ONLINE GAMBLING IN SOUTH AFRICA
It’s practically impossible to talk about online gambling in South Africa without saying a word or two about the history of gambling in general in the country. Namely, it is a history of long restrictions. Actually, they had existed for so long that a lot of people are still wondering whether online gambling is legal.
The History of Gambling in South Africa
The very first gambling restrictions were introduced in 1673. In the 20th century, the 60s saw an overall prohibition of all types of gambling except for horse racing. Someone argued that it was more of a sporting activity. Nevertheless, as long as there are rules, there will be people breaking them. It therefore comes as no surprise that there were about 2,000 illegal casinos.
Gradually this changed, largely through the efforts of Sol Kersner and his Sun International group, which cut deals with most of our neighbouring countries and states, so that full blown casino resorts were within a few hours drive of most South Africans.
Finally, the election of democratic government brought legalisation of gambling, which was eventually granted by the National Gambling Act of 1996 and has been controlled by the National Gaming Board ever since. This also meant the reduction of the number of casinos, since today there are around 60 casinos operating around the country.
The Rise of Online Gambling in South Africa
Online gambling took a little longer to take off in South Africa than in some other parts of the world, but is now a thriving industry with a constantly growing number of fans.
After 1994 with the major change in government came other major changes to our gambling legislation, and suddenly it was possible for clubs to obtain gambling licenses right in our cities. But alongside that came the gradual roll-out of Internet services.
You see, 1994 was also the year online gambling began worldwide, but we lagged behind mainly because of public awareness – gambling had for so long been prohibited – and partly because it would be years before broadband connections became commonplace in this country.
Well, what is essential for online gambling is being online. Though it is cited that the internet in South Africa appeared as early as 1988 (an email link was established), considering the speed and other challenges, the internet wasn’t accessible or fast enough until 2002. This is when Telkom introduced its first commercial ADSL product. As for wireless services, they came to rule in 2004. From then on, the things have only been getting better, hand in hand with online casinos.
True, online gambling had its challenges since the government seemed at times pretty torn between legalizing and banning online gambling. This made the players feel rather confused, but today they are gambling online as much as possible. One of the biggest indicators is the fact that even international casinos have started to have withdrawal and deposit facilities in rands. Obviously, South Africans love online gambling, otherwise they would bother to go the bank and open an account in US dollars or pounds.
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Why is Online Gambling so Popular?
Online gambling ensures you have your privacy, and you can play at almost any time, with whomever you want to. Perhaps the greatest appeal isn’t just its easy accessibility, but its awards, too.
Awards are the main factor that draws South African players onto the gaming tables of online casinos, but apart from awards there is the presence of networked games and their progressive jackpots that yield bigger wins than any traditional land-based casinos
You see, most online casinos are running software produced by only a handful of major developers. Now, most developers have affiliate networks that all online casinos running their software belong to. Certain branded games at these casinos all contribute to a single progressive jackpot, meaning that every time someone plays, a small slice of their wager goes towards a group pot. And with literally millions of people around the world playing the same game, that jackpot can climb astronomically high.
For example, a company called Microgaming produces a video slot game called Mega Moolah. Microgaming is one of the most reputable and popular developers out there, so a lot of online casinos run their software platform loaded with their games. With all of this exposure, Mega Moolah creates millionaires worldwide, every year. At the time of writing this article, the progressive jackpot attached to the game has just exceeded £6,000,000, and is still growing.
Convert that to rands in your head, and you suddenly see why online gambling is so popular in South Africa.
It took quite a while for online gambling to be possible, and legal, too, but today its future finally looks bright.