South African National Gambling Amendment Bill

I bet you’re wondering if its legal to gamble online in South Africa. If you are a poker player or regular casino player at an online casino you might be searching for answers as to your own position in all this. We will attempt to clarify this situation for you.

One Monday, Parliament passed the National Gambling Amendment Bill which seeks to regulate the remote gaming industry in South Africa. Its only waiting on President Mbeki’s signature to come into affect. But its a sure thing some political analysts say.

It basically sets out to define things that have never been present in SA gambling law until now. The Internet has expanded the South African markets reach into the unknown, and while many politicians have been debating on how to regulate it, the South African public have been exposed to various ‘poker school’ commercials while very much still being in the dark about the legality.

To put it simply, technically its currently illegal for any player to play online poker and for any casino operator to offer South African players wagers online. It been treated as a bit of a grey area for quite some time, with no-one in the industry really making moves as to what the ‘legal’ stance is. The poker rooms have been getting around this by placing ads on local TV stations in an attempt to draw attention to their properties as a ‘.Net’ ‘poker school’ – both of which are technically not illegal in SA as it is. I.e. if you go to the .net version of the site & register, you absolutely cannot wager with real cash, therefore no real cash wagering/gambling can take place, therefore there’s no breaking of current gambling law. Its unfortunate that South Africans might Google the place first and find the .net version (which incidentally isn’t searchable) and play for real on the .com version by conclusion. I bet the government has been watching these developments carefully.

The bill has been put into place recently as a bit of a catch up to global online gambling trends. I mean, the UK recently started regulating online gambling with great successes, including the protection of players, licensing and the expansion of ethical practices within the industry. The igaming industry is thriving there now.

If you are interested in reading the document, go ahead its available here. I’ve already taken the important points to take note of out below.

So whats can we take out from the bill then?

The government now recognizes the remote gambling industry as is attempting to regulate it.
The online gambling operators have to apply to get a license to operate in South Africa.
An online player may only play at a licensed online casino / poker room.
Both parties have to make sure the player is over 18 and the correct procedure is taken to prevent under age gambling (i.e. submit an affidavit).
The minister will publish in the government gazette, the regulations regarding how these gambling operators may or may not advertise. (My feeling is much the same way as land based casinos are allowed to do it with disclaimers and the like)

Just note though, that this is not a threat to your freedoms as a gambler. This is in fact just there to make sure it is legal to gamble in South Africa, that you as a player and the public are protected against illegal operations and money laundering. Of course the government hasn’t highlighted the ‘direct taxation of gambling wages’ as a main topic behind all this, but in time I guess, as they always do, will benefit from drawing funds from this $35 billion a year global revenue source.