South African Online Poker

The situation of online poker in South Africa is extremely murky or crystal-clear, depending on whom one asks. Play money poker is an exception of course: since there’s no actual monetary movement involved in these games, there’s nothing about them that could be considered akin to gambling and as such illegal in any way.

Since South African laws say little or nothing about online poker, some people consider them illegal. Of course, there are laws out here which prohibit the activity on one level or another, so those who prefer to err on the side of caution may be right after all.

The lack of a regulating and licensing legal framework in the country means that there are no indigenous South African online poker operations. The void left in the market by the lack of these operations has been filled by offshore online poker rooms which peddle their services to South African customers despite the fact that the government considers their presence illegal. Others stealing their gambling revenues is obviously not something the South African government is particularly happy with either.

Gambling is a major revenue driver for the South African state, which is exactly the reason why it’s been nationalized.
The 2004 National Gambling Act seems to be the top document governing the activity in the country, and it does indeed seem to be pretty clear in not allowing any unauthorized games in SA.

The government’s monopoly over gambling is not only a convenient setup from the point of view of the legal framework regulating these activities, it is also immensely profitable, which is exactly the reason why proponents of legal online poker in the country aren’t particularly optimistic in regards to the chances of gambling/poker laws changing for the better in the near or even distant future.

The most logical and likely solution that would allow for South Africans to play online poker legally in their country, would be the state setting up its own operation(s). Obviously, we have seen such initiatives fail in the US and Europe, so at the end of the day, it may still not turn out to be a long term band-aid for the online poker issue.

The way the legal situation is currently shaping up, it is essentially up to individual players to decide whether they want to play online at one of the major international sites or not. Everyone who decides to go for it should know however that he/she risks not being able to pick up his/her winnings and may even end up in some hot legal water…


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Last Updated 24 July 2016
South African Online Poker