June 5, 2024

An in depth look at the South African Gambling market

South Africans have always enjoyed the odd bet or two, yet since the country’s founding in 1673 all forms of gambling such as betting on sports and casino games were outlawed. For close to three centuries that law remained unchanged, that is until the 1965 inception of the South African Gambling Act made on-track betting at horse races legal.

Despite that small 1965 concessive nod of approval to betting on horses, operating a casino, including an online casino, within the borders of South Africa has been illegal since before the country officially appeared on any map, and so it remains till this day.

Yet, on any day of the week do a quick online search and it will reveal that South Africa has a multitude of world-class online casinos operating locally. Moreover, at first glance they look pretty much as good as any of the top brands across the globe, even as attractive as those offering their services in highly competitive markets of strictly regulated countries like the UK.

So, the question one might ask is, how have South African online casinos managed not only to stay open, but also become an unexpected success story? Well, the devil lies in the detail – take a closer look at online casinos South Africa and you’ll start noticing small but very significant differences.

Read on to discover what their secret sauce is as we delve into the details of their undisputed success.

Turning the industry upside down

If the country’s legal framework prohibits playing at South African casinos. Why then are licensed websites able to continue providing slot machines, roulette, or draw games without fear of the long arm of the law? Officially speaking, it is because due to the specific way they are designed they are considered sportsbetting events, and by regulatory definition are considered similar to rugby, cricket, or soccer matches rather than casino games.

It turns out, draw games were the catalyst for everything. Operators looked for ways to introduce new products which adhered to the laws governing sportsbetting. So, over the past four or five years, we have witnessed a near-total transformation of the South African online casino sector.

Operators came up with a legal method to introduce draw games based on numbers in a way that complies with legal rules. In essence, operators discovered they could utilize a contingency of the law that allowed for betting events that were approved and licensed by international regulatory bodies across the globe, as part of their local legislation processes.

In Great Britain, the Gambling Commission (UKGC) would frequently control such products and services. As a result, you may legally wager on the results of these events based on the theory that it was a legal, controlled, or licensed contingency. It essentially is wagering on events validated by their international licensing, which saw the popularity of these games take off like wildfire.

From that point on operators started applying the same principle to live casino games, followed in recent times by RNG games like slots and table games. Currently operators have stepped up their game and have gone a step further by trying to include classic casino games on the grounds that these products also fall under the purview of foreign-licensing bodies and that bettors were wagering on the result. Logically, in definitive regulatory terms, if a bettor wagers on any casino game it can be considered as sportsbetting. And although the logic may seem unusual, that is how the description fits the legal framework.

If one considers the product variety, quality, and mix currently available at online casinos it closely resembles that which is found in any top-end international sportsbook and casino. However, at their core, games at online casinos ZA differ substantially from those of their internationally sanctioned namesakes. These differences are crucial for them to be considered as legally acceptable events to wager on. To comply with the regulations for local gambling events, some modifications are required for certain games. This results in some products that may seem unusual such as fixed, pre-set spinning times on roulette wheels. This means, at all the best online casinos South Africa, even if no one is at a table and no bet is placed, the wheel will still continue to spin at all indicated times.

Online Casino Market is booming

Complying with the regulatory requirements does not appear to have affected online casino revenue too much, online casinos appear to have quickly made up a large share of the revenue.

So, despite all being regulated as bookmakers, what used to be online sportsbook operators are all pretty much full-blown online casinos now. Beyond the fine-tuning required to qualify as fixed-odds betting events, online suppliers face a series of further challenges.

There’s a required process to have games and software tested, all software must be submitted to BMM and/or GLI. These industry approved independent auditors have specialized testing labs to test and verify every last piece of software and system before sending reports of their results to the national gambling board. The board, in return, may respond with a few questions of their own.

Irrespective of whether it is betting software or third-party content, the entire compliance process requires six months with regular increases of up to a year before receiving final approval for the games or products to launch in South Africa. A delay that holds true even for products considered as casino gaming in other markets. The same regulatory processes also apply to all sports betting software because online operators in SA face a unique set of regulatory requirements.

Complicated – yes naturally – it came to fruition from a complex regulatory structure. The South African National Gaming Board is responsible for oversight of all forms of gambling in the country, moreover each of the country’s seven provinces also established its own regulator.

However, for online gambling operators licensed by one regulator allows them to offer their games nationwide in all provinces. This creates confusion since certain games are licensed in specific provinces but not others yet are available across all provinces. Part of the secret sauce for online operators seem to be finding an agreeable regulator, willing to take a fair view on products not yet defined under the rule of law while ensuring promotions like R50 Sign Up Bonuses are beyond scrutiny.

Attempts to change the gambling market

With its last significant reform in the early 2000s followed by a stalled attempt in 2008, it is evident that current legislation is outdated. This leaves regulators lacking the capacity to provide complete, cohesive oversight, as time and technology created numerous potential loopholes that could be exploited.

Local regulators currently are left having to face a lengthy list of products and services that lack clear description and classification within the rule of law, that they need to deliver fair judgement on. To date they’ve done an admirable job of coping within their prescribed parameters. Where previously unlicensed operators were a thriving community, many rejected casino-like products now receive a nod of approval from provincial regulators.

In September 2022, the Democratic Alliance (DA), in a bill presented to parliament, highlighted the need to establish a national regulatory structure. The structure that, in addition to a lengthy list of new points it needed to address would specifically cover online gambling. In the DA’s opinion the current lack of regulation cultivates fertile ground for criminal activity while simultaneously leaving its citizenry ineffectively protected. The bill left provincial authorities responsible for the issuing of licenses but within the rules of a more clearly defined national framework.

Looking to try out some great Casinos? Look no further

In summary, the online casino scene is currently a bit of a wild west show with some operators, finding a provincial authority pre-disposed to fairly judge products not specifically defined under current law, taking more benefit than others. However, it is important to note that unlike previous attempts at legislating online gambling in SA, the political atmosphere as it relates to gambling changed significantly, paving the way for R100 Sign up Bonus promotions.

The DA’s proposed bill is not the latest attempt to once again ban online gambling. Instead, it encourages approval and inclusion which would not only expand a well-regulated market, it would also create a significantly safer environment for players and improve the tax revenue stream for the government.

However, irrespective of the outcomes of future political and legal wranglings, online gambling in South Africa has become too big to simply get rid of. In light of the current state of regulatory affairs, it is important to make certain you are playing in a safe as possible environment as it is a key factor. South African players can keep themselves safe by playing only at legally licensed online casinos.

The easiest, safest, quickest way to access a vast number of qualifying casinos is to refer to our South African casino reviews. Here you’ll find an extensive number of casinos that we’ve tested according to strict criteria. Based on our findings, we have provided unbiased reviews containing all the most pertinent details you need to make better, well-informed decisions when choosing a casino to join and partner with.

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