Betting in South Africa has never been straight forward. With new governments, new regulations have followed, and even new perspectives on the enjoyable pastime.
Despite the ever-changing laws around betting, South Africans have consistently been warming to the idea for decades. Today, over 80% of the population buys a National Lottery ticket once a week in hopes of striking gold. With that in mind, it is surely not too much of a leap for South Africans to place bets in more conventional ways, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that.
There have been several efforts made by the authorities to outright ban online gambling, and while they have thus far been unsuccessful, the desire to do so is certainly a worrisome trend for bookmakers. Much of the hostility towards gambling is due to the nation’s complex relationship with it historically – which is far from straight forward.
The first European settlers in modern-day South Africa, the Dutch, outright banned the practice upon arrival in 1663. A few hundred years later, in 1965, such laws were reiterated in the form of the Gambling Act. The decision of the Dutch was never formally put into law, and so, the country decided to solidify it in the mid-60s. The only exception to the gambling ban was horse racing – a pastime enjoyed by much of the aristocracy.
However, the 1970s would usher in a new era, as casinos began sprouting up across the land. This seemed to facilitate a new phenomenon in the years that would follow – illegal casinos. By 1995, it was reported that there were as many as 2000 operational illegal casinos in South Africa, though many were small in scale. This led to the formation of another Gambling Act in 1996, one which permitted casinos and National Lotteries to operate, so long as they attained a license first.
In 2004, another pivotal piece of legislation was passed, one which this time made online casino gambling illegal. Lawmakers encountered a lot of resistance, leading to numerous legal challenges throughout the 2000s. Check out Smartbettingguide to discover some alternative ways to gamble online.
While some strides were made, the law today remains fuzzy, and officially, online gambling is strictly forbidden in South Africa. Online betting can supposedly be carried out legally if done through a licensed South African bookmaker – but even then, the customer’s banks may raise the alarm.
Essentially, casinos that operate outside of the law are normally prosecuted, but customers who use such sites aren’t. This means that many South Africans enjoy online gambling without the fear of being arrested. Banks are also liable in this regard, but everyday citizens need not worry about such ramifications. While online gambling is tightly regulated, real-world casinos are not. On the contrary, they continue to enjoy great success – as indeed do national lotteries.
How Popular is it in 2020?
It’s been a mixed bag this year for the betting industry in South Africa. Casinos maintained their status as the primary revenue driver, though that naturally declined due to the pandemic. Online gambling has subsequently enjoyed something of a boost in return, though the National Lottery attracted the highest number of players overall.
With many events being cancelled this year, sports betting has invariably suffered. Horse racing was big business in the country, meaning that cancelled races left a big financial hole. There is also a concern generally – the world over – that increased economic hardship could see gambling outlets suffer. As a non-essential outlay, it’s an activity that can be hard to justify in such times. Whether that turns out to be true remains to be seen, but the theory has certainly worried some.
The South African gambling market remains one of the most controlled anywhere in the world. Many of the same historical prejudices against the act of placing bets remain in place, with only the lottery gaining true cultural and societal acceptance. Given its historically fraught relationship with all things gambling, passed down from the very earliest European colonists, it’s not hard to see why deregulation is slow in coming.
Despite the strict nature of their laws, a changing tide may be about to welcome in a new era. The tax revenue that is raised by land casinos is seemingly making the South African government think twice about their hard-line stance. This could have huge ramifications for the online gambling world – which is still technically outlawed. Patience is key, as many believe that shifting attitudes will soon see the countries citizens begin to embrace gambling rather than shun it.