South Africa has an extremely well developed gambling scene. In 2019, South Africans wagered over $433 billion ZAR. That is a massive amount of gaming happening, which demonstrates the popularity of gambling in general.
Of this total, the online casino gross turnover was $847.7 million ZAR, not a huge portion of the total gambling pie, but still a very respectable and healthy turnover. There is no doubt, that online casino activity is well and truly alive in South Africa, and is growing in popularity.
If you wanting to learn more about South Africa Online Gambling, the available ZAR online casinos, legality, rules and regulations then please read on. We also provide details of how to get started with playing for real money on all your favourite games. We cover slots, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and many other popular online casino games that are being offered to South Africans.
Top 4 South African Online Casinos
Online Gambling Key Points
- Commercial betting licenses are available to approved operators. These are mainly land based casino operators.
- Offshore online casino operators accept South African players.
- ISP’s are supposedly meant to block South African located players from entering onto online casinos.
- South African Banks are not permitted to process online casino transactions, hence you will find all player transactions flowing through e wallets and other digital payment channels.
- Sports betting (Horse betting) is the only clear cut legal product with more than a handful of sports books available. Sports book operators are prevented from hosting a sports event on which they offer sports betting odds on.
South Africa Legality of Online Gambling
Gambling online in South Africa is a mixed bag of legislation. Very similar to the US, the laws in SA can be quite confusing. At GambleDex we do not present ourselves to be law experts, but we can summarise our findings and interpretations for you.
Horse betting, a form of sports betting, is clearly legal in South Africa. With more than a handful of sports betting bookies that have acquired the appropriate sports betting licenses, South Africans can safely and reliably place a sports bet within the country. This means, all forms of payment methods whether it be through banks or via e wallets is permitted.
Technically, only horse racing and horse betting has been legalised, and other forms of sports betting remain illegal. Though illegal, you will be able to find many offshore sports betting operators accepting South Africans and ZAR as the currency.
Online casino games, which includes slots, blackjack, roulette, poker, are also technically illegal. Though previously were under consideration to be legalised, onshore online casino operators remain out of bounds for South Africans. The key reason is to protect the existing land based casino operators which operate in nearly all the provinces of South Africa.
Onshore operators are clearly illegal, however, offshore online casino operators remain unaddressed in law. With this ambiguity, you will find many offshore online casinos accepting South African players in the currency of ZAR. Payment methods for online casinos operating offshore must be performed via e wallets or other digital payment methods that do not flow through the major banks in South Africa (There are some that accept credit card, but these a very few). This is because the government has banned any bank in South Africa from transacting any online gambling transaction, with the exception of horse betting transactions.
If it is illegal why are there so many South Africans playing?
Having answered the question of legality, and knowing that it’s a grey area for offshore online gambling, it is often asked what are the risks, penalties and fines.
In answering this question, let us start with providing context. In reference to the introduction, online gambling is only hundreds of millions whilst total wagering is in the hundreds of billions. Not saying that this is insignificant, but in comparison to the turnover of land based casinos and the revenue generated through horse and lottery sales, online casino gambling is truly small.
In the context of priorities for law enforcement agencies, this remains at the bottom of the pile of things to do. With a high crime rate, which South Africans are more concerned about, resourcing is being placed with policing infrastructure and community safety, and not policing online casino gambling.
As a result, you will find that there is no precedence of any South African player being charged with an offence for playing online casino games. Of course, that is not to say that it could not happen. That said, the risk is extremely low as can be seen by the fact that there are South Africans playing at online casinos with ZAR.
Operating an illegal online casino onshore is illegal and is more likely to land you jail. This is because often a larger onus of breaking the law is held on the operator rather than the player. Thus you will find that all online casino operators are offshore and NOT onshore.
National Gambling Board Corruption
The South Africa National Gambling Board was created to regulate and ensure compliance for gambling operators in South Africa. However in September 2014 the Board was suspended and investigated for “unusual financial transactions”. Legal action was initiated by attorneys representing the lottery and other sports book makers claiming that sports betting licenses should only be issued to horse betting book makers.
Subsequent to the legal action, sports betting licenses issued were revoked, excluding those that ran horse betting.
In March 2015, the Gambling Board was again investigated for irregularities in expenditure exceeding R3.6 million.
In the ensuring years, the South Africa National Gambling Board was disbanded and their power and authority were assigned to another governing body. However, in 2019 discussions were held among legislators to reinstate the Gambling Board and re-position the board to be the central gambling regulator.
Though SA has a regulated gambling industry, it’s quite obvious that there are some forms of corruption taking place, creating a weak regulatory and compliance framework.
