A History of Gambling in South Africa

The country of South Africa has a long history of gambling. While it was dispersed and conducted in private establishments for many years, since the nineties it has experienced a renaissance. Now, with the advent of online gaming, it is more popular than ever.

Below, we give a brief history of gambling in South Africa. 

Early Days of Gambling

Since 1673, the most popular form of gambling in South Africa was horse racing. The law stated that people were only allowed to bet at the track itself. However, the sport waned in popularity with the advent of casinos and the National Lottery. 

In the early days, casinos were unheard of in South Africa. However, that began to change during the seventies. In this decade, they began to open in the Bantustan states. As these areas were inhabited only by native South Africans, access was restricted to most citizens. 

Luckily, it is now much easier for South Africans to play slots for real money along with other table games, by accessing online casinos. This is an industry that is just starting to flourish in South Africa, along with the rest of the sports betting and iGaming industry. Many of the online casinos available also have extremely good bonuses and welcome offers, which are seldom found in a physical casino. Visiting them through a mobile device also gives a convenience not found elsewhere.

First Casino

The first Casino resort, created in the vein of the large hotels of Vegas and Macau, was the Mmabatho Sun. It was later renamed the Mmabatho Palms. Created by Sol Kerzner, he would go on to build and own some of the largest casinos in the US. However, this was the first of its kind when it opened in 1977 and was an idea he would build upon when he opened his next project, Sun City, in 1982. 

Unfortunately, the Mmabatho Palms building was ravaged by a fire in September 2021. The cause of the fire was unknown. Guests were trapped in their rooms, though luckily escaped with minor injuries. 

By 1995 it was estimated that around 2000 casinos were running in the country. When these became more accepted in the mid-nineties, new forms of gambling rose to prominence. You can now find several casinos situated in major cities and even smaller towns. Providing slot games and table activities, many are also part of larger casino resorts. The biggest of these is the Rio Casino Resort, which is also the fifth largest in the world and the biggest on the African continent. 

National Lottery

Since then, the National Lottery has been the favoured form of gambling for many South Africans. It was believed that around 96% of the population took part at one point. It began operating in the year 2000 and has since been in continuous operation.

It is unclear where the industry will go next. As internet access becomes more prevalent in the nation, online revenue will likely continue to increase. However, the National Lottery will certainly retain its huge influence and popularity. 

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