Online Gambling legal status

Online gambling has become increasingly popular among South African players over the last couple of years. However, many players aren’t 100% sure whether it is now legal or not. As the current legislation surrounding online gambling set out by the National Gambling Policy Council and the National Gambling Amendment Act is actually quite vague, our casino experts have delved into the matter to find answers to your questions.

Let's start off by saying that the precise status of online gambling in South Africa isn’t exactly clear. The reason for this is because of the turbulent past of the country when it comes to gambling. To give you a better understanding of the current situation, let’s start by taking a look at the history of gambling in South Africa to begin with.

By Adiela de Bruyn - Updated 2024/02/08 - Estimated reading time: 12 minutes.

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Online Gambling legal status
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The History of Gambling in South Africa

Just like many other countries, gambling has always been quite popular in South Africa. However, the country has always had issues combating the negative side-effects of gambling and has, therefore, always had a troubled relationship with the beloved pastime.

For decades, gambling was frowned upon or prosecuted due to lack of understanding and know-how. In 1965, the National Gambling Act came into effect, which basically banned all forms of gambling except horse racing.

However, most citizens completely ignored these rules, and even with the Gambling Act in effect, a lot of illegal casinos were being built all over the country. By the time of the 1994 elections, there were over a thousand illegal casinos, bookmakers, and gambling halls, spread across the country.

When the famous Nelson Mandela was elected, the Gambling Act was changed a bit so that gambling would be permitted and that land-based casinos could be licensed on a provincial level.

But, as these were the early days of the internet, many South African players thought that the same rules would apply to online casino gambling than those in effect for land-based casinos and gambling. In 2010, the South African government tried to legalize online gambling, but this was vetoed back then by the Gauteng Gambling Board.

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Online Gambling - Casino Regulation South Africa Nowadays

Although the Gauteng Gambling Board vetoed the legalization of online gambling back then, it isn’t 100% clear until this day whether it is now legal or illegal. In 2008, the South African government announced that it wanted to reform the National Gambling Act of 1965 and legalize online casinos. For this reason, we can conclude that the current status of online casinos in the country is ‘not regulated’ rather than ‘illegal’.

However, there are some unique caveats when it comes to online gambling in the country. You may ask yourself what’s so unique about the situation. Well, the thing is that many legal experts are under the impression that it isn’t fully legal to play at online casinos based in South Africa, but that it is legal to sign up, deposit, and play at online casinos that operate outside of South Africa but that accept South African players and offering online gambling in South African Rands.

If this didn’t sound confusing enough to you, wait until you hear this: on the official website of the National Gambling Board, it says that no person may engage in any interactive game where real money can be won that is not authorized under national law.

Further on on the same page, it says that online betting with any licensed South African bookmaker is completely legal. Bear in mind that this is the official website from the organization that regulates casino gambling in South Africa.

With this much contradiction on the official website of the country’s regulatory body, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even top lawyers and legal experts on the matter can’t agree on the definitive legal status of online gambling in the country.

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How Does The Future of Online Casino Gambling in South Africa Look Like?

Although the South African government could definitely capitalize on the legalization and taxation of online gambling, this is still on the government’s agenda and it doesn’t seem like they are actively working on any form of legislation in this field.

However, it is unclear whether the laws regarding online casino gambling would change in the country as both local and international politicians are burdened with other priorities for the time being.

Land-based casinos across the country obviously do everything they can to combat such legalization as it will seriously impact their revenues. On the other hand, the South African government doesn’t seem to have any appetite for attempting to clamp down on online casinos either.

For this reason, both professional and recreational online casino players await further progress and cannot do anything else than hoping that eventually common sense will prevail and the national government will finally get around to legalizing online gambling in its entirety.

In 2023 there are a few online operators that operate online with a license, also due to provincial legislation. This license is mostly for sports betting but they are allowed to offer, under special rules, to offer casino games like slot games and table games. We expect that soon more licensed operators will follow with uniform norms and a clear prevention plan for problem gambling.

Should I Gamble Online as a South African Citizen?

Although technically online casinos have to be licensed by the local authorities according to the outdated 1965 National Gambling Act, this almost never happens, despite the fact that they have to pass regular checks and undergo audits from time to time. Online gambling laws in the country are simply too vague.

As the government isn’t that active in the online gambling industry, players have little legal protection in case of a dispute with an online casino. However, as stated above, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service still advocates for the rights of players and can help in the case of any dispute arising between you as a player and the online casino in question.

For this reason, our experts see no reason why not to gamble online as a South African citizen. On top of this, most online casinos accepting South African players are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission and Malta Gaming Authority, which are two of the most strict gambling regulatory institutions across the globe.

Furthermore, they are being audited by independent testing agencies from time to time and offer the possibility to self-exclude oneself from gameplay. This shows that foreign-owned online casinos go to extreme lengths when it comes to responsible gaming and that they want to adhere to the strict rules and guidelines set out by their respective gaming authorities.

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Do I Have to Pay Tax on My Online Casino Winnings?

The answer to this question is not a hard yes or no. Basically, it works like this: if you are a regular visitor of online casinos or bookmakers and you play just for fun, you don’t need to pay any taxes. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) won’t bother you at all because any potential winnings aren’t seen as ‘’profit making activities’’ according to South African law.

However, if you’re a full-time professional gambler, let’s say a poker player or professional punter, you must declare all winnings from gambling and these will be taxed the same as income from a regular job. You can read more about online casino tax in South Africa if you want.

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What Age do I Need to be to Gamble Online in South Africa?

In order to legally sign up and play real money casino games at South African facing online casinos and bookmakers, you must be at least 18 years old. In order to verify your age and identity, online casinos have extensive KYC (Know Your Customer) procedures in place. Underage gambling is definitely seen as illegal gambling.

Whenever you register an online casino account, it is common practice to be asked for a copy of one of your identity documents, such as your driver’s license, national ID card, or passport. If you play at legal and reliable online casinos, you don’t need to worry about data or identity theft at all, as all these documents are securely stored on the casino’s servers, where no employees can view or alter them whatsoever.

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Can I Receive a Penalty or be Jailed for Illegal Online Gambling in South Africa?

As the laws in the country regarding online gambling are as vague as can be, it is very unlikely that you will ever receive a penalty or be jailed for illegal online gambling in South Africa. The only thing you should take into account is that your gambling activities must be reported to the local tax authorities from the moment they become professional earnings rather than recreational spendings.

Author: Adiela de Bruyn

Adiela de Bruyn

Adiela de Bruyn, our founder, launched this site in 2016. Since then, she's written over 100 pages filled with crucial info to enhance your gaming experience. Her goal? To provide you with the best, most reliable online casino knowledge.

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Article published 2022/10/01