Gambling is a real mind-boggling issue in South Africa and it has been like that for dozens of years now. The prohibiting laws themselves are very clear, but there are thousands of South African players doing it anyways. The main reasons of these actions could be the lack of knowledge, the rise of offshore opportunities gaining popularity or simply just ignorance. But one thing for sure, regulations are exact and they have been crystal clear for a long time. Although the recent declarations from the South African government are still strong, but they seem to be easing up a little bit. After all, the bottom line is still that most types of online gambling are permitted in South Africa. All in all, the South African gambling market has great potential to become the one of the bigger in the online casino world. This statement is backed up by a research study made several years ago. It shows that 86.2% of the questioned people said they participate in some sort of gambling regularly.
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Online casino jurisdictions in South Africa
Gambling was heavily regulated in South Africa for the past 50 years by very strict and straightforward laws. Let’s go through some of its history.
At first, the 1965 Gambling Act ruled out and restricted all ways of gambling, except for betting on horse racing because they declared it as a sporting activity.
Later, in the 1970s the first signs of land-based casinos appeared in areas, where South African inhabitants were residing. While in the following 20 years these gambling places grew not just in the quoted areas, but all over South Africa.
In the early 1990s the number of these unlicensed, unregulated and illegally operating casinos was over 2,000.
The end of this era came in 1994, when the administration of a new government legalized all gambling activities and in 1996, when the National Gambling Act was introduced and stirred up the way of casino gaming. It made provision for the regulations of all casino activities. The Act gave definitions to different gambling notions and introduced a license-system, where 40 permits were allowed throughout the nation with limitations to each province. The National Gambling Act also founded an organization – National Gambling Board or NGB – to oversee and supervise the whole gambling industry.
In 2004 the National Gambling Act was released in a revised version focusing more on the “new forms of gambling”, in other words: online casino gambling.
The year of 2008 brought the National Gambling Amendment Act, which was published with the intention of reversing the actual live laws and regulations about online casino gambling but it hasn’t come into power yet. Some lobbyists were supporting the complete legalization of all internet-gambling, but most of the other parties were doing the opposite.
Finally, in 2010 the South African online casino market reached its current state, by the government blocking and banning all online casino gambling (even on servers located outside of South Africa) except for licensed horse racing and sports betting.
Actual legality of online casino play in South Africa
The official website of the National Gambling Board (or NGB) technically states that online gambling is illegal, but the practice of actions by the actual state officials do not necessarily support the resolution. As stated before, online gambling in South Africa has tremendous potential and there are so many people doing it (technically) illegally, but there is no physical evidence or neither any criminal records showing anyone getting arrested for playing at an online casino. Getting caught and being found guilty on court could though result a fine of 10 million ZAR ($637,300) or 10 years of prison.
The NGB provides an explanation for the ban of online casinos, and says that they need to keep up with “all new developments of the gaming area”. Their website doesn’t make any further statements on legality other than quoting the National Gambling Act.
Online casinos excluding South African players
While South African online gambling laws don’t allow the existence of internet-casinos inside the borders of the country, there still are thousands of South Africans playing. The question is, how?
The answer is fairly easy to be explained and understood: the jurisdiction emphasizes the responsibility on banks, financial institutions and operators of gaming sites and doesn’t target the law against players explicitly. Therefore, it is the online casinos’ decision to make, if they want to accept players from South Africa. The gaming sites that do accept South Africans are all at offshore locations, where they are far enough away not to have any consequences.
Land-based casino gambling in South Africa
Gambling in general has always been a part of South Africa and when the National Gambling Act came into power in 1996 and the illegally and unregulated gambling areas shut down, some extremely premium casinos opened year-after-year in their place. All the 40 legally permitted casinos are premium gambling places offering great accommodation, fine dining, quality entertainment and the latest shows for guests. Players can choose from hundreds of slot machines, tens of table games all offering high variety of the most favorite and internationally played games. Some of the best land-based casinos found in South Africa are Sun City Casino in Rustenburg offering 125,000 square feet (11,612 m2) of gaming space with 852 slots and 33 tables; MonteCasino in Johannesburg offering 278,871 square feet (25,907 m2) of gaming space with 1,700 slots and 70 tables and GrandWest in Cape Town offering 120,000 square feet (11,148 m2) of gaming space with 2,563 slots and 79 tables.
Gambling is a real mind-boggling issue in South Africa and it has been like that for dozens of years now….