Is Online Gambling Legal in South Africa?
Is it safe for South Africans to gamble online? Is online gambling legal in South Africa? Could you be punished for gambling online in SA? Find answers to these questions and more in our expert legal review covering South Africa’s history of gambling laws, current legal landscape and likely future developments in the country’s online gambling legislation.
The Current Legal Status of Online Gambling
So, is online gambling legal in South Africa in 2021? The official answer is ‘no’ but there is still a lot of ambiguity around the law. The National Gambling Amendment Bill of 2018 legalized sports betting but still didn’t regulate legal online casinos in South Africa.
The bill still includes Clause 11 from the 2004 act stating that “a person must not engage in or make available an interactive game except as authorised in terms of this Act or any other national law.” Given that Clause 11 focuses more on the casino operators within South African borders and much less on the casino players themselves, one can safely partake in gambling with minimal risk of prosecution.
This grey area of online gambling in South African law comes as the government doesn’t have real resources or priority to fully regulate and monitor online gambling in the country. Therefore many international reputable online casinos offer services to South African players through offshore servers and infrastructure. Practically this legal loophole means that although there are no official legal online casinos in South Africa you can still play the most popular casino games safely and securely with very little to worry about.
How to Safely Play at Online Casinos in South Africa
Like anywhere else in the world, South African casino players should follow a few guidelines to make sure their online casino experience is fun and safe. We created a list of criteria to help you find the safest online casinos in South Africa.
Although officially there are no legal online casinos in South Africa you can still play at casinos that are subject to strict international compliance and licensing. Some of the most popular online casinos in South Africa for example operate under a Curacao licence that requires them to go through due diligence and ongoing compliance checks by the Curacao government. We also look at the casino’s track record and reputation amongst South African and international players.
An online casino is only as good as the banking methods it provides that will let you make deposits and withdrawals. All our recommended casinos offer a variety of payment methods including international online banking available to SA players, as well as localized bank transfers and payment methods tailored to the SA market.
Accepts Local Currency
There are quite a few casinos that will let you deposit, play and withdraw in local ZAR currency. Beyond the local and safe experience with a casino that tries harder to cater to its South African customers, ZAR casinos help you save money on currency exchange rates and transaction fees.
As customer service is one of the biggest factors contributing to a good gambling experience, we always recommend casinos that provide localized support that is designed for South African players. This includes agents that understand local payment methods, the safest available services, popular South African games and more.
South Africa is a mobile-savvy country with many casino players looking to play on their mobile devices. Our mobile casino reviews include careful research of the encryption, data protection, banking and device compatibility (for Android, iOS and Windows) – so we recommend only operators that offer the best mobile casinos for South African players.
The History of South African Online Gambling Laws
Gambling legislation in South Africa dates to 1673 when Dutch settlers banned gambling across the country. Over three centuries later, today’s market is growing rapidly with the best online casinos offering SA players a local and secure banking methods, the world’s most popular games and mobile casinos that can be accessed from anywhere.
Considering all the growth and innovation one question remains: Is online gambling legal in South Africa? Our team of experts conducted extensive research to write this guide that includes legal history, to better understand the current legality of online gambling in SA.
The Gambling Act of 1965
Since Dutch settlers banned gambling in 1673, unregulated gambling halls and activities emerged and flourished under outdated and unclear laws. Things became formal when the South African Department of Trade and Industry officially released the Gambling Act of 1965 which banned all types of gambling except for horserace betting which until today is classified as a sport.
The Rise of Casinos in the 1970s
In the 1970s land-based casinos started springing up in the Bantustans (homelands) including Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda. Because of racial divide, these casinos served mainly local communities and the government never bothered to enforce bans. What started as a handful of small rooms offering a few slot machines got bigger and by 1995 it was estimated that over 2,000 of these unregulated casinos were operating in South Africa.
The National Gambling Act of 1996
When South Africa was declared a full democracy in 1994 the Gambling Act of 1965 was abolished and the government went on to pass the National Gambling Act of 1996 by first issuing a 40 licenses that regulated legal lotteries and casinos in the country. Given these were very early days for online gambling around the world, the act refers to land-based casinos and has no reference to online gambling South African law.
With the 1996 act came the NGB (National Gambling Board) which oversees licensing, compliance, market research and monitoring of unlicensed gambling. The NGB isn’t a legislative body so it is important to understand that it doesn’t determine by itself if online gambling is legal in South Africa.
The National Gambling Act of 2004
The National Gambling Act of 2004 replaced the act of 1996 and concentrated on controlling gambling and using its proceeds to help develop infrastructure in South Africa’s rural communities. It was also the first time the government acknowledged online gambling in South African law by stating that it is generally considered illegal in the country.
The ambiguous law, blanket ban and surge in online gambling popularity kept an open debate on making online gambling legal and South Africa. In 2008 the National Gambling Amendment Act was created with the aim of legalizing online gambling in the country, but it was overruled by the Gauteng High Court in 2010.
Summary of South Africa’s Online Gambling Laws
From the National Gambling Act of 2004, through the unsuccessful legislative challenge to make online gambling legal in South Africa in 2008, to the most recent Gambling Act of 2018 – the South African government is slowly but steadily regulating gambling and unofficially leaving the door open for legal online casinos in South Africa.
As the government raised taxes on land-based casinos, ministers are beginning to see the huge advantages and potential tax revenues from making online gambling legal in South Africa. In what many consider to be a temporary strategy, the government has left a very loose ban on online gambling which mainly prohibits the operation of online casinos from within the country, but the casino players themselves have never been targeted. So it is very likely that we will soon see government licenced, legal online casinos in South Africa.