Gaming

Understanding the Loophole in Gambling Law in South Africa Allowing Online Casinos

There is much confusion and debate with regards to whether or not online gambling is legal in South Africa. One of the questions we get asked most by SA based online casino enthusiasts is whether it is legal to gamble online. If you’re located in South Africa and are confused about issues of legality, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to explain how to gamble online from within South Africa without having technically violated any of the laws and thus steer clear of any legal repercussions. 

Firstly, there is no one straightforward answer to the question of whether online gambling is legal in SA or not? The fact is it depends on various factors. It could be legal or illegal depending on things such as the age of the player, where the server of the online casino / sportsbook is located, what form of online gambling games you playing, etc. 

History of Online Gambling Laws in South Africa

Despite a long history of anti-gambling sentiment, the government took the courageous step of abolishing a blanket prohibition on all gambling operations in 1994 and introducing a thorough licensing structure in the 1996 National Gambling Act. The Act handed the National Gambling Board the authority to begin regulating the business, as well as giving the nine South African provinces the authority to begin licensing both physical casinos and online sportsbooks. The National Gambling Act of 2004 added to the liberalization, however, internet casinos remained banned.

While the new laws allowed physical casinos to offer a wider range of sports betting and other options, the same could not be said for online providers. Sports betting is the only form of online gambling that was legal in South Africa, and any online sportsbooks must be licensed by one of the provinces. An amendment to entirely legalize internet gambling was announced in 2008, but it was never adopted, putting casino fans in a difficult situation.

Recent Clarification Issued by the National Gambling Board

Since the amendment was proposed to completely legalize online gambling in 2008, the topic of legality of online casinos became a debated topic among many stake holders who interpreted the text in the law books differently.

In order to put this question to bed for good, the NGB published a statement in the media making it clear that online or interactive gambling was not considered legal, with the exception of sports betting. The statement further went on to clarify – “As the Amendment Act prescribes that it will only come into effect on a future date to be fixed by the President, by proclamation in the Gazette, and the President has never done so, the Amendment Act thus cannot be relied upon or referenced as being the law regarding the regulation of interactive gaming or online gambling. The National Gambling Act of 2004 remains the supreme national regulatory prescript for regulating the gambling industry in the Republic of South Africa, and in terms thereof, interactive gambling, as envisaged in the Amendment Act of 2008, remains prohibited”

So, what is the loop hole?

In 2011, the law changed again and it was explained by authorities that online gambling is illegal when the service is hosted within South Africa. This is where the loop hole came in. 

Basically, if the online casino service provider offers online casino gaming to South African players from a server which is located offshore (not within the borders of South Africa), then these companies are not subject to the laws of South Africa. Therefore, South African players can simply choose to play online casino games from foreign operators who are licensed by foreign regulatory bodies such as the Curacao Gaming Commission, the Malta Gaming Authority or the UK Gambling Commission. 

Best Online Casinos for South African Players

Many hundreds of thousands of South African players now play at online casinos hosted all around the world, as long as it is not located within South Africa. However, this does not mean that online casino gambling is always safe and risk free. There are many unregulated and unlicensed casinos out there, which simply defraud naïve and unsuspecting players. Therefore, we always suggest sticking to reputed and licensed foreign online casinos, recommendations made by GamblingAfrica.com is a great place to find trustworthy, high quality online casinos which accept South African players.

In summary, South African players or anyone residing in South Africa can legally bet on sports online through any online sportsbook website licensed by the National Gaming Board. There are also plenty of legal online lottery websites and services that adult SA residents can partake in. However, when it comes to online casino gambling, it is considered illegal and South African players that still want to play online casino games will have to find foreign online casino websites and services that accept SA based players. 

Note: Readers of this website should get legal assistance from their attorney if they have any questions about a specific legal problem. Without first receiving legal advice from counsel in the applicable jurisdiction, no reader, user, or surfer of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site.

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