Online gambling is not legal in South Africa at this time, but a new bill could change that within the next year. A draft of the Remote Gambling Bill of 2014 was recently published for the public's perusal in South Africa's Government Gazette. Bill sponsor and Democratic Alliance Parliament member Geordin Hill-Lewis says that legalization of online gambling is, at this point, a possibility but not a guarantee. It could take nine months or more for the bill to be processed by the necessary public and private committees. At the end of that time, online gambling in South Africa may or may not become legal.
The draft of the bill, which appeared in the gazette on April 23, was initially supposed to be published in February. Now, two months after its target debut date, the highly anticipated document has finally made its appearance. The South African community has the next 30 days to publicly share their opinions on the issue of online gambling legalization.
A Brief History of Gambling in South Africa
The South Africa Gambling Act of 1965 forbade all forms of betting except horse racing, which was regarded more as a sport than a vehicle for betting. The Bantustans saw an uprising of casinos in the 1970s, but this was a geographical exception to the rule due to the unique circumstances of apartheid, a now-defunct system of black/white segregation in South Africa. Live gambling finally became legal in South Africa in 1996. By the 2000s, the government was raking in revenue from its brick-and-mortar casinos to the tune of R1.5 billion.
Today, South Africans enjoy live casino games, lottery, and electronic bingo terminals, or EBTs. Online gaming almost came to fruition when The National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 proclaimed online betting to be legal for the region. Before the online gaming industry could embrace the amendment, however, the Gauteng Gambling Board negated it in 2010. The industry, in essence, took two steps forward and immediately took two steps back.
South Africans who wager money online face possible fines and jail time. Even so, many citizens ignore the threat of punishment and pursue online games anyway. The risk is considered by these folks to be small, especially in light of the fact that the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 came so close to legalizing the activity. Now, with a draft of the Remote Gambling Bill on display for all to see and evaluate, some South Africans could be even less likely to fear the consequences of illegal online gaming.
The Next Steps
Once the bill passes through its 30-day public commentary phase, it will be scrutinized by the South African government's Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry. This committee will decide whether the bill is viable and acceptable. If it is, it will be handed off to the South African government for a final vote. If both Houses of Parliament approve legalization, the next steps would involve the development of online gaming regulations and tax legislation. The draft has already outlined some of these regulations.
Remote Gambling Bill Specifics
In its preamble, the bill states its protective intent: To shield the public, including minors, adults, and online operators, from any harm that might come as a result of legalized online gambling. This goal would be accomplished by establishing online standards and norms, including licensing requirements and Financial Intelligence Centre Act compliance requirements.
- Internet gaming providers would need to be licensed. Licenses would be issued by the National Gambling Board after being approved by provincial authorities.
- Gaming providers would be required to operate their business out of the province in which their licensing application was made and approved.
- The types of qualifying games would include casino games, sports betting, and games of equal chance. Other types of games would likely also be permitted.
- South African gaming providers could serve people from outside the country as long as those people were registered with the casino.
- Revenue would be disbursed as follows: 70 percent would go to provinces and 30 percent would go to the nation as a whole.
- Operators would not be allowed to grant players credit for the purpose of playing. All games played would have to be backed by immediate cash.
Interestingly, the provisions of the bill are similar to those found in online gaming guidelines in Australia and other European countries.
South Africa: Catching Up With the Rest of the World
Advocates of legalized remote gaming in South Africa point out that much of the rest of the world has already approved of the activity. In Australia, for example, the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 permits citizens to wager remotely. In Sweden, natives may bet online according to Svenska Spel's regulations, although they may not venture outside of their country's virtual gambling borders. Cyber bettors in the UK enjoy sports betting, poker, and other games with online sites that are affiliated with its White List. In the US, three states have legalized online gaming, and experts agree it's just a matter of time before other states follow suit.
Brick-and-Mortar Casinos in South Africa
For those who can't wait for online betting to become legal, South Africa offers a myriad of brick-and-mortar casino choices. Gold Reef City Casino in Johannesburg is the famed city's oldest gambling house and is situated next to a theme park of the same name, as well as the Apartheid Museum. An elegant-themed Victorian betting house called the Boardwalk Casino is located in South Africa's friendliest town, Port Elizabeth. Sun Coast Casino and Entertainment World of Durban is frequented by patrons and touring cyclists who enjoy hundreds of slot machines and a gorgeous private beach.
Over the coming months, South African gamblers will learn the fate of legalized gaming in their country. If Hill-Lewis gets his way, his citizens will soon be able to enjoy the same online wagering privileges as people in other countries. Until then, South African bettors will continue to enjoy many other gaming options available to them.