South Africans were prohibited from participating in all forms of gambling, except betting on horse racing, until 1996. That year, the new democratic government removed the blanket ban on gambling by enacting the National Gambling Act which established a licensing regime for operators across the country.
The law paved the way for the operations of brick-and-mortar casinos in different provinces which are currently being supervised and regulated by the National Gambling Board.
While land-based gambling has seen some huge progress in South Africa in recent years, the same cannot be said about its online counterpart. The legal status of online gambling in the country remains complicated as of now!
Licensed land based casino operators are now pushing for the government to make provisions and to pass legislation that will allow online casinos that offer real money gambling. While licensed operators are making a strong case for themselves, there are a lot of other factors to consider before the government approves online gambling legislation.
Online Casino Remains Illegal in South Africa
Under South Africa's current laws, online sports betting is allowed, but interactive games like casino and poker are prohibited.
There was an attempt to regulate the entire online gaming market over a decade ago via the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 which sought to legalize interactive gambling in the country but until now, the legislation has yet to enter into effect partly due to ongoing opposition from land-based gambling operators and anti-money laundering groups.
The extraordinary situation caused by COVID-19 has forced casinos across the world to look for alternative revenue streams considering that their land-based operations had been put to a halt because of the global health crisis.
Casinos Call for Online Gambling Legalisation
Legalizing online gambling will provide much-needed funds for the casinos to fully recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. This has been the trend now in other jurisdictions and if South Africa follows suit, it will also reap the benefits being enjoyed by countries that currently run a regulated online gambling market, such as collecting millions in online gaming tax revenue every year.
Additionally, it will be welcome news for domestic players who are avid fans of online casinos but are forced to play at unauthorized sites due to the country's restrictive laws.
This has been the main sentiment among casinos in South Africa, including Sun International and Tsogo Sun. Both operators have been pushing for online gaming legalization in the country as early as 2020 when COVID-19 first hit. Sun International wants the South African Department of Trade Industry to allow land-based operators to offer online casino services. The National Gambling Board is operating under this department.
Online editions of its live dealer games will be among Sun International's online offerings once the government gives the go-ahead for interactive gambling. Sun International currently offers online sports betting through its Sunbet platform.
Meanwhile, Tsogo Sun considers online gaming a natural progression for its business operations. The company, which operates multiple casinos in South Africa, earlier announced that it was at an "advanced stage" of entering the online sports betting market.
Online Gambling Legalisation Will Mitigate COVID-19 Impact
The National Gambling Board, in a prior statement, made it clear that online casinos remain illegal in the country, and that the National Gambling Amendment Act 2008 has yet to come into force, noting that the legislation was never published in the Government Gazette.
Gambling operators say that it is time for the South African government to follow the global trend and take a second look at legalizing online gambling. It would allow operators to strengthen their businesses, grow their revenue, prevent retrenchment, and make up for the massive losses incurred during the pandemic. It would also give a huge boost to the country's economy while providing expanded gambling options for South African customers.