May 3, 2024

Celebrity Gambler – Martin Moshal: The Microgaming Man backing South African politics

By Ramona Depares

He may not love the limelight, but the limelight certainly loves him! Meet Martin Moshal, one of the men who’s had the strongest influence on the best online casinos. Born in Durban, Martin is reputed to be behind the lion’s share of political funding ahead of South Africa’s 2024 general election, helping the Democratic Alliance, Action SA and Build One South Africa achieve their aims. Just to put things in perspective, these are three of the most important players on the SA political landscape.

But this is not the main reason we’re interested in Martin. We’ve already mentioned that he’s one of the biggest names in the gambling world. This is because Martin is reputed to have made all the money that allows him to contribute to political and philanthropic causes in the online casino industry.

Although he’s not fond of giving interviews, leading journalists like The Guardian’s Rob Davies have credited him with changing the face of online casino real money gambling in his book Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain. In fact, he is widely believed to have created the world’s first online casino software through Microgaming, which he also founded. Hence, he enjoys the nickname ‘The Microgaming Man’ to this very day.

This first breakthrough took place way back in 1994, when online casinos looked nothing like they do today and Martin was a fresh-faced graduate from the University of Cape Town, where he had specialized in information technology, accounts, business administration and economics. It was just the perfect mix of subjects to springboard his idea for a casino software company.

Back then, Martin didn’t have access to the fortune he enjoys now, and it took a bank loan from SA bank Discover Bank Ltd to make this dream a reality. Given his age and lack of experience, to secure the loan he had to offer a 50% ownership in what was to become Microgaming to the bank. The ploy worked, and the rest is online casino history.

Today, Martin is based in Australia, and he’s faced his fair share of challenges. The biggest spot of trouble he encountered was undoubtedly in 2020, when he was revealed to be the secret owner of Betway, which at the time was facing allegations of failing to meet responsible gambling requirements by offering cash bonuses to those suffering from gambling problems.

Martin had to admit to the ownership after the British media broke the news that he was the owner of an Isle of Man trust that was the main shareholder of Betway at the time.

Martin Moshal Statistics

Born: Durban, South Africa 
Birthday: 8th November 1971 
Lives:   Sydney, Australia  
Wife: Ilana Moshal 
Parents: John and Anna Moshal 
Siblings: Karen, Anthony, Richard 
Studied: Information technology, business and finance at the University of Cape Town 
Career: Entrepreneur, philanthropist 
Claim to fame: Founded Microgaming and created the first online gambling software 
Net worth: Unknown 
Interests: South African politics 
Biggest donation: R46.5 million rand ($3.8 million) to SA political parties 

Martin Moshal: The Microgaming Man

When Martin Moshal graduated, the world was a very different place to what it is now. The online space was still full of undiscovered potential, and nowhere was this more evident than in the sphere of online casinos.

Martin’s interest had always veered heavily towards online gambling, a topic he was very passionate about – and not just as a player. He was always described by friends and acquaintances as having one big dream, that of creating the first online gaming software that would popularize top online casinos and make them accessible to the vast public.

Martin’s academic background in finances and tech made him ideally-placed to be able to pursue this dream, as did his passion for political sciences.

It was 1994 when he got his proposal together and approached a South African bank, Discover Bank Ltd, for a loan. Although he met with a few challenges, the loan was eventually granted and Microgaming was born. Within four years, the company released its first game – Cash Splash, which was also the world’s first progressive online slot. Cash Splash was an immediate hit, popularizing online casino games and spawning multiple sequels and variations. To date, more than 27 years after its release, it remains a fan favorite.

Throughout the company’s early years, Martin was responsible for the vast majority of its successes, getting in a number of patents for game mechanics and jackpot wagering. By the time the company moved to Isle of Man in 2021, it was estimated that more than one-third of the world’s online casinos were serviced by Microgaming. Martin’s dream had officially become reality.

Today, Microgaming is synonymous with high-quality gaming software, and it has produced a stable of titles are considered the cream of the crop of games, present at all the best online casinos. Thanks to games like Thunderstruck, to Big Bad Wolf and Breaking Da Bank, the popularity of online gambling was secured.

Partnerships with Martin Moshal

If you’re wondering how Martin went from being a broke graduate to one of the richest people in the world – although he refuses to disclose his actual net worth – the answer to that is his natural ingeniousness. Remember how Microgaming wouldn’t have been possible without a bank loan? Well, the bank loan wouldn’t have been possible without Martin’s ability to think outside the box – and a good dose of luck too, of course.

When Martin first approached the bank, he had zero credit or business experience and the request was initially declined. However, it did lead to a meeting of minds with one of the loans and business advisors employed at the bank. That man was Roger Raatgever, and he immediately fell in love with Martin’s idea to create the first online casino gaming platform. So Martin went back to him with a counter-proposal – approve the loan and he’d sign off 50% share of his new business.

The deal was sealed and Microgaming was born. This innovative approach followed Martin in everything he did, leading to further successes along the way. It’s not exaggeration to say that everything he touched turned to gold, even going as far as to earn the nickname CyberSol, a reference to the achievement of entertainment and hospitality magnate Sol Kerzner, incidentally a fellow South African.

Today, Martin has fingers in a number of pies in the tech industries and is involved in various investment and entrepreneurial activities, including venture capital firm Entree Capital, which brings together a team of investors to identify winning entrepreneurial ideas and has invested into more than 130 start-ups worldwide. Although Martin always manages to keep details under wraps, his interests remain very focused on software development and other tech-driven industries.

Martin Moshal and Philanthropy

Martin’s legendary status is not simply because he is rich and successful. It has a lot to do with his strong reputation as a philanthropist. He is the founder of The Moshal Scholarship Program, which was inspired by Martin’s own journey and the challenges he encountered within the education landscape. The aim behind the program is to provide promising students from underprivileged backgrounds with the financial support needed to pursue higher education in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

The program has been active since 2009 and offers young people a full package of financial aid, mentoring, internships and even employment opportunities, going way beyond a regular scholarship. This has enabled students to equip themselves not only with education, but also with soft skills and the networking opportunities needed to foster successful careers.

Martin also is also reputed to be involved in other philanthropic efforts that are related to education, technology, and community development.

Closing Thoughts: Beyond the Billionaire

Martin Moshal is undoubtedly one of the most iconic figures in the online casino landscape worldwide, offering the perfect example of how business and philanthropy can work together to tremendous success. Although he continues to shy away from the limelight, plenty of those who have benefitted from his generosity regularly sing his praises online.

And, of course, casino players owe Martin an especially huge vote of confidence, as he was the main driver behind several gambling innovations that we take for granted nowadays. Clearly, crediting the man with the creation of the best online casino platforms is no exaggeration.

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