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Spotlight on South Africa: The Online Gambling Market and Its Current Regulatory Framework

Is it legal to play at online casinos in South Africa We take a look at iGaming legislation in the area to discover

South Africa has gaming legislation in place that makes it illegal to play online casino games, yet players in South Africa will have no problem accessing a number of popular online casino games. 

This paradox has caused a lot of confusion in the South African iGaming market. Some players are under the impression that they are doing something illegal by playing online casino games since online casino games are banned due to current gaming legislation.

A Sector Turned Upside Down

If one had to take a quick glance at the legislation, it states that online casino gaming in South Africa is illegal. Yet the presence of real money roulette, no deposit slots or draw games on licensed sites raises many questions for those trying to figure out current legalities.

The first thing we need to point out is that you must differentiate between unlicensed and licensed casino sites. There are a few illegal and unlicensed iGaming sites targeting South African players that are considered rogue sites as they are not licensed by any gaming board. We advise players in South Africa to stay away from these sites as you will end up exposing yourself to multiple risks.

However, you can access licensed iGaming sites that offer players in South Africa access to a variety of online casino games which includes slots, table games, live dealer games and draw games. The reason you can play these licensed casino games is because these licensed operators are taking advantage of a grey area or a loophole in South Africa’s existing iGaming laws.

iGaming Operators Take Advantage of Loophole

South Africa does not allow online casino games but does allow sports betting. iGaming operators have used this to their advantage by modifying their online casino games and launching them similar to a scheduled betting event. As a result, these scheduled casino games still fall under the classification of a sports betting event that is regulated by an international gaming regulator.

Gaming legislation in South Africa allow operators to offer betting options as long as the betting event is recognized and regulated by an international gaming regulator such as the UK Gaming Commission (UKGC) or the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA).

During the last few years, operators have modified their online casino games, live dealer games and even their table games to offer scheduled betting events that are recognized by reputed gaming regulators. As an example, an online casino will schedule a game of roulette at a specific time and the wheel will start to spin, even if no players take part. 

While operators offer these games under the banner of a scheduled betting event, they are nothing but online casino games with a twist. We say with a twist because they are a tad different from regular online casino games as operators make changes to these games like modifying their fixed-odds contingency before launching them in South Africa.

iGaming vendors have to follow a different process to get their games approved for the South African market. This requires them to send their games for testing to reputed testing agencies like GLI and BMM who will need to test and vet their games. These testing labs will then send a report of the games to the National Gaming Board (NGB) in South Africa.

If the NGB is okay with the report, the operator can launch these games. If the NGB needs further clarification, the iGaming operator will have to provide such information to the NGB to gain approval.

Testing and Verification Process in South Africa

The NGB oversees gaming regulation across South Africa but we must point out that all seven provinces have their own gaming regulator who retains a lot of power in making decisions of their own. Most iGaming operators prefer to work with the Western Cape Gaming Board as they believe this provincial regulator is the most progressive and easier to get approval from than the rest.

Change in Gaming Legislation Not Expected

South Africa’s legislators are aware that the existing gaming regulation is not robust enough and needs to be changed soon. However, there are more pressing things on the agenda for the current government and we don’t see any changes coming in the near future.

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