Gambling Laws in South Africa | Guide To Gambling Laws in South Africa
South Africa is a country that literally has it all. Beautiful nature combined with modern cities, amazing wildlife parks and one of the coolest bungee jumping sites, delicious wine and probably the world’s best steaks.
If you are looking for an out-of-the-box travel destination, this can be the right place for you. But in terms of gambling, South Africa might still miss a law or two that would make it great in any sense possible.
We cannot blame the authorities to be cautious though. The latest statistics show that the number of people who enjoy at least some sort of gambling is slowly rising. Over 80% of people in South Africa buy a National Lottery ticket at least once a week.
Maybe this fact is what scares the authorities and makes it hard for them to finally lift a ban from the online gambling.
In this guide through South African gambling laws, I will discuss a few key points:
- The history of gambling in South Africa
- The timeline of important years for South African gambling
- How gambling is regulated in South Africa
- Online gambling in South Africa today.
Without further ado, let’s start from the beginning of gambling in South Africa.
The History of Gambling in South Africa
Dutch Come To South Africa
The story of gambling in South Africa didn’t start on a positive note. On the contrary, it was restricted in 1673 by the Dutch settlers who conquered this beautiful land.
Land Casinos Start Popping Up
Starting with the 1970s, casinos started popping out in the Bantustans, particularly Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda.
Due to the strong feeling of racism at the time, the casinos that happened to be in the territories of native South Africans weren’t welcoming non-native residents of South Africa.
Rise of illegal Casinos
Step by step, and the gambling fever started spreading around the country faster than anyone could have imagined.
In 1995, there were around 2,000 illegal casinos that operated in the country, although most of them were only a room in which you could find nothing more than a few slot machines.
This worked just fine for gamblers, but the government realised that they are getting nothing out of this activity.
The changes in the government that had started in 1994 continued to go toward the mutual goal of casinos existing but getting a license.
National Gambling Act Passed
South Africa arrived to this point in 1996, when the National Gambling Act of 1996 was passed.
Allowing a number of casinos and a national lottery to operate if they obtain a license.
No one said anything about horse racing though, so that part of gambling continued with normal operation.
However, as the licenses came into being, the number of casinos started reducing slowly but progressively.
Act of 2004
The year 2004 is very important, as this is the year in which the National Gambling Act of 1996 was overruled and its replacement was the Act of 2004.
With this act, the online casino gaming operation was officially illegal.
Problems Arise In Legalising Online Betting
To sort out this unfortunate situation, the National Gambling Amendment Act was created in 2008, with an aim to legalise online betting.
It was followed by the announcement made by the Gauteng High Court in 2010 which stated that international operators couldn’t even offer any services to the players from South Africa and in that way negated the 2008 Act.
Nevertheless, even the official ban didn’t stop plenty of online casinos to attract South African punters with their gaming activities. Operators didn’t hesitate to go that far to accept the deposit in SA rands. Here the country’s officials became aware of the fact that it will be extremely difficult to take illegal gambling under control.
Remote Bill of 2014
Finally, there came the draft of the Remote Bill of 2014 which might change the future of online gambling regulations in South Africa.
However, no information could be found on the outcome of this proposition and, apart from land-based casinos, the National Gambling Board of South Africa says that online gambling is strictly forbidden.
The History of Gambling Laws in Australia — An Overview
Unlike some other countries that shared responsibility among different parts of the country, in South Africa, it is pretty much straightforward. They have the National Gambling Board which is responsible for supervision and control of gambling regulations throughout the country.
Remote Gambling Bill 2014
South Africa is trying to follow other countries in terms of gambling regulations. After all the changes that have been made, they’ve come up with the Remote Gambling Bill 2014 that in many aspects resembles the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 which regulated Australian gambling market.
The main point of the Remote Gambling Bill 2014 was to work in the service of the South African people by protecting them from any harm that could come from gambling activities. The draft that was created offered a few specifications, in particular:
- Internet gaming providers would have to get a license that would be issued by the National Gambling Board after being approved by provincial authorities;
- Gaming providers would be required to provide their gambling services only from the province in which their licensing application was made and approved by the appointed authorities;
- The types of online games that could be offered would be casino games, sports betting, and games of equal chance. However, it is highly likely that some other types of games would be permitted as well;
- The condition for the South African gaming providers to provide their services to the people from outside the country is that they must be registered with the casino;
- The total revenue would be shared among the provinces and the nation in the following way: 70 percent would go to provinces while 30 percent would go to the nation as a whole;
- Players must be informed that they would have to back all the games they play by immediate cash. Gaming operators would not be allowed to grant players any type of credit for the purpose of gambling.
