Anywhere in the world where you can find people you’ll find gamblers. And anywhere you can find a big enough concentration of gamblers, you can find a government intent on shutting them down.
Gambling may be one of the world’s oldest vices, but it remains as controversial as ever, despite the supposedly more liberal and enlightened times we live in. Take South Africa for example. Of all the problems to afflict the giant landmass, gambling could be thought to figure somewhere near the bottom of the pecking order. Doesn’t its government have more pressing matters to attend to? Apparently not. Stopping the roulette fun seems to be a priority!
Ever since 2004, online gambling, save for limited sports betting at a handful of licensed sites, has been illegal in SA, and it’s not illegal in the vague, grey, quasi sense that it is in many countries – it’s straight up illegal in black and white.
Of course the legality or illegality of any vice has little impact upon the demand for it, and South Africa’s gamblers aren’t going to let a little thing like the law prevent them from indulging their love of roulette, slots and poker. Tens of thousands of South Africans are believed to have online gambling accounts that they regularly use to play at offshore casinos.
The History of Gambling in South Africa
Gambling has been commonplace in South Africa for well over 300 years, and attempts to restrict it have been in place for almost as long. The pursuit has been regulated since the late 17th century, culminating in the South Africa Gambling Act of 1965, which outlawed all forms of gambling save for betting on horse racing.
Despite these swingeing laws, they didn’t deter a number of bold and enterprising South African firms from opening casinos in the late 70s, albeit in semi-independent parts of the country that were out of reach to the general populace.
By the mid 90s, there were reputed to be 2,000 illegal casinos in the country. It was around this time, when the new democratic government was sworn in, that gambling was legalised, with the NGA of 1996 allowing for licensed casinos and a national lottery to be created.
Who Calls the Shots in South Africa’s Gambling Industry?
When the National Gambling Act of 1996 was drawn up, the National Gambling Board was created at the same time. It is the duty of this body to regulate the country’s labyrinthine gambling trade, from slots to scratchcards and from horse racing to casino games such as roulette and blackjack.
Over and above the work carried out by the National Gambling Board, each of the country’s 9 provinces operates its own gambling and racing board. In addition to issuing licenses to bookies, each board – of which the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board is the largest – is tasked with dispensing and monitoring the 32 online bookmakers licenses that are up for grabs. These are the only online gambling licenses that are available to South African firms.
What the Law Says About Online Gambling in South Africa
According to the National Gambling Act of 2004, online casinos, poker sites, bingo sites and other web-based betting sites are banned. The reasons for this are numerous, including the usual moral outrage over it being a supposedly degenerate pursuit that encourages the desperate to spend beyond their means.
There were also less altruistic reasons for South Africa’s near-total ban on online gambling: the pursuit was taking a chunk out of the pockets of the nation’s land-based casinos, and their owners weren’t happy.
How seriously does the South African government treat offenders of the NGA? How does a fine of R10 million and up to 10 years in jail sound? In practice, no player is ever going to be hit with a sentence like this, or an operator for that matter.
Still, it shows the government’s intent: they’re serious about wanting to crack down on online gambling. If you’re based in SA and want to play a spot of online roulette, go ahead, but don’t broadcast your intentions. Discretion is the watchword here.
Where Can South African Players Play Roulette Online
If you’re eager to play roulette and other casino games online from South Africa you’ll need to be smart. Smart and sly. Not only are South African companies prohibited from offering casino-style games such as roulette via the web, but access to gaming servers located outside of the country has been banned since 2010.
You can bet on horses or sports online as a South African, but that’s about it. In addition to facing a hefty fine and/or imprisonment for playing at an online casino, there are similar penalties extended to South African media who advertise gambling services.
Not surprisingly, the country’s newspapers, magazines, radio and TV refrain from promoting online casino gambling. Given the stiff penalties reserved for violators of the law, you might think that South Africans would save their roulette playing for the land-based casinos, where they are at least allowed to wager without incurring the wrath of their government.
In reality, it’s not practical or desirable to trek to a real world casino every time you want to play some table games any more than it is in a Western European country. The problem is compounded in South Africa by the fact that many people live in small townships with little in the way of transport infrastructure linking them to the major cities where the casinos are.
How to Access Online Casino Games from South Africa
Instead, thousands of citizens play casino games online on smartphones and laptops. Despite the government’s attempt to crack down on the availability of foreign casinos within the country, the internet is all but impossible to regulate. South Africans can play at any online casino they can access that’s willing to take their money.
If they can’t access it directly, Tor or a VPN can be used to connect. The most popular online casino for South African players supposedly is Realtime Gaming, which is registered in Costa Rica.
The Future of Gambling in South Africa
Despite the government’s hardline position when it comes to online gambling, South Africans are in fact extremely fond of gambling in various forms; 97% of the country regularly plays the National Lottery, over 27% play slots and 11.5% bet on horses. Due to the ban on online gambling, it’s impossible to gauge how many roulette players there are.
The ones who play legally do so at the country’s large land-based premises such as the Tusk Rio Casino Resort and Tsogo Sun Montecasino; the rest prefer to keep their online gaming habits to themselves. While the future of online gambling in South Africa will surely see a relaxing of the rules at some point, don’t count on this happening any time soon.
Is gambling legal in South Africa?
The country has licensed land-based casinos and horse racing bookies. It also has a limited number of of online sports betting sites. Other forms of online gambling including roulette and similar casino games are outlawed however.
Do I have to pay tax on gambling winnings in South Africa?
Is it safe to gamble online in South Africa?
While individual prosecutions are unlikely, bear in mind that there are potentially tough penalties for violating the law when it comes to online gambling that may include prison or a fine.
Where can South African players gamble online?
It’s possible to gamble online at overseas casinos. Some of these will readily accept South African customers, but be discreet and use a payment method that obfuscates your country of origin.