South Africa boasts one of the largest economies on the African continent, and a significant portion of this economy comes from gambling. In 2020 alone, the South African betting market generated a staggering R32.7 billion, with the government collecting R3.2 billion in taxes and levies. Interestingly, approximately one in every ten South Africans actively participates in some form of gambling.
A Brief History
Before 1996, gambling in South Africa was illegal, except for horse racing. However, with the proliferation of gambling across the world, the government realized that regulating the industry would bring in much-needed revenue. Consequently, the National Gambling Act 1996 was passed, legalizing gambling. To ensure policy alignment across national and provincial governments, the National Gambling Policy Council was established in 2004 as part of the Act.
Beginning of the National Gambling Board
The National Gambling Board (NGB) was also introduced as a regulatory body to oversee the regulation and coordination of gambling in South Africa. The NGB is responsible for reviewing licenses issued by Provincial Licensing Authorities (PLAs), ensuring compliance by license holders, and conducting research and reporting on gambling trends and social impact. Additionally, there are nine PLAs, each with the authority to review applications and issue licenses related to gambling, racing, casinos, and wagering within their respective provinces. The PLAs also conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the National Gambling Act 2004 and provincial legislation.
While gambling is legal in South Africa, the laws governing the various sectors are quite specific. Online gambling, for example, is not entirely legal in the country. Although attempts have been made to legalize online casinos, land-based casinos have opposed such moves, citing potential threats to their businesses. The Remote Gambling Bill of 2014, which sought to legalize online casinos, failed to pass, and many South Africans continue to gamble on illegal sites.
Electronic Bing Terminals (EBTs)
Bingo is a popular gambling activity in several South African provinces, including Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. The National Gambling Board has allowed Bingo to be played both inside and outside casinos. Gauteng has gone a step further, introducing electronic bingo terminals (EBTs) to advance the game technologically. Other provinces have amended their statutes to include EBTs and the manner in which they are to be conducted. However, online Bingo remains mostly unregulated, with a limited number of machines available.
Sports betting, on the other hand, is legal and lawful, with licenses allowed under the National Gambling Act. While there is no specific statute governing online sports betting, it is allowed under sections 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the Act, which list activities that are not prohibited and the criminal sanctions that may apply to those involved in them.
Online poker is a controversial sector in South Africa, with some confusion over its legality. The judiciary has expressly stated that online poker is illegal, but many South Africans continue to play on international platforms, and attempts to legalize it are ongoing. Nonetheless, there has been no prosecution of individuals for playing online poker in the country.
Finally, the National Gambling Act 1996 legalized the lottery in South Africa. However, as the act did not account for evolving technology, there are no provisions for online lottery gambling. As such, the NGB has banned all forms of online lottery activities, but the South African public continues to engage in them in a legal grey area.
In conclusion, the laws governing online gambling in South Africa remain ambiguous and outdated. The industry is continuously evolving, and it is important that the legislature be aware of the changes that occur in the tech world. Regardless, gambling will remain a popular pastime for many South Africans, and it is vital that the industry is regulated to protect citizens from exploitation.