In South Africa, there are nine gambling and racing boards, one for each province, some of which license companies offering internet horse race and sports betting. As long as a site is licensed by any of those boards all South Africans can use it legally regardless of which province they live. All other forms of internet gambling are prohibited by law.
As there are no domestic licensed gambling sites for casino, poker, and bingo, the only option we have for those is foreign online gambling sites. Since 20 August 2010, it is illegal to use such sites. On the books, violators risk a fine of up to R 10 million, or 10 years in prison, or both.
The above mention was likely a scary read. As an industry author who has personally gambled online from my home in Pretoria for almost 10-years now, it doesn’t concern me too much. As of late 2015, I’ve never heard of, nor searching Google News could I find any record of, anyone ever being arrested or summonsed, let alone fined or imprisoned, simply for using a foreign gambling website. The authorities are quick to remind us the crazy penalty, but I’ve yet to find any examples of the law being actually enforced on the player level.
South African Rand Casinos
Several of the most reputable global online casinos offer players located in South Africa the ability to hold an account balance in, and wager casino games with, South African Rand (ZAR). The reason they do so is despite the laws, there is a huge demand here. Such reputable casinos wouldn’t bother if that wasn’t the case. Below is a quick list of the ones we recommend.
I can’t stress enough the above are very reputable online casinos. Online since 1997, Omni casino was one of the first online casinos in the industry to open. Today their games are powered by Playtech, a leader in casino software development listed on the London Stock Exchange that is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. In 2014 Playtech had revenue of €457 million (ZAR 6.2 billion), operating income of €194.1 million (ZAR 2.6 billion) and net income of €140.7 million (ZAR 1.9 billion).
Omni is a major online casino available in English, German and Japanese language that offers accounts in Euro, UK pounds, US dollar, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, Japanese Yen, and South African Rand. Here you’ll find hundreds of slot machines including movie branded ones from Marvel Comics and progressive machines. Their table game selection is massive, and they also have video poker scratch cards and keno. They, like all other casinos listed in the same table, are popular in South Africa.
One other website to mention is www.5dimes.eu. This is a USD online sportsbook that doesn’t market their casino, it is an add-on to their sports betting site. The casino is however amazing. It has live dealer games! You can sit playing blackjack and other games against a real human dealer using a real physical gaming table and cards. For computer-based games their Bonus Casino offers games with higher payouts than any other. For example, Roulette paying 1.07 to 1, instead of even money on red/black, odd/even, and high/low bets. Higher payouts are true of every game in their Bonus Casino. Though they only support USD, South Africans can deposit here and get paid here using bitcoin, which is a topic I discuss toward the end of this article.
*Note: Banking options for South Africa are covered in the bottom of this article. Scroll down if you need help on depositing or getting paid with the casinos listed in the above section.
Poker Sites for South Africa
Texas Hold’em is by far the world’s most popular real money card game. The first online poker sites came online in 1999. A huge part of their initial success relates to a hit 1998 film from the United States by Miramax titled Rounders that starred Matt Damon and Edward Norton. It became a cult classic and tens of thousands, if not more, people became interested in poker after watching it. After this, regularly scheduled televised poker came about. Watching people compete for massive prize pools, in tournaments anyone could enter, added to its appeal. As poker became broadcast on televisions all over the globe, people took notice and flocked to online poker sites.
Due to changes in US law, in early 2007 the largest poker sites began racing to gain exposure in other markets. Our country was one that came naturally. That same year a South African player Raymond Rahme made the final table of the biggest annual poker tournament. That being the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. He finished third winning over $3 million USD. At the conversion rates of the time that was about ZAR 21.5 million. This tournament was aired repeatedly all over the globe. As he was well received by viewers, it made him a bit of a star. Online poker exploded in South Africa following this.
Jarred Solomon of Johannesburg was one of many players to get involved in poker at the start of the SA online poker boom. In 2010 he made two WSOP final tables. Then in 2011, he finished 2nd place winning USD $354,460 (then worth about ZAR 2.4 million) in the $10,000 buy-in WSOP Pot-Limit Omaha Championship. He’d then cash in 8 events at the 2012 WSOP, six at the 2013 WSOP. While all those tournaments took place in Las Vegas, he’d then win a WSOP-ring at an event in South Africa in 2013.
Part of the poker boom in South Africa involved major tournaments coming to our country. There have been multiple World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOP-C) ring events here since 2010. The big one still on our calendar for 2016 is the Emperors Palace Poker Classic, an annual stop on Word Poker Tour (WPT) calendar. The list of South African Poker – Top Money Winners, shows there many others from our country that have had success. So of course, online poker is in huge demand here, and despite the law it remains very popular.
