South African Gambling History and Laws You Need to Know About

South African Gambling History and Laws You Need to Know About

South Africa has a rich history, much of it marred by strife in recent times, but with an underlying beauty to be seen. A small section of that history revolves around gambling, which has been both legal and illegal, depending on what part of history you focus on. If you’re interested in the history of gambling in South Africa and its legality in the modern day, here’s a quick history lesson and a rundown of betting in this gorgeous country.

Is it Legal to Gamble Online in South Africa?

For those who don’t want to read about the entire history of gambling in South Africa and would rather cut to the chase—yes. The amendments that made online gambling legal and regulated it in the 2000s have held up to the present day, with South Africa having a healthy online gambling community and numerous casinos to choose from. As long as you are 18 years of age or older, you may gamble online in South Africa at any location authorized by the National Gambling Board. If you need help deciding on which site to play at, check out a Zar Casino review to get a better understanding of what South African casinos have to offer.


Before colonialism, gambling was found in various forms among the indigenous peoples native to the area. Games of chance were embedded in the cultural and societal fabric of many different indigenous communities, serving different purposes within each society. As European colonizers arrived, the landscape would change over time as authorities sought to regulate and restrict gambling activities.

The 1965 Gambling Act

Under the apartheid South African government, the 1965 Gambling Act was passed and imposed severe restrictions on gambling. This act would essentially prohibit all forms of gambling, with the only exception being betting on horse racing, which would remain legal. The 1965 Gambling Act was part of the apartheid government’s effort to control various aspects of society. It would last until the end of apartheid in 1994 when the new democratic government recognized the need to adjust its view on gambling and the industry as a whole.

The National Gambling Act of 1996 and Amendments

The National Gambling Act of 1996 marked a historic moment for gambling in South Africa and legalized almost all forms of gambling, including casinos, bingo, and limited payout machines. Limited payout machines are popular in various countries and are similar to slot machines but have both a maximum bet and a maximum payout regulated by the state. This act would also create the National Gambling Board, which would help oversee gambling institutions and ensure that regulations were being enforced, formalizing the gambling industry in South Africa.

Amendments to the act would be introduced over time, with 2004 seeing an amendment aimed at addressing the emergence of online gambling. The amendment made sure that the already existing regulatory framework for gambling could be adapted to online gambling, as online casinos were rapidly popping up and needed oversight. Another amendment was added in 2008, refining regulations for various aspects of the gambling industry, including problem gambling, advertising rules, and licensing requirements.

Popular Games to Gamble on in South Africa

Slot machines, also known as the limited payout machines referred to earlier, are very popular in South Africa. The lights, spinning reels, and hyper music make them popular choices for gamblers looking for entertainment and a quick shot at a much larger payout than their initial bet.

In a similar vein to the popularity of hip hop, sports betting is also here to stay in South Africa—particularly placing wagers on football, rugby, cricket, and horse races. With many bet types and different events going on all the time, it’s no wonder this is a popular pastime for South Africans.

Table games like Poker and Blackjack are popular as well. Both are easily accessible online or in person at one of the many casinos nationwide. With the recent boom in streaming and mobile gambling, both of these games have seen a rise in popularity among younger bettors looking to hit a streak of good luck—especially poker, thanks to online tournaments with large purses and prizes.

Wrap Up

The history of gambling in South Africa is a fascinating journey, reflecting the country’s diverse cultural history and evolving legal landscape. From the pre-colonial era, where indigenous communities engaged in games of chance with cultural significance, to the restrictive 1965 Gambling Act under apartheid, the transformation has been profound. Today, South Africa boasts a vibrant online gambling community and numerous casinos offering popular games like slots, sports betting, poker, and blackjack. The industry is as alive as ever, with a projected market volume of over $1 billion ZAR in the next few years. As the gambling landscape continues to evolve, it remains an integral part of the country’s entertainment and leisure culture, attracting enthusiasts from various walks of life.

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