Minimum age for gambling
For most people, gambling is a harmless way of spending some of their leisure time, but it is also accepted across all societies that young people should not be allowed to gambling. The rise of online gambling has brought about its own problems, and both regulatory authorities and online casinos are working hard to prevent underage online gambling.
While online casinos are not licensed in South Africa, the government has previously made clear that it regards them as unregulated rather than illegal. The net result is that the legality of this industry is a grey area. However, while the precise legal status of online casinos remains unclear, there is no doubt about the rules concerning the legal age for gambling.
Whether a company is operating a land-based casino, bookmakers’ premises or online gambling facility, it is illegal for them to accept bets from anyone under the age of 18. According to South African law, any venue offering gambling services has a duty of care to ensure that no-one playing their games is under the age of eighteen. Those same rules apply to online gambling, and reputable online casinos abide by them.
The rise of online gambling
The rapid growth of the internet in South Africa has changed the gambling landscape. By 2015 over half of South African citizens had access to the internet, and that proportion is continuing to rise. As more people become familiar with making online transactions, they are increasingly comfortable with gambling online and, given that more than a third of South Africa’s internet users are under the age of thirty, it is inevitable that young people are leading this growth in online casino gambling.
This has led to concerns about underage South Africans accessing gambling sites online. Although established online casinos are vigilant when it comes to the people playing their games, some of the less reputable sites rely wholly on the information that the player gives them and do not require ID verification checks to ensure that the person using the site is of legal age to gamble. This has led to situations in which young people have used credit cards stolen from parents or other relatives to set up online casino accounts and gamble online.
No precise figures are available on the extent to which underage South Africans are gambling online. A report in 2011 by the South African Gambling Review Commission found that there was evidence of underage gambling in some parts of the country and that in some cases, it was linked to criminal elements and that in others, young people were gambling in an attempt to raise money to pay for school fees or other necessities.
This evidence did not relate specifically to online gambling, but one indication that there may be a problem can be found in the composition of funds held in a special Treasury-controlled trust account. This account was set up by the National Gambling Act of 2004 to hold funds seized from illegal gambling, and it is estimated that the majority of the money held in the account has been forfeited by underage online gamblers.
Online Casinos and underage gambling
It is clear that underage online gambling is a potential threat, not just to the reputation of the South African online casino industry, but to the social fabric of the country. This is why reputable online casinos in South Africa take steps to prevent underage gambling.
By encouraging the use of internationally recognised secure deposit and withdrawal methods, such as Neteller, Citadel or Easy EFT, online casinos are making it much harder for young people to use their sites. The National Gambling Board is also working with credit card companies to encourage them to do more to spot underage use of their financial systems.
In addition, online casinos will often require players to provide identification to demonstrate that they are over the age of 18. Failure to provide adequate ID will result in a player’s account being locked immediately. That can be frustrating for legitimate online gamblers caught up in the procedures, but it is absolutely necessary to ensure that young South Africans are not gambling illegally.