However, this factor did not prevent gambling from becoming a well-established part of local culture. By the 1990s when gambling eventually received the nod for legalisation to become officially recognised as a fully regulated industry, thousands of unlicensed gambling venues already existed throughout the nation. The numbers were so great it made the newly formed National Gambling Board’s (NGB) task to enforce the recently enacted laws by near impossible.
Since then, the landscape and face of gambling in the country changed dramatically. Currently, SA residents enjoy the freedom to legally engage in as many forms of gambling as people would in most other countries.
Despite the centuries-old government ban on gambling within the country, it has a long history and highly popular pastime for many and some, it proved a highly profitable full-time occupation. The law mostly turned a blind eye as long as its practitioners did not become a problem and remained inconspicuous.
Is Gambling Legal in South Africa?
From its earliest years, the government proclaimed all forms of gambling illegal, aside from betting on horse racing. At first, casinos sprang up self-governed territories known as tribal homelands; regions set aside for African natives. These first land-based gambling venues made use of the relaxed gambling laws to establish themselves in these areas. After the end of the apartheid era with the ANC in power, gambling became legalised, which quickly gave way to the launch of a national lottery and casino certification system.
Currently, SA law limits online gambling activities to sports betting only, this despite the existence of more than 40 land-based casinos operating within the city limits of every major South African metropole. However, the NGB’s annual report for 2016 indicated that the country’s national regulatory body might consider further legalisation and regulation affecting the activities surrounding internet-based gambling types such as online casinos.
If this becomes a reality, SA residents may see premier online sportsbooks and casinos such as Bwin open their doors to accept local residents as members. In addition to offering an excellent sportsbook product, casino aficionados will have access to its world-class casino lounge featuring a huge number of variants of popular traditional casino table gaming entertainment types including slots, keno, poker, video poker, baccarat, blackjack, and roulette.
According to an NGB report from 2009 approximately 29% of the country’s residents regularly participated in the National Lottery, while those regularly engaging in Scratch Cards and casino activities amounted to 6%, with sports betting (mainly horse racing) figures coming in at 3%.
Despite the relaxation of gambling laws, it currently remains illegal for a SA resident to gamble at international online casinos and sportsbooks. Many international sportsbook and casino venues welcome local players and accept the Rand as a valid currency for funding their gambling. However, acceptance at an international online gambling venue still does not make the player’s actions legal, which means the player engages in any such activities at the risk of prosecution.