Is Online Gambling illegal In South Africa?

Mar 9, 2020 | Casino Guide

There is no denying that the growth and popularity of online gambling within South Africa has exploded in recent years, and rightfully so, with Africa being such a large mobile centric market it was only a matter of time before established, predominantly land based casino’s turned their attention to offering convenient, fast and instant online gambling services to the South African players. The result of this shift has meant a flurry of top gaming portals and services from which local players can now pick and choose.

Online Gambling South Africa

The question however on many players minds still remains:

“Is online gambling illegal in South Africa?”.

Our team here at Slotzar pride themselves on providing the most up to date and accurate information pertaining to the world of online gambling, so we scoured the net in search of the answers to put your mind at ease.

South African Gambling Regulations

First things first, let’s start at the very top, It’s good for you to know exactly who regulates the Gambling industry in South Africa. In South Africa we have in place a board known as the National Gambling board or NGB.

The NGB was started off the back of the passing of the 1996 National Gambling Act and really their main responsibility is to oversee the regulation and integrity of the gambling industry within South Africa, this includes the acts of evaluating and issuing of national licenses, compliance monitoring of these licenses, and the monitoring and detection of any unlicensed gambling activity. Now that we know who regulates things from a South African gambling perspective, let’s take a small step back to give you a bit more context.

South Africa’s Gambling History

The best way to understand something is to go back to the very beginning right?. In South Africa this goes as far back as 1673, when gambling was originally restricted by the Dutch settlers. You’ll be pleased to know that things have progressed since then, slightly murky progressions but progression none the less. In 1965 things became somewhat more formal, the department of trade and industry officially released what is known as The Gambling Act of 1965, this piece of legislation pretty much banned all forms of gambling except for betting on horse racing, which is considered, and still considered to this day to be classified as a sport.

1970 arrived and this was really a defining year for gambling in South Africa, land based casinos suddenly started operating on the down low in the bantustans (also then known locally as the homelands), this included Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda.

South African Gambling Regulations

At that point in time it was really just a bunch of small rooms offering a couple of slot machines, and seeing as there was such a racial divide in the country at the time no one really bothered to take notice. The amazing thing is that this very low key start suddenly caught wind and by 1995 an estimated 2,000 illegal casinos were believed to be operating within the country.

Democracy to the rescue

When South Africa established its democratic status in 1994, the Lotteries and Gambling Board published an interim report which expressed a view that “the Gambling Act, 1965 (Act No. 51 of 1965) that was currently in effect no longer reflected the true moral viewpoint of the majority of South Africans and that the Government should legalise lotteries and gambling in the Republic of South Africa”, it was on the basis of this that the South African government took a decision to allow legalised, but regulated and licensed gambling in the country, legalised and regulated being the key words here.

The rise of the NGB

In 1996 South Africa looked to progress things slightly more and as a result they created a uniform structure and adherence of gambling in the country, the result of this is the National Gambling act of 1996 which was officially passed, the act stated that a total of 40 licenses across South Africa’s provinces would be issued allowing casinos and a national lottery to legally operate, if they obtain the relevant license of course.

South Africas Gambling History

It was also at this time that the National gambling board of South Africa was created, with the purpose of supervising and regulating the industry.

Illegal Online Gambling

There is a slight plot twist though, in 2004 The national gambling act of 2004 was suddenly introduced and its position instantly replaced the original act of 1996, the basis of the new act was built on the idea of protecting the public against the adverse effects of gambling, it also looked at means to contribute to infrastructure development in rural communities and finally limit, control and monitor possible proliferation of gambling and illicit gambling activities in South Africa.

The biggest change to this new act was the clause stating that interactive gambling (or online gambling) was now officially recorded and subsequently deemed illegal by all means within the borders of South Africa. 

South Africa’s current gambling status

2018 saw the final changes to the stance of online gambling in South Africa, certain clauses and sections stated in the National Gambling Act of 2004 were modified by way of the National Gambling amendment bill of 2018. The summary of the bill states that only sports betting is deemed to be legalised in South Africa, this includes horse racing.

Government at this stage also then took a decision to also allow legalized and regulated land based gambling in South Africa, given that the operated upheld the relevant license documentation.

In terms of interactive gaming (online gambling) however, section 11 of the gambling act 2004 issued by the NGB still remains firm, it states 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”.

There is a slightly grey area to the clause though, you see the act states interactive gaming may not be provided or made use of by any persons within the borders of South Africa, which is more focused on the online casino and less on the players themselves.

National Gambling Act

The grey area comes in that the government has no real means nor sufficient resources required to fully regulate the operations of all interactive gaming/gambling services marketed to South Africans, so the loophole is that many of these casinos will simply set up shop via offshore servers (the business is located outside of South Africa) and target South African players from there, this explains why many offshore casinos have continued to make available gambling services to South African players without any hassle.

The Verdict

Our verdict is simple, make sure to stick to the reputable, well recognised and track proven Casinos, there has only ever been one incident recorded regarding unlawful gambling activity and that was Piggs Peak casino out of Swaziland, so in our opinion you have very little to worry about if you are already playing or are looking to play online. If you are unsure though of who to trust then visit our Casino reviews section for a full detailed breakdown.