Complete Guide to Casino Gambling for South Africans

Gambling in South Africa was technically prohibited for centuries since late 1600s. However, this does not mean gaming hasn't long been part of the nation's culture. By the time gambling was legalized for regulation in the 1990s, there were thousands of unlicensed casinos running throughout the country, so many that it was difficult to enforce. Today, South Africans can enjoy many forms of legal gambling as they do in other places in the world.

Our complete guide includes everything a South African gambling fan should know about gaming in their country, including:

  • Online casino legality, so you never find yourself on the wrong side of the law
  • The ins and outs of government regulation
  • An explanation of security in online casinos
  • What you’'ll find at international casino sites.

Legal Gambling in South Africa

While gambling has long been a popular pastime for South Africans, for centuries it had to be conducted conspicuously as it was prohibited by the government. During apartheid and before, all forms of gambling were illegal except for betting on horse racing. Casinos began to emerge in the Bantustans (land set aside for native inhabitants) and became one of the most important sources of income for those that lived there. When apartheid ended in 1994 and the Democratic Party took power, gambling was legalized and a national lottery and casino certification system was instituted.

Today, there are SA land-based casinos operating in every major metropolitan area in South Africa, and over 40 total. While online gambling is currently limited to sports betting, the National Gambling Board (NGB) wrote in their 2014 annual report that further legalization and regulation of online gambling is a strong possibility for the near future. Good news for fans of popular casino games like keno, slots, video poker, poker, blackjack, baccarat and roulette.

What were the first gambling laws enacted?

The first ban on gambling came from the Dutch at Cape Colony in in 1673. Since then, gambling in South Africa remained extremely restricted and the 1965 South Africa Gambling Act officially prohibited all forms of betting except that on horse racing.

What laws apply to modern-day gambling in South Africa?

The National Gambling Act of 1996 established standards for the legal enjoyment of slot machines, casino games, lotteries, and other types of gambling. Operators for these forms of gaming must first register and be licensed by their respective province's gambling board. After a high court decision in 2010, participating in or providing online gambling (even on sites located outside the republic) was banned.

Notably though, online sports betting is legal. Just like casinos, online bookies must be licensed by the gambling and racing board in their province. There have been recent initiatives in Parliament to extend legal online gaming to all the standard casino games that players in other countries enjoy.

Who regulates the South African gaming industry?

Gaming in South Africa is supervised and regulated by the National Gambling Board. Established in 1996, the NGB's regulation is congruent with that of the highest international standards of compliance for casinos and gambling. Along with nine other African nations, South Africa is part of the Gaming Regulators Africa Forum (GRAF) which combats illegal and unlicensed gambling operations in the southern half of Africa.

South African Player Information

While lottos, slot machines, casinos, and sports betting are all legalized, regulated, and able to be enjoyed by South Africans at their leisure, gambling online is a far grayer area. Online betting (on horse racing and sports) is legal when using a bookmaker licensed by the South African government. However, online gambling based in South Africa (casino games and all other types of online wagering) is prohibited.

Enforcement of these laws is spotty, however, and many claim that government punishment is aimed more at operators as opposed to individual players. There is always an inherent risk in gambling on the Internet (and doing anything related to money), and players should make smart consumer decisions about what online casino to trust if they choose to do so. Fortunately, there have been recent pushes in Parliament to legalize online gambling.

How many South Africans gamble regularly?

A 2009 NGB report estimated that 29% of South African citizens regularly participated in lotto games. Scratch cards and casino games were both estimated at 6% participation and horse/sports betting at 3%. In a country of 53 million people, these participation numbers contribute about 1% of the nation's GDP.

Are South Africans allowed to play on international online casinos?

While within the country's borders, South Africans are prohibited from gambling with international companies. Players may come across international sites that cater to South African players by accepting the rand, however this does not make these sites legal and choosing to gamble is at the risk of the player.

Can I legally deposit and withdraw money to online casinos?

Not legally, as online gambling in all forms is currently not permitted in South Africa. Players, banks, internet providers, and online casino operators are all subject to large fines and jail time if caught and penalized. Depositing and withdrawing at online sportsbooks is perfectly legal.

Do I have to pay taxes on my iGaming winnings?

Yes and no. South Africans betting on sports do not have to pay any sort of income tax on their winnings. However, winnings from horse racing wagers have a 6% Value-Added Tax (VAT) deducted. And because again, online gambling is currently a punishable offense in South Africa, it would probably not be wise to report winnings coming from other forms of online gaming.

Do online casinos offer play in ZAR?

Many sites trying to bring in South African players will honor ZAR. Even if a particular online casino does not explicitly accept rand, it can always be converted into an accepted currency (subject to fees). Playing on casinos that accept South African rand lets you deposit, withdraw, and view your transaction history all in your home currency. All South African Internet sportsbooks will also accept their home currency.

Secure Online Casinos for South Africans

Currently, online gambling is technically illegal in South Africa for fear of taking away revenue from land-based casinos. Although many sites take chances with trying to bring in South African players, know that anyone caught operating or gambling online illegally is subject to a fine of R10m, 10 years of jail time, or both. However, The Remote Gambling Bill is set to be voted on by Parliament in early 2015. Should it pass, online gambling would become legal for South Africans.

Before trusting their money with any online casino (regardless of its legal stature in its home nation), players should do thorough research on the site. The security level of a company can be discovered by looking for seals of approval from organizations such as eCOGRA and Verisign. This means the casino undergoes frequent audits for security and fair play. However, as long as online gambling prohibition exists in South Africa, players should be cautious when playing at any online casino with real money. Reading reviews on sites like OnlineCasinoReports.com can also give good insight into a casino's trustworthiness.

How do South Africans know that their funds are safe?

Players worried about the security of their funds should look for casinos that have a seal of approval from VeriSign or a similar service. Usually found on the bottom of a casino's homepage, this logo signifies that the site uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. This means that when a player deposits or withdraws funds, they are doing so on a secure channel between player and casino that no one else has access to.

Is play fair on the online casinos?

The most reputable SA online casinos use software companies with pristine reputations, such as Playtech or RTG. Any casino licensed by an oversight organization like eCOGRA is subject to regular fair play audits as well.

Casinos meeting these standards of quality are ensured to have a fair and up-to-date random number generators for their games.

Does a player have recourse if they suspect unfair activity?

Yes. For online casinos based in South Africa, players can report suspected unfair play or financial practices to the NGB. Issues should also be reported to any other certifying organization such as VeriSign or eCOGRA.

Responsible Gaming for South Africans

The National Responsible Gaming Programme (NRGP) runs counseling, research, education, and industry training programs related to problem gambling in South Africa. The program claims to be "the only of its kind in the world that is jointly controlled by a public/private sector partnership which involves government regulators and the industry."

Information about the organization's 24/7 hotline as well as educational information can be found at responsiblegambling.co.za.

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