Industry experts believe 2014 could be the year when South African lawmakers finally legalize online gambling.
The casino industry in South Africa has grown considerably over the past few years, despite the fact that state authorities were slow at introducing new South African gambling laws to offer the proper legal framework for the development of the casino market.
All forms of gambling, except betting on horse races, were illegal for a very long time, with South Africa’s Gambling Act of 1965 officially forbidding locals from playing poker, slots and other games of chance. In 1996, the state adopted a more liberal view on the topic and decided it was time to hand out casino licenses. This was good news for the nation, considering that local residents enjoyed an occasional game of slots.
However, one very important issue remains to be settled and that is the legislation concerning South African online casinos. Technically, local gamblers are currently forbidden from accessing them, but many of them play online anyway.
Gambling in South Africa
Casinos have always been a hot topic in South Africa and gambling has been heavily restricted in the past. In 1965, decision makers set everything in stone with a new gambling law which established that the only option local players had was to bet on horse races. Even so, many of them were still looking for other ways to quench their thirst for gambling, even if it meant breaking the law.
According to a study conducted in 2006, the most popular forms of gambling in South Africa are:
• National Lottery (86.9%)
• Slot machines (27.7%)
• Scratchcards (22.7%)
• Charity jackpot (11.6%)
• Horse racing betting (11.5%)
It wasn’t until later, in 1994, that legal casino games finally came to South Africa, when authorities decided to hand out 40 gambling licenses across a number of provinces. Since then, the National Gambling Act has been amended a few times, with the latest update dating from 2008 and slowly paving the way for the online gambling industry.
At present, several of the country’s provinces allow local players to bet on sports via the Internet. However, no other forms of gambling are legally available online. According to the National Gambling Board’s website, locals are technically forbidden to access foreign virtual casinos, but this doesn’t really stop them from doing it.
South Africans are quite fond of gambling and especially lottery games, which are the most popular. Apart from these, locals also enjoy playing slot machines and betting on horse races.
South African online casinos, legal in 2014?
With the rise of online and mobile casinos, the entire world is adapting to modern times and according to industry experts, South Africa’s view on the matter could soon change as well. New laws are expected to be proposed sometime during this year, as politicians are starting to see the benefits of regulated online gambling markets.
But such discussions date as far back as 2011, when the Gambling Commission published a review on the local industry and encouraged decision makers to take steps towards legalizing online casino games. Back then, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies promised that new laws were on the way, but nothing has happened yet.
Until then, there are hundreds of websites which cater to South African players. Many of them even accept bets in the country’s currency – South African Rand – but most of the time users are required to make deposits in US Dollars. And even though it is illegal to access these websites, gamblers risk it.
How big online casinos could be
Over the past decade, the Internet industry has grown considerably all across Africa. Nigeria leads the market with 48.4 million users, but South Africa isn’t doing so badly either with its 8.5 million users. But it’s not just online casinos that have a huge potential for growth in the country.
While the Internet industry has been developing quite nicely, the mobile phone market has seen a tremendous 44% rise over the past decade, putting Africa on first place as far as mobile growth rate is concerned. And that’s not all. Statistics show that nearly 58% of the total web traffic is completed via mobile phones.
Following this trend, mobile casinos could be a huge success all across the continent, as well as in the country. But before this happens, authorities have to establish a clear set of rules for all operators to follow. Whether this happens this year or in ten years, nobody can tell for sure, but it is definitely a topic worth following.