A Brief History of South African Gambling

The South African gambling industry has become a strong force for the economy since being legalised in 1994. By 1996, the National Gambling Act permitted a string of licensed casinos as well as a national lottery and horse racing options, with online casino sites emerging later in the decade.

Prior to 1994, the lack of legislation did not dissuade rogue businesses from operating an estimated 2,000 illegal casinos during the early 1990s. Two decades before that, the only permitted casinos were for native South Africans in the areas of Venda, Transkei, Ciskei, and Bophuthatswana. Since legalisation, tourists are allowed to attend land-based casinos throughout South Africa.

Online Casinos Emerge

In the mid-1990s, software standards began to improve and some developers chose to create online casino games. As the decade wore on, the first casino sites were launched and South African residents began to seek out free money bonus options – where the promotions were actually free and could be used to win casino cash.

In the current landscape, efforts are underway to revamp online gambling legislation in South Africa and introduce a system where native and offshore operators can apply for remote gaming licences. This follows the failure to publish the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008. Unfortunately, this never happened despite receiving the approval of the president in July 2008.

By not introducing a system to legalise operators in the country, this inaction was found to have supressed gross gambling revenue by 3.5% in 2018. Moving forward, the National Gambling Board is exploring the possibility of developing a licensing system within the country and this could be a viable strategy for protecting revenue streams for the industry.

Historic Locations

With all of the fancy five-star resorts and online casino sites available in South Africa, it can be easy to forget the land-based casinos of the past that kept gambling alive in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. Here are some of the most historic casinos that were active during that period:

  • Carousel Casino: Opened in 1991, the Carousel is situated in the former Bophuthatswana. Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused the casino to close and it is currently for sale at the time of writing;
  • Morula Sun: Established in 1989, the Morula Sun is situated in Mabopane and provides more than 500 slot machines on a 44,000-square-foot floor space;
  • Sun City: The brain-child of hotel magnate Sol Kerzner, the Sun City Resort was launched in 1979 and attracted famous recording artists to provide entertainment;
  • Wild Coast Sun: Now owned by Sun International, the Wild Coast Sun can be found in Port Edward. The casino celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016 and is now equipped to provide access to casino games, restaurants, bars, and conference facilities across the resort.

As you have read, there is an interesting history in this country and we expect that more chapters will be written as the government comes to embrace the regulation of online gambling operations in the modern world.