For those looking to play online poker from South Africa, the sites below are the most recommended.
Titan Poker operates on the iPoker Network by Playtech making it one of the largest poker sites. A primary reason we chose to recommend them #1 is that they offer accounts in many currencies including South African Rand (ZAR). They also have banking options friendly to our country and an amazing track record. When Playtech was first starting out many years ago, Titan Poker was the network’s flagship site. This was long before major bookmakers joined the network. Still today, Titan is a massive company, offering far more promotions than any other South African friendly poker site. A very large bonus offer is waiting when you visit their site at www.titanpoker.com.
One other poker site we can recommend is a bit of a well-kept secret. This is www.5dimes.eu, which again is a USD online sportsbook. They don’t even market their poker room, it is just an add-on for those using their sports betting site. While ZAR currency isn’t supported they do offer bitcoin as an option for deposit and withdrawal. That is a topic I discuss later in this article. The traffic here is nowhere near that of the other poker sites listed earlier but the games are CRAZY SOFT! Their poker room is primarily populated by sports bettors that come to the poker site to casually gamble. As a result, the level of competition is lacking, making it easier to win money here.
*Note: Banking options for South Africa are covered at the bottom of this article. Scroll down if you need help on depositing or getting paid with the poker sites listed in the above section.
South Africa Betting Sites
Sports betting and horse race betting, unlike poker and casino, are legal to bet in South Africa when using SA licensed bookmakers. For this, there are many with sportingbet.co.za, interbet.co.za, tabonline.co.za, bet.co.za, and bettingworld.co.za being some of the most popular. For recreational players especially, it tends to make sense to just stick to using legal online betting sites. There is however still reason to consider others.
SA licensed bookies tend to have moderately acceptable odds. However, because they are paying large taxes on net-win, there isn’t a lot of room for them to offer low margin odds. For the serious value hunter, you might wish to look to foreign sites. To do so you need sites where the banking fees are not a deal breaker. This is where bitcoin comes in handy.
www.5dimes.eu in business since 1998 is one of the world’s largest USD online sportsbook. There is nothing flashy at all about their website as far as the marketing and design goes. They are famous simply because they offer low margin odds, and have a spotless track record for fair gaming and fast payouts. When you do sports betting on their site, on the menu do not click the name of the league you want to bet, but rather use the option that reads “reduced”. Click this and you will find very low margin odds. South Africans can deposit and withdrawal to 5Dimes using bitcoin.
I discuss bitcoin further soon. I just also want to note 5Dimes is a USD site that will take bitcoin deposits and convert them to USD. You then can wager in dollars. When you want to cash out you can cash out using bitcoin. The dollar amount is converted back to that currency. As I’ll soon cover, buying and selling bitcoin is rather easy in SA. The part to mention is that there are other low margin bitcoin (BTC) currency only sites SA residents can use. You can hold an account in BTC, deposit, bet and cash out in BTC as well. These are however nowhere close to as established of sites as 5Dimes. However, one we can suggest that is known for low margin odds is www.nitrogensports.eu.
South African Rand Banking Methods
When using South African licensed online bookmakers the banking options are intuitive. Nearly all of them offer the ability to deposit with local credit and debit cards. They also offer SID Payments. This is instant-EFT. It is used to transfer money from your account at a popular bank such as Nedbank, ABSA, Standard Bank or FNB to your betting account instantly. For getting paid from these sites there are many options including bank transfer and paper cheque. These sites are much easier to deposit with than foreign sites, but again they don’t offer casino, poker or bingo.
When using foreign sites it is ideal to first check the cashier of that site. On occasion, you’ll find special banking options for South Africa. This is often the case with poker site TitanPoker.com. For the others, you may find banking option are slightly more difficult. The law of our land requires banks to reject any transactions that they suspect are online gambling related. You can try your credit card at these sites, but if you find it rejected this is potentially the reason why. This is why most South Africans use an e-wallet instead.
E-Wallets NETELLER and Skrill
www.skrill.com and www.neteller.com are the two most popular e-wallets. They are both licensed as e-money providers in the UK regulated by that country’s Financial Service Authority (FSA). This means they are as well regulated as banks. Skrill offers accounts in South African rand, NETELLER does not but has an additional banking option more ideal to some. These e-wallets are not much different than PayPal which most South Africans are familiar with.
You can fund your e-wallet a number of ways. You can first try credit card and see if it is approved. If it is not then NETELLER accepts bitcoin deposits, and both accept bank wire. Sending a bank wire does require international fund remittance approval from your bank. For this, you will find Skrill much easier to use, as they are accepted by all sorts of merchants, where NETELLER is primarily gambling. If you tell your bank the transfer is to gamble online the bank will decline it. If you tell them it is for something such as purchasing an online course from a UK university, it almost certainly is approved.