Unfortunately, this draft remained only a draft since there was no response to it available to the public. On the website of the National Gambling Board of South Africa, there is the National Gambling Amendment Bill 2018 mentioned as well, but it is not clear if it will help with the regulation of online gambling any time soon.
The Timeline of Important Years for South African Gambling
Here is a brief list of South African gambling throughout history:
- 1673 — Gambling was largely restricted by the Dutch settlers
- 1965 — The Gambling Act was passed and officially made all sorts of gambling illegal, except the horse racing
- 1994 — The changes in the government started changing the perspective South Africa had on gambling legislation
- 1996 — The National Gambling Act of 1996 was passed and initiated gambling legislation, thus allowing a number of casinos and a national lottery to operate only after they obtain a license
- 2004 — The Act of 2004 was passed, and made the online casino gaming operation officially illegal
- 2008 — The National Gambling Amendment Act was created in 2008, with an aim to legalise online betting
- 2010 — The announcement made by the Gauteng High Court in 2010 negated the National Gambling Amendment Act 2008
- 2014 — The draft of the Remote Bill 2014 was created, resembling the Australian Interactive Gambling Act 2001. No information on accepting this Remote Bill 2014 has been published; therefore, online gambling in South Africa remains illegal, except online betting with a licensed South African bookmaker.
Online Gambling in South Africa Today
Although the government of South Africa is trying their best to keep up with the world standards when it comes to gambling, they still have a long way to go in making everyone happy. The government still has divided opinion regarding the regulation of online gambling.
The officials that believe in traditional values don’t want to legalise online gambling since they believe it will have a bad effect on South African people in general. On the other hand, reformers who are more future-oriented insist on allowing online gambling so they can accumulate more revenue.
Little by little, the market started to open up slowly, and the National Gambling Act 1996 gave power to the National Gambling Board to make changes to the gambling system. While it did move from a complete ban on gambling to legal land-based casinos, the online gambling world didn’t prosper much.
Online gambling in South Africa remained illegal, except for sports betting which still required online sportsbooks to get a license in one of the South African provinces. All other typical casino games, such as poker, slots, roulette, or blackjack are strictly forbidden.
On the National Gambling Board site, it is clearly written:
“Online gambling is illegal in South Africa.
Except online betting through bookmakers licensed in South Africa for online betting (e.g. sports events and horse racing)
- If you gamble online, your winnings will be confiscated by your bank before they reach your bank account;
- You will not receive your winnings;
- You will be investigated and could face criminal charges — this will impact the rest of your life.”
In case you are caught practising online gambling either as a player, casino or financial institution, you will be facing a 10 years imprisonment or a 10 million Rand fine, or both in the worst-case scenario.
However, South Africans have found their way out of this rigid system by registering at online casinos which are not based within their country’s borders. They rely on the fact that South African laws cannot be applied in those jurisdictions, therefore, the penalties won’t be applicable.
The attempt to make online gambling legal by an amendment in 2008 didn’t go as planned. Furthermore, in 2010, the decision was made by the country’s court that online casinos based outside the borders are not allowed to offer any gambling activities to South Africans. Apart from that, it was decided that gambling online using a South African IP address was also illegal.
Of course, they came up with a penalty for this type of gambling as well, but not that severe as the previous one. If you get caught gambling at any external online casino, the government has the right to confiscate your winnings and transfer it to a common treasury-trust account. At the moment, the account holds approximately 3.5 million Rand acquired from illegal gambling at foreign gambling sites.
South Africa’s gambling market is one of the most controlled and rigorous in the world. While land-based gambling operators can provide different types of gambling services without any troubles, online gambling is still illegal in this country.
However, the South African government that has raised taxes for land-based operators will soon realize that allowing online gambling can bring them a much greater income without creating a lot of trouble. After all, people will continue to visit gambling sites that are not located within their jurisdiction and in that way send the money out of the country.
Patience is the key in this case, and I believe that, in no time, South Africans will change their opinion about online gambling laws.