Gambling has a long history in South Africa and there have been a number of significant changes to the laws since gambling was introduced in the country. From as early as 1673, most forms of gambling in the country were banned, although there have been periods when gambling was legalized. Currently, land-based gambling is legal and regulated, while online gambling is illegal.
The History of Gambling Law in South Africa
Gambling has had a long history of restrictions in South Africa. The 1965 Gambling Act, officially made all forms of betting illegal, except for horse racing which was considered a sports activity. Many illegal casinos opened in the 1970s and in 1995, as many as 2,000 illegal casinos were believed to have been operating. The law changed in 1994, when all forms of gambling were made legal by the newly democratic government. The National Gambling Act of 1996 licensed and regulated casinos and introduced a national lottery.
The National Gambling Act 2004
The National Gambling Act of 2004 repealed the 1996 Act and prohibited online gambling activity. It made it illegal to both offer and engage in online gambling activities. Online sports betting was an exception; however other forms of online betting included local operators as well as operators licensed off-shore.
The National Gambling Amendment Act 2008
The aim of the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 was to legalize online gambling and introduce the regulation of the online gambling market. The Act; however, has not come into power due to strong opposition.
2010 North Gauteng High Court Ruling
In 2010, the Gauteng High Court ruled on the jurisdiction of online gambling transactions in South Africa. As a result, online gambling through off-shore servers was also banned in South Africa. This means that both offering online gambling services, as well as the act of gambling online, became illegal. A fine of R10 million or ten years imprisonment is the consequence for online gambling sites, Internet providers, banks that process payments for online gambling and individuals who gamble.
There is currently an appeal to the high court ruling that is waiting to be heard. Those in favor of online gambling in South Africa are still hopeful that the 2008 National Amendment Act will come into force and that the online gambling industry in South Africa will be legalized and regulated. In the meantime; however, online gambling remains illegal for all parties, including the players, the operators and even the banks that process payments for that purpose. In addition, mass media channels that advertise online gambling will be held liable.