South African Online Casino Statistics
Our data is sourced from H2 Gambling Capital, the leading provider of gambling statistics.
In the below table, we outline the amounts being wagered in gross wins at offshore online gambling operators. These amounts are presented in ZAR by the million, with the year 2020 as an estimate.
Interesting trends can be seen developing in the betting vs casino, poker and other categories. Betting (which includes all forms of sports betting) is trending upwards and this is mostly due to the advancement in technologies and broadening of sports betting in e-sports and daily fantasy sports.
Conversely, the other categories are slowly trending downwards. In particular poker has taken a sharp fall across the last five years. The “Other” category, which includes bingo is stablising and appears to remain at a gross win turnover of 40m ZAR.
|Total Online Casino||1,055||1,108||987||834||848||871|
Online Casino ZAR Payment Methods
To play at offshore online casinos, typical bank transfers or wired monies cannot be performed. This is due to restrictions placed on local banks by the government. The alternative is to use common e wallets. One of the most common e wallet used is PayPal. PayPal was developed by several co-founders which included Elon Musk. He has subsequently sold his holdings in PayPal and started Telsa (among many other well known companies). PayPal is safe and secure and is known for its ease of use and reliability.
Other well known e wallets include Neteller and Skrill. If you keep to the well known and commonly used e wallets in South Africa you can be assured of reliability and efficiency.
Beaware that there are many new payment methods being created in SA every year. Avoid them until they are well established, and are used in the e commerce markets, not just for online gambling.
In addition online casinos will often accept ZAR, which means you will not lose out on currency conversion.
Real Money ZAR Online Slots
Slot machines in South Africa are high regulated and are also know as Limited Payout Machines. Only licensed providers can own and support slot machines who can then place their machines at restaurants, pubs and clubs. There are many licensed slot machine providers with each license is restricted to a province.
The laws regarding the legality of slot machines in South Africa are very clear. If you are in breach of the Payout Limited Machine laws you may be heavily fined.
Online slot machines for South Africans are based offshore, unlike Limited Payout Machines which must be regulated onshore. Often the question is raised, is it safe to play at an offshore online casino? The answer is, yes it is if you keep to the big well known brands. The brands that we offer at GambleDex are tried and tested and we keep in constant correspondence with affiliate providers to ensure that our brands displayed are offering the best service for our players.
As a testament to the reliability and honesty of SA online slot providers, you will find online slots is the most popular game among South African players. It’s popularity can be attributed to many reasons.
Firstly, slots is an easy game to learn and play. You won’t need a complex guide to understand how to play. If you already know how to play at the LPMs then you will have no trouble playing online.
As a quick online slot guide, the player at the start of each round chooses how many lines they would like to play and how much to wager per line. A line is a combination that crosses from reel to reel. The more lines chosen, the bigger the chance of receiving a winning combination. Once chosen the player hits play and the reels turn. On completion of turning, if the line produces a winning combination, the player has won! Winning combinations usually require the same symbol or a group appearing several times. The symbols sometimes allow for wildcards. A wild card is a symbol that can imitate any other symbol that is needed to form a winning combination.
Secondly, the denominations can be as small as R20 per line so it won’t break a player’s bank. Of course, with smaller denominations more lines can be chosen and played with. However, please be aware that there is a common misconception that the lower the denomination the better the pay out ratio. This could not be further from the truth. Pay out ratios are better at the higher denominations because more money is being wagered and therefore the casino can afford to allow for a higher pay out ratio.
Thirdly, slots come in a variety of games. Three, five reels and progressive jackpots can be played with many different themes. You will be able to find the quirky, the classics and the contemporary. The diversity of games available will meet any players preferences. There are tens of thousands of different games to play.
Lastly, there are a wide range of fantastic bonuses. Commonly there is a Welcome Bonus for new players. A Welcome Bonus is free credit calculated as a multiple of the initial deposit. The Welcome Bonus is often capped, and therefore a player often deposits an amount sufficient to reach the maximum entitled Welcome Bonus.
Players will also receive a bonus for their second and ongoing deposits. These bonuses are calculated differently to the Welcome Bonus.
In addition, regular players can win free spins through promotions and can win other great prizes.
SA Online Blackjack
Blackjack is offered at the six land based casino spread among the provinces in South Africa. Each casino offers a variety of blackjack such as Spanish 21, Double downs and soft 17. In addition the denominations can vary from the VIP right down to free play to enable new players to learn the game. Blackjack is not permitted at restaurants, pubs and clubs, unlike slot machines.
