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South Africa is a fairly large country of about 55 million people on the southern coast of the continent of Africa. It has the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria, although Nigeria’s per capita GDP is less than half of South Africa’s.
So this is a pretty affluent country by African standards at least, although they do have quite a bit of poverty as well, and has Africa’s usual income inequality gap, and rank in the top 10 countries in the world with the widest gap between rich and poor residents.
This isn’t all that surprising given the makeup of the country, where almost all of the wealth and power has historically been concentrated within a small percentage of the population, but reforms here have far from remedied this, and it remains to a large degree. (1)
This inequality actually has probably served to enhance the gambling industry in South Africa though, especially when it comes to providing a healthy environment for higher stakes gambling like what goes on in casinos.
There are no less than 43 casinos in South Africa, and they are also very widely distributed within the country as well, with 34 different cities having a casino located within it. Not only does South Africa have a lot of casinos, the casino industry here as a whole is also pretty big, with many larger venues that attract both foreign tourists and South African residents alike. (2)
Most of these casino complexes also offer hotels as well as a wide range of other entertainment options, designed to cater to many different tastes. Many are organized along a particular theme, not unlike what we see in Las Vegas, and seek to become more of a one stop entertainment center, not just a place to gamble. (3)
South Africa has had a long history of restricting gambling, and in 1965 a new law was enacted that banned all forms of gambling other than betting on horse racing. However, this certainly didn’t stop it, and in 1995 there were estimated to be about 2000 illegally operating casinos in the country. The next year, gambling became fully legal, as the government perhaps realized that if this is going to go on anyway they might as well reap the benefits of it.
These laws have been updated over the years, and South Africa now enjoys a very thriving legal gambling market. The illegally run casinos still persist here, as the upscale ones are beyond the reach of a lot of people here, and this still thrives in spite of the government continuing to crack down on them on a large scale. (4)
Almost everyone plays the lottery here and almost 97% of South African adults buy lottery tickets. About a quarter play slot machines, so casino gambling is pretty big here, in spite of so many people living in poverty, this goes to show that the illegal gambling dens do a pretty big business as few people here can afford to play at the regulated ones.
Horse racing also remains pretty popular here but this is on a smaller scale than the other two main forms of gambling, although their now allowing off track betting has boosted the industry quite a bit.
Gambling here is a multi billion dollar business here and it’s only expected to grow even more in the coming years, and South Africa easily distances other countries on the continent of Africa in terms of the size of their gambling market, although gambling is still in its infancy in Africa relatively speaking and there are countries who are at least catching up to them as far as the number of casinos anyway, but although they don’t rival them in size.
Playing Poker in South Africa
South Africa is also the capital of poker in Africa, and poker is a very popular game here. Poker is widely available in the casinos and there are some fairly large poker rooms as well, and overall the availability of live poker here exceeds what is available in most countries.
There are no less than 19 poker rooms that operate here, with a total of 53 poker tables, and other casinos also offer poker on a part time basis as well. So there’s plenty of action to be had here if you enjoy live poker. (5)
South Africa also has its own poker tour, and their own poker association as well. While live poker is widely legal, online poker hasn’t been met with the same warm reception. Online gambling, including online poker, is outlawed here, although like in a lot of countries where this isn’t legal to play, there’s not a lot you can do to stop it.
There’s lots of online poker that is played in South Africa actually, and there really isn’t any real attempt to slow it down by the government apart from just declaring it to be illegal. They seem to be positioning themselves to regulate online gambling at some point soon, something they’ve been toying with for a few years now, but nothing has come of it as of yet, although this looks like it’s very close and we may see this happen in the very near future. (6)
No one’s sure what this is going to look like as far as online poker goes, the focus at this point is on casino and sports betting, but it’s possible that they may come up with a viable alternative to the leading online poker sites, and the biggest deal with regulated online poker is that it tends to drive away some of the bigger sites, so this may end up reducing the access that South African online poker players currently enjoy. We’ll have to see how that goes.
At the present time, in spite of online poker being illegal here, none of the major poker sites see South Africa as a grey market at all, and that goes to show that the size of a poker market is very influential in decisions to exit it or not.
Top Online Poker Sites for Players From South Africa
At least right now, the very best the internet has to offer as far as online poker rooms are fully available to South African players who wish to play online poker, and a great many do play. So here’s our top 5 recommendations for you, and all of them offer nice welcome bonus cash to first time players at their top sites.
888 Poker has been named the world’s top poker site for several years in a row now, and this at least makes it very worthy of your checking it out if you haven’t done so already. We agree that this is a fantastic online poker site overall and in particular it is not anywhere near as shark infested as Poker Stars, which didn’t make our cut for that reason, and 888 is second only to them in terms of traffic levels.
Party Poker is the fussiest by far as far as the countries that they are recruiting players from, and the ones they don’t anymore is a pretty long list, but South Africa is fortunately not on it, and therefore South Africans are free to enjoy everything that Party Poker has to offer, which is a pretty substantial offering.
Titan Poker and Bet 365 Poker are mentioned together here, since they are both part of the same network and are essentially the same poker room with only a few minor differences. Both are worth checking out, and this network offers a lot of traffic as well and both sites are particularly well run.
Black Chip Poker is the least famous of our top 5 poker sites, and these guys take players from just about everywhere, they never were scared out of the U.S. market for example, so you know they will be around for you regardless of what happens in South Africa. Black Chip also happens to be a fine online poker room indeed, and deserve to stand alongside our other top recommendations for you.
1. South Africa