Both NETELLER and Skrill are available as a deposit and withdrawal option at nearly all online gambling sites. You can freely move your balance from site to site. Say you have R 2 500 in your e-wallet account. You deposit R 1 500 to Titan poker and R 1000 to Omni Casino. You then win big at Omni casino and request R 20 000 to NETELLER. You can then use some of that money to deposit to other gambling sites, save some in your NETELLER account, and cash the rest out to your home bank. I just give this example to illustrate these are not vouchers. E-wallets are used just like online banking where you have full freedom to use portions of your balance as you wish. This makes it very easy to move money between gambling sites.
An important tip: as you get experienced with online gambling you might find it ideal to deposit with one method and then cash out with another. In order to withdrawal from a gambling site to a specific e-wallet, you need to have at least once in the past have deposited to that site with the same e-wallet. You may find it highly ideal if you do fund Skrill from a more difficult method, like sending a bank wire, to then make minimum deposits at several gambling sites you might use in the future. This ends up being a good way to later deposit with another method and then get paid in South African Rand to Skrill.
Skrill and NETELLER both offer multiple ways to cash money out of their e-wallets. The most popular is bank wire, while paper cheques can also be sent. Oddly, it is quite often that banks initially hold the wire. If they have your current phone number or email they will contact you this way, or otherwise, send a letter to your home asking you to call. It will have a reference number. They will then say they have a pending wire and need to know the source. They are asking where the money came from. For this don’t say gambling. This is merely a very easy standard check by the bank not to be intimidated by. If you tell them it is payments for services you rendered, (freelance writing, etc.) it will be approved and instantly put in your bank account. The bank reps do not drill or ask many questions.
Bitcoin in South Africa
I have mentioned bitcoin several times in this article. Bitcoin, written as BTC for short, is a digital currency that holds an exchange rate against all major currencies. The workings of it are quite advanced, but those are not overly important for casual users to understand. In South Africa, we have a number of bitcoin exchanges of which BitX is one of them. Naspers, one of the largest companies in SA, invested R 49.4 million in this exchange.
Pages of the exchange sites such as the one just linked to, as well as Google search, can be used to learn a lot more about bitcoin. A point I want to stress here is that bitcoin tends to have a highly volatile exchange rate. Our use of bitcoins as a gamblers makes us mostly immune to this. What we do in South Africa is buy bitcoins and then use them with a gambling site or e-wallet where our balance will then be held in USD. Or we use these as a payout method from the same sites. Once paid bitcoin, we immediately sell our bitcoin to an exchange receiving South African Rand. As we’re only holding bitcoin for a matter of minutes we’re not too worried about the fact the exchange rate changes often.
NETELLER is an e-wallet that accepts bitcoin as a funding method. They have a 5% fee on this, but it still does make it very easy to get an e-wallet funded which can then be used at almost any gambling site. Then there is www.5dimes.eu which comes very much in handy. They accept Bitcoin deposits direct and also issue payouts in bitcoin. These get converted to USD but there is no fee and the exchange rate doesn’t affect us much because we can cash out of 5Dimes in bitcoin too. Our balance at 5Dimes is held in USD which has a much steadier exchange rate with ZAR. We hold our 5Dimes account balance and make bets in USD. Then no matter how much the bitcoin exchange rates change when we request a payout we’ll still get a similar amount of rand equivalent, as the equivalent was at the time of our deposit.
Using bitcoin might be intimidating to some, but the e-wallet and exchange sites (such as BitX) explain how it all works quite well. As a casual user, it functions almost just like having a foreign currency PayPal account. We’re not investing in bitcoins, but rather using them as a means of online transfer. If you go to the site and then ask e-wallets any questions you might have, you’ll find it only takes minutes to get used to how these work.
Cashing out of Gambling Sites
As already mentioned, most every foreign gambling website supports the e-wallets NETELLER and Skrill as both a deposit and withdrawal method. To withdraw you must have deposited with that method as well. You can cash out of these e-wallets at any time via wire transfer and paper cheque. A lot of the gambling sites also offer the ability to skip e-wallet and get paid by cheque or wire direct, but it often takes longer than using an e-wallet.
There are additional payout options specific to sites. For example, www.5dimes.eu offers the ability to be paid in bitcoin, Western Union, and MoneyGram. 5dimes was mentioned in each of our gambling sections. They are not flashy but offer great value for sports betting, poker, and casino. They also have the highest number of SA friendly banking options. This is especially true say you want to deposit with bitcoin, then cash out with Skrill. Understand though they are not a bank. They expect you to roll over whatever you have deposited a couple times before doing so. But because of their flexible banking options and otherwise good value, this is a site to be aware of.