Online blackjack is second behind online slots in popularity for South Africans. As with slots, there is a wide variety of blackjack games available. These can range from Spanish 21, Double Downs, Ace Splits and standing on soft 17s.
The beauty of online blackjack is that Live Dealer options are available. A Live Dealer is a broadcast to the player over the internet of a real dealer. Many players prefer this option as it provides the sensation of playing at a land based casino.
Online blackjack is one of the best games for players as it has one of the highest odds for winning. Many online players use a blackjack matrix card which guided them on whether to stand or hit.
SA Online Poker
Poker is falling behind in popularity, and can be seen with the dip in wagering year on year. Poker games are available at the land based casinos, but by far ranks way behind Limited Payout Machines. The same is seen with online poker. It’s not quite clear what is driving the downward trend, however there are some online poker sites, which continue to accept South African players.
South African Casinos
GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World
1 Jakes Gerwel Dr, Goodwood, Cape Town
The GrandWest Casino is the largest casino in South Africa and is comparable to those in Las Vegas. It is massive and luxurious. It by far has the most visitors of any casino located in South Africa. So if you are looking for the best of the best, then come here to GrandWest Casino.
Entertainment is 24/7 and caters not only for the those who want to play at the casino table games, but also for live performances, conferences and family fun activities.
The GrandWest Casino is the only casino located in Cape Town, and is part of the Sun International conglomerate.
Slot Machines – The GrandWest Casino has over 2,000 smart slot machines. These smart slot machines uses cards instead of coins to make it easier for players to move from machine to machine as well as to accumulate loyalty player points and reserve machines and order drinks.
Table Games – there are over 70 table games open to all players. Table games include blackjack (and it’s many versions), poker, baccarat and sic bo.
VIP Gaming – in addition to the normal gaming area, there is designated area called Salon Privé for VIP’s. This is open 24/7.
Casino Promotions – Weekly and monthly there are a number of casino promotions. These include lucky door prizes, draws and other special bonuses for patrons. Prizes include cars, holidays and meal discounts.
Casino Accommodation – attached to the casino is a 176 room luxury hotel. The hotel is a grand Dutch style displaying the utmost of elegance. Flowing on from the accommodation will through to the ice rink, cinema and family arcade centre.
Emperors Palace Casino
64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo, Kempton Park, Johannesburg
A very close second, Emperors Palace is a three hotel combo with a casino. As you can imagine, this complex is huge and grand. The theme is similar to that of Caesar’s Palace, throwing you back into the old Roman times. Walk through the arches of the buildings and admire the classical statues and architecture. The casino is spacious and caters for both smokers and non smokers. Plenty of slot machines and table games, that can become very busy during peak periods. The surrounding three hotels offer a variety of rooms, different in sizes, aspect and price. Together with the casino and hotels, you can find a cinema and a wide range of restaurants.
Carnival City Casino
Century Rd, Elsburg Rd, Brakpan, Boksburg
Carnival City Casino is brilliantly and uniquely designed in a circus theme. What more can spell of fun and entertainment for players and families. Brightly coloured, with plenty of gaming, floor space and performances, you will not be disappointed.
There are over 1,400 slot machines from the classic to the contemporary and over 50 table to play at. It’s open 24/7 and has both smoking and non smoking areas. The age limit is 18. Free Wi-fi is available as is complimentary beverages.
The customer service is fantastic, and the staff go above and beyond in meeting your needs. Enjoy playing at Carnival City Casino with all the magic!
Gambling Regulations Timeline
2019 – Litigation between Gauteng Province and Phumelela
In 2019 there are several changes to gambling regulations put forward. The Gauteng Province proposed changing the treatment of a tax subsidy for horse racing. It wanted the tax revenue raised of 3% to fund the Gauteng Gambling Board instead of Phumelela. In opposition, Phumelela argued that without the tax subsidy, winnings for horse industry will be reduced thereby impacting the sustainability.
The dispute in tax funding proceeded to the high court. Currently court proceedings have been postponed.
Also in 2019, Lottoland obtained a licence which allowed it to offer gaming services to South Africans. Lottoland is a wholesaler of lottery games from abroad which provides the opportunity to South Africans to participate in.
In 2018 numerous changes and proposal were putforward. A VAT tax increase was implemented from 14% to 15%. The National Gambling Amendment Act was discussed in parliament in regards to repositioning the purpose and authority of the National Gambling Board, as well as expanding the coverage of the Electronic Central Monitoring System to be for the whole of South Africa gambling and not limited to Limited Payout Machines (Slots).