On 24 August 2010, the North Gauteng High Court handed down judgment in the case of Casino Enterprises (Pty) Ltd (Swaziland) v Gauteng Gambling Board and others, which the media sensationalised by incorrectly suggesting that the result of the judgment was that online gambling had been declared unlawful in South Africa. On the contrary, the judgment confirmed the current legal position in South Africa, which is that online gambling (or interactive gambling, as it is described in the legislation) is not permitted in South Africa.
It is necessary to clearly distinguish between interactive gambling on the one hand and online sports betting on the other. The making available of online sports betting activities constitutes the business of bookmaking and is lawful in South Africa, provided that the person conducting such business holds the necessary provincial bookmaker’s licence(s). The Casino Enterprises judgment does not have any impact on the lawfulness of licensed online sports betting activities in South Africa.
As regards interactive gambling, the National Gambling Act, 7 of 2004, prohibits the making available of and engaging in interactive games (being gambling games made available and accessed via the internet, other than the activities of bookmakers). In other words, it is unlawful for operators to make available and advertise interactive gambling in South Africa, as well as for players in South Africa to engage in interactive gambling (irrespective of whether the operator making available the games is licensed in another jurisdiction (e.g. Swaziland, as was the case in the Casino Enterprises judgment).
The National Gambling Amendment Act, 20 of 2008 ("the Amendment Act") was published in July 2008 and seeks to legalise interactive gambling in South Africa. Once in force, the Amendment Act will establish measures to control the currently unregulated interactive gambling market in South Africa. At present, however, the Amendment Act is not in force, largely due to the objections of various interested persons, including land-based casinos and anti-money laundering authorities.
Although the Casino Enterprises judgment did not change the current legal status of interactive gambling in South Africa, the National Gambling Board indicated that it hopes that the judgment will alert unlicensed interactive gambling operators and individual punters engaging in interactive gambling in South Africa and remind them that even though the Amendment Act is in the pipeline, interactive gambling remains unlawful in South Africa.
In the mean time, we wait in anticipation to hear when the Amendment Act will come into force.