Can you legally gamble online in South Africa, and what about playing at online casinos?
South Africa has the largest gambling market on the continent, and boasts around fifty casinos, including world-class resorts offering the full range of slots and table games, such as roulette, blackjack, craps, and baccarat. There are also hundreds of licensed bookmakers around the country where people can place wagers on horse racing and sporting events, with gamblers even allowed to place sports and horse racing bets online. Nevertheless, online casinos are banned in South Africa.
The following questions appear on the FAQ page of the National Gambling Boards website:
NGB Online Casino Warning
The following warning appears on the home page of the NGB (National Gambling Board) website:
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.
How Can Local Bookmakers Offer Online Casino Games?
How can local online bookmakers offer online casino games legally? I contacted the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board (WCGRB) and asked the following question:
Dear Sir / Madam
I noticed an online advert advertising that a local online bookmaker was legally allowed to offer live online roulette games through their website.
I want to find out if this is indeed legal for South Africans, as I am aware that all other forms of online casinos are not legally allowed?
I received the following reply:
Good day Mark
Bookmakers are allowed to take fixed odds bets on any legal contingency. Licensed bookmakers are therefore allowed to offer fixed odds for the live roulette contingency. This is not a live online casino gambling, and you are correct, online casino gambling is illegal in South Africa.
Well, as you can see, it’s perfectly legal to play casino games offered by local online bookmakers.
Gambling has been severely restricted in South Africa since 1673, with the first tentative steps towards regulating the industry taken after the Gambling Act of 1965 officially banned all forms of gambling, except for horse betting. In 1996, South Africa subsequently overhauled three centuries of restrictive laws when The National Gambling Act established a National Gambling Board (NGB) and permitted a number of licensed land-based casino operations, as well as an official national lottery.
In 2004, the National Gambling Act was repealed to make online sports and horse race betting legal within the country’s borders following the acquisition of an official license. Meanwhile, all other forms of online gambling became illegal, including casinos, poker, and bingo. The National Gambling Amendment Act introduced in 2008 then aimed to legalise and regulate all interactive gambling games, but ultimately failed to pass into law, mostly due to objections put forward by the South African casino industry.
The National Gambling Board
The National Gambling Board is an agency within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that is responsible for monitoring and supervising all gambling activities within South Africa. This includes ensuring that all businesses comply with legislation and uphold the best standards of the industry.
The NGB is also tasked, whenever necessary, with investigating the issuing of national licenses by individual regulatory bodies throughout the country’s nine provinces. Gambling operators are free to offer their online sports and horse racing services in South Africa, provided they first obtain a national license from a provincial licensing authority.