Online Gambling laws in South Africa

South Africa is one of the biggest economies in Africa. The country has a robust betting market that in 2020 amounted to R32.7 billion. According to the National Gambling Board of South Africa, the government was able to raise taxes and levies amounting to R3.2 billion. Additionally, statistics show that one in every 10 South Africans participates in gambling.

We will introduce the general laws regarding gambling in South Africa and dig deeper into the online laws — specifically, laws relating to Sports Betting, Casinos, Bingo, Poker and Lottery. The gambling field in South Africa has attracted many players including researchers and analysts in the gambling industry.

Gambling in South Africa before 1996 was illegal, except for horse racing. However, with the rapid growth of the activity in Africa and the world, the government saw it necessary to legislate on it, and earn the much-needed revenue. With the passing of the National Gambling Act 1996, gambling became legal and in 2004, a National Gambling Policy Council was incorporated into the Act, which would ensure policy alignment in both national and provincial governments.

National Gambling Board

The Act introduced the National Gambling Board (NGB) as a regulatory body that was to ensure the proper regulation and coordination of gambling in South Africa. The minister responsible for the Department of Trade and Industry convenes and chairs the National Gambling Policy Council meetings to discuss policy issues with provincial executives responsible for gambling. The body is responsible for reviewing the licenses issued by the Provincial Bodies, ensuring compliance by the license holders, and also initiating research and reporting on the social impact and gambling trends.

Provincial Licensing Authorities

There are nine Provincial Licensing Authorities (PLAs) from the country’s nine provinces. Each PLA has authority in the province it operates to consider and review applications, and give licenses in respect of gambling, racing, casinos and wagering. Additionally, the PLAs undertake inspections to confirm that operators conform with the National Gambling Act 2004, and also their provincial legislation.

Having understood the general overview of the gambling laws in South Africa, we will now go ahead and look at the specific laws regulating each sector in South Africa.

Online Casino laws

Online casino games can be described as products of the coronavirus, with many punters resorting to online casinos during bans on public gatherings. Legislation that legalises online casinos has often been met with utter dissidents especially by land-based casinos, as they will be a big threat to them. There was an attempt to legislate the online casino industry through the Remote Gambling Bill of 2014, but the bill failed to go through. Despite being outright illegal, people still play on illegal sites.

Online Bingo laws

Offline Bingo remains very popular in the provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The National Gambling Board had allowed Bingo to be played in and out of the casino. Gauteng went ahead and included the use of electronic bingo terminals (EBTs) that have technologically advanced the game of bingo. The other provinces have amended their statutes to include EBTs and how they are to be conducted. Online Bingo has therefore been snuck in through EBTs, although the number and machines remain fairly regulated.

Online Sports Betting laws

Online sports betting is lawful and legal, despite lacking a specific statute that addresses it. Under the National Gambling Act, all interactive games that possess licenses are allowed to operate in South Africa and can offer online sports betting. Additionally, Sections 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Act lists all the activities that are not disallowed and goes ahead to list down the criminal sanctions that may follow where one is involved in them.

Online Poker laws

There was confusion on the legality of Online Poker in South Africa up until the judiciary expressly pronounced itself and said this form of gambling was illegal. However, it is imperative to acknowledge three things:

  • Gamblers continue to play online poker, especially on international platforms.
  • No one in South Africa has ever been prosecuted for playing online poker.
  • Attempts to legislate on the same continue in all nine provinces.
  • We can therefore deduce that online poker may be illegal by statute, but the enforcement of the rules remains to be seen.

Online Lottery laws

The Lottery has been a household gambling activity since 1996 after the enactment of the National Gambling Act that legalised it. The act however did not encompass the evolving technology and therefore lacked provisions for online lottery gambling. This has been reinstated by the NGB which has banned all forms of online lottery activities. However, the South African citizenry continues to engage in an online lottery, as there remains a lacuna in that sphere.

Online gambling laws in South Africa remain very grey in terms of catching up with modern technology that is evolving every day. We believe that people will always participate in forms of gambling, especially those that have high returns, and therefore urge that the legislature be alive to the changes that happen in the tech world.


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