In closing, for the most part, you won’t have much trouble being paid by any of the sites we list here on this page. Due to bank restrictions, depositing is the only minor challenge. I have however already addressed the how-to specifics in detail for that topic. Perhaps bookmark this page in case you need to reference it later for help. That all covered, on behalf of Gamble Online, I now wish you the best of luck.
South Africa Gambling Laws & Regulations
South Africa’s land-based casinos brought in a gross total of $1.7 billion in 2012. They totally stomped Kenya ($18 million) and even Nigeria ($31 million) despite having 1/3 the population. Crazy, right? What’s even more exiting to think about is the potential South Africa has to be even bigger. Remember – these are revenues from land-based casinos only. As you’ll soon find out online gambling is currently illegal.
Just imagine if they legalized online gambling – the numbers they could do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to double it.
For right now your options are limited to online sports betting and a wide variety of options in one of the states 37 casinos. You’ll find more details on where and what you can play below, along with a brief outline of South Africa’s gambling laws.
Is gambling in South Africa illegal?
Yes, some forms are. But let’s start from the beginning.
Back in 1965 ALL forms of gambling were illegal, thanks to the Gambling Act. The only exception was horse betting because they viewed it as a sporting activity.
That didn’t stop people from gambling, though, albeit in unlicensed, underground rooms and casinos.
In the 1970s casinos started to open and by the 1990s there were more than 2,000 unlicensed and unregulated casinos in the state.
A new government took the reigns in 1994. With that came the National Gambling Act of 1996. This set the standards for what gambling is, how licenses should be distributed and what rules operators and players needed to follow.
A new version of the National Gambling Act was introduced in 2004. This prohibited online gambling for both the operators and players with the goal of protecting players from rogue casinos. The one exception here was sports betting.
Then in 2008 The National Gambling Amendment Act was introduced. The goal was to legalize interactive gambling (via the internet) and to provide standards for regulations. This bill has yet to pass, though.
And that’s where we’re at now. Online sports betting is okay, as is live gambling (as you can tell by the land-based casinos listed below). But other forms of online gambling are not – and are stated as such in the FAQs on the National Gambling Board website: 
Is online gambling legal in South Africa?
No. Section 11 of the National Gambling Act states: A person must not engage in or make available an interactive game except as authorised in terms of this Act or any other national law.
If you decide to gamble anyway and are caught, then you face fines of up to R10 million and / or up to 10 years in prison. 
Top Ten South African Casinos
There are 37 brick and mortar casinos in South Africa. Here are the top ten according to SouthAfrica.net:
1. Sun City Casino Resort – Other than gambling there is a golf course, an amusement park, live shows, food and kids activities.
2. Gold Reef City – You’ll find table games, high roller action, and 1,700 slot machines. The casino is open 24/7.
3. Montecasino – They have 78 table games and non-stop, 24-hour action.
4. Emperors Palace – They have one of the largest selections of games – 67 tables and more than 1,700 slot machines.
5. Sun Coast Casino and Entertainment World – Choose from lots of progressive slots including Wheel of Fortune, Zorro, Playboy and Sex and the City.
6. Boardwalk Casino – Other than the casino there’s a sports café, a movie theater, specialty shops and restaurants.
7. Grand West Casino and Entertainment World – Play over 2,500 slot machines and 68 table games including blackjack, easy poker, roulette and punto banco.
8. Wild Coast Sun Casino – Take your pick from over 500 slots games and 16 table games including blackjack, roulette, and poker. Bets range from R10 to R5000.
9. Carnival City – They have 1,750 slot machines and 60 table games for both smokers and non-smokers.
10. Silverstar Casino – Choose from over 800 slot machines and 20 table games.
This list is just a fraction of the brick and mortar casinos in South Africa.
Recent Developments in South African Gambling
There are two stories to come from South Africa in the last year. Funny thing – they’re both about bills on opposite ends of the spectrum.
- A bill was tabled that would legalize online gambling in South Africa. Right now only online sports betting is legal per the 2008 National Gambling Act. But this new bill would make it legal to play casino games online. No one expects the bill to pass.
- There is another bill. But if this one passes it would prohibit dog racing and online casinos in the state. Not everyone agrees with the bill, though. According to Geordin Hill-Lewis: That is a very, very bad decision. I fiercely disagree with that view. It is completely shortsighted to say that it is better for South Africans not to be allowed to gamble online when there is patently significant demand in the country to do that. It is for government to facilitate that in the safest way possible.