Online Gambling in South Africa

South African FlagIs online gambling legal in South Africa or not? The question is a fully justified one in light of the fact that often contradictory rumors regarding the legal status of online poker and online gambling in South Africa do indeed abound, and that there seem to be sites out there which can be accessed from within SA and which still advertise their services to SA-based online gamblers. What exactly is then the legal situation concerning online gambling? While the situation seems to be rather murky at first glance on account of the different opinions and interests involved, when it comes to the law, everything’s as clear as the light of day: online gambling is currently illegal in SA and sites which continue to offer online gambling services to SA residents do so in clear contempt of the law.

The Supreme Court of Appeals handed down a ruling in September 2011, which once and for all spelled it out that online gambling was illegal, as was the advertising of any such activity in SA. The ruling had made it clear where online gambling took place from the perspective of the law, thus taking away an argument that supporters of rogue/unregulated online gambling had fallen back on for years. Another notorious legal ruling in the matter was the one handed down by the North Gauteng High Court which also placed online gambling outside of the law.

Piggs Peak CasinoThe ruling was appealed by Casino Enterprises, the company behind the notorious Piggs Peak brand. The appeal was rejected by the Bloemfontein Supreme Court of Appeals and thus Piggs Peak Casino (based in Swaziland) was forced to stop serving SA customers. Several other operators have also ceased peddling their services to SA-based gamblers then, among them the African Palace Casino.

On the homepages of the above said online casinos, SA players are greeted by a message which explains why they can’t deposit and play there. Still, despite the unequivocal nature of the legal rulings, there are sites out there with links to some of the major international operators, which not only accept players from SA, but also offer them the option to place wagers in rands.

It is indeed also part of the picture that in 2007, legislation was passed concerning the legalization and regulation of online gambling, but no licenses were ever issued based on that law and there were branches of government which still opposed regulation at that point.

A special commission was set up by the Dept. of Trade and Industry, which did indeed recommend that more than 10 online gambling licenses be issued, but the effort never came to fruition, and due to the lengthy legal process which is involved with such intricate legal framework, chances are we won’t see any regulation nor licenses issued for at least a good couple of years.

Sites currently offering online gambling services to South Africans can do so because the law – in its current form – features no provisions regarding penalties against illegally operating sites. In a word: those who now ignore the law can still hope to gain a license when regulation occurs.

The risks assumed are thus far mostly shouldered by the players. According to the Gauteng Gambling Board, players who gamble illegally may be required to forfeit their winnings to the state.

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