South Africa’s National Gaming Board Clarifies Online Casinos Illegal

South Africa ‘s National Gambling Board has moved to quash disputes about igaming status within the region, clarifying that the practise remains illegal and brings serious penalties with it.

Noting the concern that “the issue of the legality of online or interactive gambling is the subject of debate in some circles,” the regulator is issuing a reminder that online sports betting is the only exception today.

In a media statement the NGC said: “To eliminate any uncertainty in this regard, the NGB wishes to make it emphatically clear that the answer to whether online or interactive gambling is legal in South Africa, is a simple and unequivocal NO with the exception of online sports betting.”

Operators selling or wishing to sell to the South African public certain gambling goods and services are often advised that they are committing an offence and will be subject to criminal charges if found. Punters are also warned to avoid engaging in any unlawful activity, since such involvement is often a criminal offence.

A conviction for committing such an offence may attract a fine of up to R10m (£470,000) or up to 10 years’ imprisonment, with winnings to be confiscated and forfeited to the state.

In support of its position, the NGB emphasises Section 11 of the National Gambling Act, entitled ‘Unauthorized Interactive Gaming Unlawful,’ and states that “a person must not engage in or make available an interactive game except as authorised in terms of this Act or any other national law.”

This will be lifted under the terms of the National Gambling Amendment Act 2008 which was passed by the presidency of the country in July 2008 but never came into force. The law comes into force in the Government Gazette on the day of its publication.

“As the Amendment Act prescribes that it will only come into effect on a future date to be fixed by the President, by proclamation in the Gazette, and the President has never done so, the Amendment Act thus cannot be relied upon or referenced as being the law regarding the regulation of interactive gaming or online gambling,” the regulator explained.

“The National Gambling Act of 2004 remains the supreme national regulatory prescript for regulating the gambling industry in the Republic of South Africa, and in terms thereof, interactive gambling, as envisaged in the Amendment Act of 2008, remains prohibited.”

Examples of digital gambling are explained as casino-style games that can be played by using a computer such as a smartphone or tablet, as well as server-based gaming inside a physical establishment such as an internet lounge.

Casino games can only be played at approved land-based casinos, and any establishment that can not show a legitimate gambling licence issued by a provincial licencing authority is unlawfully operating.

“The NGB will thus encourage compliance with national and provincial gambling legislation. However, for those that choose to wilfully persist in criminal conduct, the consequences will be severe,” it was warned.