Illegal Gambling in South Africa
Land-based gambling is legal in South Africa (SA) and has been since 1996. Currently, there are 38 brick-and-mortar establishments around the country. The South African branch of multinational professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that the nation’s Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) will jump from the R27 billion it was worth in 2016 to R25 billion in 2021.
Clearly, gambling is an even more lucrative industry now than it was in 1996, when land-based casinos and bookmakers were first permitted. This was just after the end of the Apartheid regime, and authorities were looking for ways of generating much-needed income as the country tried to shake off the shackles of its grim history.
Gambling taxes were among the biggest ways of doing just that, and after 1996 all sports betting and casino games could be enjoyed by both citizens and tourists who were flocking to see and experience the New South Africa. However, though the industry remains very profitable, online operations in the country are prohibited. Many people believe this situation should be remedied.
SA’s Gambling Situation Before 1996
Prior to 1996, only horse races and horse race betting were allowed on South African soil. These activities had been classified as sports rather than gambling in 1965, in the first piece of new legislation seen in the country since 1673. At that time betting and casino games were banned in all their forms, and anyone found indulging in them was punished severely.
People enjoyed the limited legal betting that they had access to so much that illicit casinos soon flourished. The number of establishments grew exponentially from the 1970s, and by the mid-1990s it was estimated that there were over 2000 unlawful casinos in South Africa. The end of Apartheid and the legislative overhaul culminated in the National Gambling Act of 1996.
SA’s Online Gambling Situation
Online casinos and bookmakers began to appear in the last few years of the 1990s. Each countryy in Africa have their own gambling regulators to oversee and make sure that operators provide fair practises to its players. Gambling also generates huge income for the governments and sometimes the regulations are a bit vague. Lately more and more independent gambling authorities, such as Gamblers Africa, have popped up with the goal of providing players with honest reviews and iGaming news from across Africa. Many insiders recognise the potential of the African market and call for rigorous regulations that would ensure proper taxation, consumer protection and support for responsible gambling endeavours.
This kind of regulation is currently seen in the United Kingdom (UK) thanks to its national Gambling Commission which came into effect in 2006. Under the Gambling Commission’s stewardship, online betting and casino gameplay has become the largest single business sector in Britain, bringing in substantial revenues while maintaining strict standards of fairness and security.
A very different situation has played out in South Africa, where an amendment to the National Gambling Act was added to cover the growing online market in 2004. At this time, Bingo, Poker and other online casino games were outlawed, but remote sports betting was permitted. The official regulator, the National Gambling Board, was also established.
Attempts were made to change the laws in 2008 and allow online casino licences, but these were opposed and ultimately thwarted by land-based operators and anti-money laundering authorities. The proposed National Gambling Amendment Act was not passed, and even stricter rules were enforced in 2010. At this time, playing in offshore establishments was also banned.
SA’s Illegal Activities Expected to Continue Apace
The 2010 laws were accompanied by incredibly stiff penalties, including jail sentences and fines of as much as 10 years and R10 million rand for digital proprietors, players and processes. Even in the face of these threats, underground online casinos continue to thrive in South Africa and experts predict that they will continue to do so.
No individual player has ever been persecuted, and the illicit industry is also linked to organised crime. These facts suggest that online gambling will remain alive and well in the country and have led to increased calls for a regulated industry. If the activity is going to happen anyway, the argument goes, shouldn’t support for responsible playing and proper taxation be in place?