South African Poker and the Law
The first act controlling online gambling was the National Gambling Act in 2004, this stipulated all online gambling is illegal, with the exception of sports betting where licenses are issued. This rule applied to online poker site operators, though was ignored, as those sites were operating from countries outside of the jurisdiction of the SA government.
In 2008, there was an amendment act, which aimed to bring some online gambling into the regulated sphere. Conflicts of interest got the better of this one, and it has never come into force.
In 2010, a legal ruling in the North Guateng High Court clarified jurisdictional rules. This effectively broadened the 2004 act to include servers not based locally. Once again this was ignored by the poker site operators.
As recently as 2016 this topic came up for debate again. A new Gambling Amendment Act looked at ways of taking money from operators that broke the rules by offering real-money poker games. Once again, these rules have not been enforced.
The situation remains in a status quo. Players are able to register, deposit and play at most of the larger international poker sites. Now and again the South African government looks to ‘crack down’ on this, passes a new act, and the players and sites carry on as before.
Popular Poker Sites for South African Players
While the standoff between the authorities and the poker sites continues – players get to choose from many of the biggest and best operators around the world. Our number one pick for international players – 888 Poker – recently stopped accepting new South African players. There is still plenty of choice, with the world’s biggest site, PokerStars.com leading the way.
PokerStars is not just the highest traffic online poker site worldwide, they crush the competition as far as player number go. These high traffic poker sites allow for higher stakes, bigger tournament guarantees and more poker variations than you will find at most other sites. There are innovations including progressive knockout tournaments, Zoom Poker (the biggest fast-fold variant) and Spin n Go jackpot games too.
What I like best about PokerStars is that it works as a mobile poker site or via a download. You will also get to try the games out for free. Once you start to play, you’ll benefit from a loyalty scheme, and plenty of promotions. Check our PokerStars review here at IsOnlinePokerLegal.com for more details.
At the other end of the traffic spectrum in terms of size, BetOnline Poker welcomes South African players. This site is mostly focused on real money cash games. It is part of the Chico poker network, sharing players with other sites including Tiger Gaming and Sports betting Poker. The big advantage of choosing this site is that most of the players at poker tables come over from the sports book. Instead of experienced ‘grinders’, you’ll find recreational players that want to splash around some chips and have fun.
Depositing at a South African Poker Site
There are plenty of ways to deposit at online poker sites from South Africa. Sometimes, your credit card transactions might get blocked by your bank. This will not cost any money, they will simply be complying with the laws by blocking transfers to gambling sites. Since you are making an offshore payment, poker deposits made with Visa or MasterCard will go through a large proportion of the time. Bank wires can be trickier, I recommend you mail or phone your favorite site to find out your options with this. You can deposit using Rand at many of the bigger sites. What you will find is that the funds are transferred to dollars, and you’ll play in that currency. When you cash out, the dollars are converted back into Rand.
Electronic wallets and virtual cards are popular alternatives. PayPal poker is not currently available for South African poker fans. You will find that several rival brand ‘eWallets’ including Skrill and Neteller are welcomed.
If you choose BetOnline or one of the other ‘offshore’ US friendly poker sites, you will be able to deposit and withdraw using Bitcoin. This gets around the bank blocks, and gives you a secure way of moving your gambling bankroll around that is outside of the control of the government!