Poker Laws In South Africa

Legislation

There are lots of things us South Africans do really well but simplicity isn’t one of them! So it’s no surprise then that the laws and regulations about poker in ZA are a bit confusing.

When you’re trying to understand something that’s murky and complex, the beginning is always a good place to start. It’s also simpler if you look at the laws governing offline and online poker separately.

Carry on reading to find out about the start of South Africa’s poker laws, where they stand right now and most importantly, whether you’ll be arrested for playing a few hands down at the bar or at an online poker site.

Online Poker

It depends where you look for the facts but according to all the most trusted poker industry sources and public government information, (http://www.justice.gov.za/sca/judgments/sca_2011/sca2011-155.pdf) , gambling at online poker websites operating from South Africa is completely illegal for South Africans.

So why do some people talk about playing legal poker online from SA? Are they crazy? Hold tight, this is where it starts to get confusing.

While the South African government has now clarified its position on online poker, the reality is that the existing Internet gambling laws are aimed at frightening gambling operators out of the market, not at actual poker players. No real money Internet poker player in South Africa has ever been prosecuted and that’s why South African’s keep flocking to legal international online poker rooms.

The National Gambling Act: Reinvented

Until fairly recently the National Gambling Act of 2004 was literally the only piece of legislation crafted to deal with online gambling (or interactive gambling as the government calls it). It stated that it was illegal to offer or engage in online gambling games.

In 2008 online poker was still being played up and down the country, so the government decided they may as well get in on the revenues. The National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 was then published with the aim of legalising and regulating the online poker market. Unfortunately, later in the year of 2008 many offline, land-based casinos in SA teamed up with anti-fraud protective agencies to argue against the introduction of the new, more relaxed rules.

The casinos did this because they didn’t want all their customers going to spend their gambling Rand online instead of at their poker tables and slot machines. The anti-fraud authorities opposed it because it would mean there would be a whole new arena for them to search through and the responsibility of overseeing all online poker transactions sounded a bit too much like hard work!

The final blow for legal online gambling in South Africa came in the summer of 2010. Online gambling at international gambling sites based outside of SA was banned too. This time they didn’t just aim the law at operators either, the government promised to punish the players themselves too.

Luckily for poker fans, the government did a terrible job of outlining what counts as ‘gambling’ and so poker is currently back and fighting fit. Online poker has returned to its good old grey home where no one has nailed down the law and no player has ever been fined.

But wait, there’s more! In mid January 2017 a member of the South African parliament called Geordin Hill Lewis brought the whole thing back up again. He wanted the government to take another look at regulating the online poker market by settling on a final version of the National Gambling Amendment of 2008 which had been left abandoned.

In February 2017 Hill Lewis introduced his Remote Gambling Act to parliament.

The Remote Gambling Act is still being discussed and poker players around SA are holding their breath. They could be holding it a long time though, because here’s what a Department of Trade and Industry representative had to say to South African Independent Online News, “In our view no amount of control will adequately curb the harm that may be caused to South African citizens by online gambling, hence we reiterate that it must remain a banned activity.”

Legal Land-Based Poker In SA

There are around 40 land-based casinos or poker rooms with legal poker tables in South Africa and each offline gambling venue must have the correct licenses to operate in the province they are based in.

Playing poker for real money, against friends, in the comfort of your own home or even on the beach is illegal but it is not heavily policed.

To Recap

Online poker is not clearly illegal in South Africa, as long as you play at an international poker website. We can show you the best international poker websites for you to play at from South Africa, so make sure you check out our reviews page.