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Examining the Legal Framework Surrounding Online Poker in South Africa

Examining the Legal Framework Surrounding Online Poker in South Africa

The history of poker in South Africa is long and fascinating. The game was introduced in the country by early European settlers and has since built up a strong following amongst its citizens. Nevertheless, despite the game’s rich history in the nation, its legal status has been far from clear.

When the country first announced its initial gambling laws, most casino games, including poker, were considered illegal. However, a licensing system introduced in the 70s provided room for the legalization of certain games, and luckily, poker fell into the category. But then came online poker in the late 90s, the new technology that took the world by surprise, and while it took several years for online poker to gain traction in South Africa, it finally did in the early 2010s. Since then, the country has become one of the fastest-growing online poker hubs in Africa.

However, this growth has been heavily stunted by the very complicated regulations surrounding online poker in the country. Here, we’ll examine the legal framework surrounding online poker in South Africa and how the various regulations have shaped the industry. Read through to uncover the thrilling world of South African online poker.

History and Current Legal Status of Online Poker in South Africa

In 2004, the National Gambling Act was introduced in South Africa to replace the country’s outdated and inadequate gambling regulations. This was after the boom of online gambling and online poker in the country. According to The National Gambling Act 2004, all forms of online gambling were illegal, including online poker.

However, this Act did little or nothing to stop the fast-growing technology, and in a bid to cash in on the substantial annual revenue generated from online poker, the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 was published. With this Act, online casino games like poker would be legalized, and platforms would have to obtain a license from the government to operate.

Despite the multiple benefits of this Act, it was heavily confronted by anti-money laundering agencies and land-based casino operators who feared that the legalization of online poker would affect their revenue stream. After a prolonged legal battle, the Act was abandoned, but the industry continued to grow, albeit slowly.

In late August 2010, the North Gauteng High Court ruled a final judgment on the legality of online gambling in the country. According to the ruling, any form of online gambling was illegal, even if they were hosted on servers outside the country’s borders. Unlike other gambling regulations that targeted only site operators, the ruling confirmed that even players who played poker on these sites were in danger of the law. Guilty parties could face up to 10 years in prison or pay a hefty R10 million fine.

Online in Poker in South Africa, What You Must Know

Recently, there have been talks about reviewing the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 to give room for interactive gambling like online poker; however, no concrete conclusion has been reached.

Also, the 2010 court ruling did not explicitly specify the types of online gambling that were considered illegal.

In most countries, online poker rules are usually separated from other online gambling rules due to their nature. Operators and poker fans have managed to exploit this gray area. Currently, dozens of online poker sites offer services to players in South Africa, and so far, nobody has gotten into trouble with the government.

What the Future Holds for Online Poker in South Africa 

Online poker is fast growing around the world, especially in Africa. It’s now becoming increasingly difficult for countries to ignore the immense economic benefits of legalization, and soon, the South African government will have to sit and have that conversation.

Early this year, Geordin Hill-Lewis, a member of the South African Parliament, urged the government to take another look at the abandoned National Gambling Amendment of 2008. He later went on to introduce his Remote Gambling Act which is still being debated in Parliament today. This Act would revolutionize the online poker scene in South Africa and provide easier access to online poker and more revenue for the government.

The Bottom Line

Online Poker regulations in South Africa are a topic that has generated several debates in recent years. While many claim that the law prohibits all forms of online gambling, others argue that online poker wasn’t explicitly mentioned.

Nevertheless, the country doesn’t offer licenses to online poker sites, and players have to rely on offshore sites to play. So far, there have been no legal issues for players who play at offshore sites.

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