5 things you should know about gambling in South Africa

Gambling in South Africa has been popular for several years now, but things haven’t always been this rosy. For centuries, gambling in South Africa was prohibited by the government. This included the Apartheid era, although there was an exception on horse racing.

It wasn’t until the Democratic Party came into power in 1994 that gambling was legalized. This also saw the forming of the national lottery and casino certification.

Today, there are plenty of land-based casinos all over South Africa. In fact, there are over 40 of them in total, with at least one in every major metropolitan area. 

Online gambling in South Africa is still restricted to just sports betting, but there are plans for legalization of online gambling in the future.

If you’re planning on visiting South Africa and head to a casino, it’s a good idea to know the important things so you know what you’re getting into or, alternatively, you can check this list of South African Online Casinos as well. 

Here are 5 things you should know about gambling in South Africa.

Types Of Gambling In South Africa

In the year 2000, the South African National Lottery was first established. It has been going ever since, except for a brief 6-month suspension between April and October in 2007. The National Lottery brings in around five million transactions every week. As such, it’s the most popular way to gamble in South Africa. When the 2019 figures are finalized, revenue generated by the National Lottery is expected to total R2.33 billion.

Interestingly, South Africa is one of the biggest countries in the world that participates in the UK49s lottery draw operated by Ladbrokes Coral.

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Casinos are another way to gamble in South Africa. The largest casino in the country is the Rio Casino Resort. It also happens to be the largest casino in the whole of Africa and ranks as the fifth-largest casino in the world. 

Finally, horse racing is also available in South Africa. It was the only way to gamble legally in South Africa for many years. However, it fails to compete with the National Lottery and traditional games due to its complexity and its difficulty with bringing in new players.

All horse racing betting activities are controlled by Saftote Saftote. However multiple bodies are responsible for its operation; Gold Circle is in charge of horse racing in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal area, while Phumelela looks after the rest of the country.

Most Popular Ways To Gamble In South Africa

As noted previously, and according to the most recent study in 2006, the most popular way to gamble in South Africa is the National Lottery, of which 96.9% of all people that took part in the study have played. Slot machines come second with 27.7% participation, followed closely by scratchcards with 22.7% participation.

At the other end of the scale, the same study also shows that 8.3% of those in the study had never gambled, while 5.5% would only class themselves as occasional players.

Gambling Revenue In South Africa

Back in 2006/07, South Africa reported that the gambling industry generated R13.52 billion, up from R11.4 billion the previous year. The figures show that 86.2% of all gambling revenue was generated by land-based casinos. 

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In 2016, the gambling industry generated R26.3 billion of gross revenue. The 2019 figures are expected to show gambling revenue around the R30 billion mark. This includes revenue generated from casinos, the National Lottery, sports betting, bingo and limited payout machines.

Online Gambling In South Africa

There are nine provinces in South Africa and each one has its own gambling and racing board. In order to operate online, bookmakers must apply and be granted a license by one of these boards. The Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board (WCGRB) provides the majority of licenses.

Residents can legally bet online through these sites. Winnings from bets on horse racing are deducted 6% to cover VAT. However, recreational bettors are not taxed further on their winnings as they are not considered as income.

Online Gambling Laws In South Africa

This is the final thing you should know about gambling in South Africa. And it’s a little more complex.

The 2004 National Gambling Act made it illegal for online sites to offer both internet games and interactive gambling services (these relate to casino games like craps and blackjack, bingo and poker). This applies to every online operator, no matter what jurisdiction they are in.

Now, it’s completely legal to bet on sports and horse racing online in South Africa. Bookmaking is considered a legal business practice as long as the person running the business holds an appropriate license, or the website they are using has the correct license.

The 2008 National Gambling Amendment Act tried to legalize interactive gambling (casino games, bingo, poker, etc) across the country and make way to its regulation. However, it was not received well by anti-money laundering authorities, along with competing land-based casinos. As such, while it was published in July 2008, the Amendment Act is yet to come into power.

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Though the gambling age is 18 in South Africa, there are lots of restrictions in terms of legal online gambling.

In August 2010, South Africa banned online gambling offered by offshore companies. This was due to a ruling made by the North Gauteng High Court on where the jurisdiction lies.

This meant that both offering a gambling service and actually gambling online was illegal, except for licensed horse racing and sports betting providers.

Anyone found to be involved with online gambling-related transactions can face either an R10 million fine, 10 years in prison, or a combination of both. This includes any casino site, internet service providers and even the banks themselves.

The limitations extend to media channels that advertise online gambling to the public, such as TV and radio stations, advertising agencies and newspapers


As long as you’re at a land-based casino in South Africa, feel free to play as many games as you want. There are plenty of casinos to choose and you’ll have a lot of fun. Just be aware of what you can and cannot do online.