Matthias Mueller, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Reacting to the debates revolving around the legality of online gambling in the country, the National Gambling Board of South Africa came out with a statement making it clear that online casinos are, in fact, illegal in the country.

In the release, the regulator had underlined the important section of the relevant law, which clearly and unequivocally states that all forms of interactive gaming, except for sports betting, are illegal in South Africa. The law extends to both the games’ organizers and the players.

Source of Confusion

The situation with online gambling in the country seems to be somewhat unclear. The source of the confusion and the reason why the NGB felt the need to come out with the strong-worded release lies in the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008.

The Act was supposed to regulate online gambling, but it never actually came into effect. Although it was passed by the National Assembly, it was never ratified by the President and published in the Gazette. Without these two conditions, the Act cannot be seen as the valid law regulating interactive gambling.

Therefore, all online gambling activities in the country are still governed by the National Gambling Act of 2004. As explained, this law makes it illegal to participate in any type of games of chance via interactive means with the exception of sports betting.

Cautioning Operators & Players Alike

The NGB’s latest proclamation is directed at online casinos and players alike. There are many gambling sites catering to South African players at the moment, some even offering best no deposit bonuses for new signups.

The regulator wants to make it clear that these operators are acting against the law and such activities are subject to criminal persecution.

At the same time, the NGB warns punters that they are also acting against the law by playing with these unlicensed and illegal operators. The law stipulates fines of up to R10 million for those found to be playing at an online casino with the potential of a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

On top of that, any winnings resulting from this type of play will be confiscated by the state.

In the final part of the announcement, the regulator appeals to the public to stay vigilant against any illicit online gambling activities and only gamble at licensed and state-approved sites in a safe and responsible manner.

Scare Tactics or a Real Threat?

South Africa isn’t the only country where online gambling is illegal. There are many places around the globe where internet gaming activities are either against the law or aren’t clearly defined by the laws, leaving things open for interpretation.

Most countries that do take the stance against online gambling are only focused on operators and preventing internet casinos from offering their services inside the country. However, the South African law clearly states that players can be persecuted as well and even go to prison for gambling online.

The question is, to what extent the country is willing to actually enforce the law with regards to the punters?

The announcement from the National Gambling Board was phrased more as a warning in the part pertaining to players, but it did emphasize that those who persists in illicit gambling activities can expect to be punished in accordance with the law.

What Is the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008?

The earlier mentioned Act from 2008 which caused the confusion was an attempt at actually regulating the interactive gambling environment, making it safer and in line with the laws. Although it’s been over a decade since the Act was passed by the Assembly, perhaps these new movements will help get things back on track.

The Amendment Act of 2008 introduces a number of definitions and clarifications required to regulate the online gambling space. It lays foundations for a fair and secure environment regulated by the state in a way that protects the citizens and ensures transparent operation by the operators.

The Act also details procedures of applying for and acquiring gambling licenses, determining who has the authority to issue such licenses, what prerequisites have to be met by the company and/or the person applying for the license, and under what circumstances a licensing authority may cap the maximum number of gambling licenses.

The National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 does provide a very solid foundation to start building the regulating online gambling market on so it’s somewhat strange that it still hasn’t been verified by the President even ten years later.

It’s hard to say what’s the motivation behind keeping the Act in the drawers, but the statement by the NGA makes it quite clear online gambling is very popular in South Africa. Taking that into account, it seems like everyone would benefit from a properly regulated and safe market – the state by collecting licensing fees and taxes and players by having access to safe operators and being able to gamble online without actually breaking the law.