Online Casino Legalities Update

The future of online casino gambling in South Africa remains murky.  The National Gambling Board (NGB) frequently tries to remind South Africans that online gambling is illegal in the country.  The NGB released a long study in 2016 that detailed the odd circumstance that finds online casino gambling in South Africa to be both illegal and thriving.

The board also reminds people who are flouting the law that the fine for gambling online may be as high as R10 million with an accompanying jail sentence of up to ten years.  Nevertheless, online gambling in South Africa continues to grow, many gambling sites cater to South Africans by accepting Rand, and online casinos regularly add to the list of banking methods South Africans can avail themselves of. 

The situation is similar to that which obtains in Australia where online gambling is illegal at an online casino owned and operated by Aussies in Australia.  So the average Aussie simply gambles at an online casino not run out of Australia.

In South Africa it's a bit different.  The NGB can confiscate winnings and put them in an escrow fund called the Unlawful Winnings Trust.  Yet, enforcement of the law and confiscation of winnings never happens here.  Why?

A Complex Law

The dilemma the government faces in enforcing the law stems from the 2004 law called the National Gambling Act.  This law set down the only legal gambling in South Africa in addition to state lotteries that had been enacted pursuant to an earlier law.  The National Gambling Act legalized land based casinos, sports betting, and some gambling machines in carefully located venues.

The law did not directly say that online gambling was illegal.  Instead, it directed the NGB to investigate the matter.  In essence, the law made no direct statement regarding online gambling but put off such a decision pending a thorough study of the matter by the NGB.

Legalization: Maybe

In 2008 a law was passed that set in motion legalizing online gambling.  Observers at the time said that the 2008 law legalized online gambling in all but word.  The 2008 law was signed by the president but has yet to be implemented.  This is the limbo that online gambling sites and players find themselves in.

Another Report

A report by the Gambling Review Commission delivered in 2010 urged legalization and close regulation of online casinos.  The government rejected the report’s recommendation and the state of limbo continued.

The Supreme Court in 2011 stated that the location of an online casino was irrelevant to South African law then extant and that those offering online gambling and South African partaking of it were breaking the law.

Yet, the government through the NGB continues to eschew enforcement of the law.

The Online Scene

More than 1000 online venues serve South African gamblers.  They offer a full range of casino games and accept Rand.  The industry in South Africa is booming.  No one really knows the full extent of South African participation in online gambling because it is foolish to expect an online casino to report data on an ostensibly illegal practice the casino is encouraging South Africans to partake of.

The fast rise of online casinos serving South Africans has led to some highly unscrupulous sites enticing South Africans.  The big news is that South Africans have caught on to the dangers of gambling in an unregulated market so are relying on third party sites to help them both avoid the online thieves and to find reputable online casinos for their gambling pleasure.

The unscrupulous sites may delay payment of winnings, they may deny payment entirely, they may be in business for a very short time just to get deposits and then disappear, and they may be utterly lacking in security arrangements to protect players’ money and privacy.  The third party sites stay abreast of the good and the bad in the online gambling world and do as good a job as they can to warn players of the dangerous casinos.

Serving the Public by Recommendation

The corollary to this duty of the third party sites is to direct players to the top of the line online casinos.  In an unregulated environment such as South Africa it is very difficult for a new online casino to get a foothold through the third party sites.  New casinos must prove themselves in regulated markets.  The best third party sites keep track of how new casinos are doing in regulated environments so they can report back to their South African readers.

Thunderbolt Casino is regularly cited as a reputable casino with complete transparency and security.

Political Impasse

The Democratic Alliance party has tried to make online casino gambling both legal and regulated here.  The party’s purpose is twofold.  First, the party strives to protect South African gamblers from the unscrupulous purveyors of gambling and, second, to increase the public exchequer by collecting taxes on winnings and casino profits.

The ANC is still opposed to legalizing online casinos.

The Future

The gaudy report issued in 2016 has not been followed in more than lip service.  Land based casinos lobby the government to maintain the supposed illegality of online casinos.  The law that made land based casinos legal left the legality of online casinos in limbo.

The limbo state continues but there are some shining lights on the hill in the online casino business in South Africa.