming increasingly frequent, thanks to an inefficient utility company and its rolling blackouts.

Increasing numbers of regular Internet users are having to buy backup power systems that allow them to exit work or play in progress in a controlled manner without losing the fruits of their labour when their screens abruptly go blank. This can be for anything up to 4 or more hours at a time as a result of what the power company euphemistically calls "load shedding."

Bad advance warning of planned power cuts in individual regions exacerbates the situation.

But getting shunted out of an online gambling site is a minor irritation compared to the damage that a lack of power capacity is causing in a country with an otherwise sophisticated industrial, telecommunications and financial infrastructure. The national power supply company is being accused of a lack of advance capacity planning and maintenance which has endangered the further development of the economy. This week a senior executive in the power company made the extraordinary suggestion that attempts to attract industrial investment be minimised until 2013 to enable capacity building to catch up!

The Public Protector has started asking for answers from the beleageured executives supposedly managing power generation and distribution as public, business and political criticism grows.

Online gamers and gamblers have been hard hit by the extensive and frequent cuts across the country, and complaints from the gaming community are starting to appear in online forums.

Online poker players may however have much more to lose than reputation or points, reports a local newspaper. Some poker tournaments carry price funds of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Rands, and a prolonged power outage will inevitably lead to elimination from the tournament.

The financial impact of power outages on the local IT and Internet industries is difficult to measure, but economists are talking in the hundreds of millions, and there does not appear to be any immediate solution.

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