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Betting in South Africa

Published on: 08/08/2016

South African gambling activity has been strictly regulated since the late 1600s, and most forms of betting were completely banned in 1965. However, wagering on horseracing was not included in the ban and is still allowed to this day. In areas called Homelands, the construction of casinos took place throughout the 1970s on a limited basis. These were regions where native South Africans lived, however the venues were mainly built to attract foreigners and the locals were excluded from using them.

Due to the South African citizens having limited gambling opportunities, underground wagering flourished. It is thought that most South Africans participated in illegal betting at some point, and many on a regular basis. Things changed in 1994 when the South African government decided that, by legalizing gambling, the nation would be taking a positive step towards modernisation.

In 2000, The National lottery was one of the first gambling activities to be organised. Today there are several variations of the national lottery.

The National Gambling Act later authorised The National Gambling Board (2004). This led to the specialized casinos in the Homelands being available for native South Africans to enjoy along with bookies, bingo halls and poker venues. At a recent count, South Africa had three gaming halls in Johannesburg and over 30 large betting establishments throughout the rest of the country. A world leading casino operator called The Sun International has gambling establishments in many places including the Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World in Summerstrand, the Carousel Casino in Hammanskraal and the Grand West Casino in Cape Town. Its Northwest Sun City Resort Complex is perhaps one of its most famous establishments. Currently, South Africa has more than 300 bookies, and another 400 betting shops .Cape Town and Port Elizabeth each have two horseracing tracks, Johannesburg is home to the Newmarket Racecourse - in addition, another twelve horseracing tracks can be found elsewhere throughout the country.

Whilst South Africa’s economy was struggling during the recession in 2010, its gambling industry revenues increased by 2.14% - reflecting the popularity of wagering throughout the nation. In 2011, keen to benefit from this boom, the finance ministry passed a withholding tax of 15% on any winnings exceeding 25,000 Rand.

There are however, many South Africans who are still against regulated gambling activity and would like to stamp out internet betting altogether. The official courts passed a law in 2010, prohibiting gambling on the internet, online sports betting and poker games. This has not deterred nearly 500 online sportsbooks from welcoming play from the South African citizens. There are many internet sportsbooks who welcome play from the South African people including William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfred, Expekt, Unibet and Bet365. However, all of these sites are only available in the English language. Many off-shore sportsbooks are happy to carry out transactions using the Rand.