South Africa National Gambling Board clarifies illegality of online casinos

The National Gambling Board of South Africa has moved to quash debates over the status of igaming within the country, clarifying that the activity remains illegal and carries with it severe penalties.

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

“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,” the NGC said in a media statement.

Operators offering or wishing to offer such gambling products and services to the South African public are also reminded that they are committing an offence, and will be subject to criminal prosecution if detected. Punters are equally cautioned to avoid participating in any activity that is illegal, as such participation is also a criminal offence.

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

Backing up its stance, the NGB highlights section 11 of the National Gambling Act which is entitled ‘unauthorised 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 would be lifted under the terms of the National Gambling Amendment Act 2008 which was passed by the country’s presidency in July 2008 but has never come into effect. The legislation comes into operation on the day of its publication in the Government Gazette. 

“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 interactive gambling is clarified as casino-style games that are accessible through the use of a device such as a smartphone or tablet, as well as server-based gambling inside a physical establishment such as an internet lounge. 

Casinos games can only be enjoyed at licensed land-based casinos, and any establishment that is unable to display a valid gambling licence issued by a provincial licensing authority is operating illegally. 

“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.