South Africa is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best places in the world for casinos, with a high number of top-class resorts located all over the country for people to pick from.
Offering luxury accommodation and the chance to win big money from games such as blackjack and roulette makes going to a South African casino a very popular tourism option.
Las Vegas and Macau are widely seen as being the gambling capitals of the world due to the sheer number of casinos they pack into a relatively small area on the ground.
However, South African casinos can match anything that Macau and Vegas can offer when it comes to spectacle, brilliant accommodation and fantastic gambling options to boot.
Here is our special guide to finding the best South African casino near your own location.
Gambling has had a strange history over the years in South Africa. The country is widely seen as having some of the tightest rules and regulations surrounding the industry, especially relating to online play. But first, let's go back in time. Since all the way back in 1673, gambling had been closely restricted in South Africa. Things changed with the introduction of the Gambling Act of 1965. This new law meant that all forms of gambling were now banned in the country, with the exception of betting on horse racing, which was made legal as a result of the fresh updates.
However, about a decade after South Africa's Gambling Act of 1965, casinos started to open up in various parts of the country. These were typically in areas such as Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda - mostly independent parts of South Africa - but the casinos catered for local people and they were not really aiming to bring in tourists. Nevertheless, it did show that the gambling rules in South Africa were not really fit for purpose. More changes were needed.
By the middle of the 1990s, there were some estimates that as many as 2,000 casinos were operating in South Africa. While these were illegal, a blind eye was effectively turned to them. All forms of gambling in South Africa were legalised in the 1990s when a new government, widely regarded as a lot more liberal, came to power.
The National Gambling Act of 1996 was brought in, with this piece of legislation including the establishment of the National Gambling Board (NGB), a body responsible for the regulation of the sector, including awarding gambling licenses.
That was not the end of changes to gambling rules in South Africa, though. Another National Gambling Act came into force in 2004 and this repealed the Act of 1996, which again led to the banning of many forms of gambling.
Then, a few years later in 2008, The National Gambling Amendment Act was introduced, which tweaked the rules for the industry yet again. Nowadays, online casino games are still subject to tight regulations, but bricks and mortar casinos in South Africa are fully legal. There are now dozens of casinos in the country according to NGB data.
We have picked out some of the best South African casinos around - which will you go to first?
First on our list is Gold Reef City Casino, which has more than a dozen rides to enjoy in its very own theme park.
On the gaming front, players who visit can enjoy more than 1,500 slot games, while there are almost 50 gaming tables to pick from as well. VIPs will love Gold Reef City Casino's Salon Privé, where high rollers can relax in a luxurious private gaming room.
Gold Reef City Casino is also home to South Africa’s only Victorian train station-themed cinema complex and there are 10 fast food outlets available here as well, including KFC.
Claiming to be the "crown jewel" of Mthatha is the Mayfair Casino, which is open every day of the week apart from on Sundays.
Its hotel includes access to gym and pool facilities, plus complimentary Wi-Fi, with the Mayfair Casino two-room penthouse suite boasting its very own bar fridge.
This world-class South African casino has various roulette, blackjack and poker tables with slot machines offering stakes ranging from 1c to R25.
Visitors to Mayfair Casino should make sure they check out the location's superb Diamond Bar, which has a casual dress code and a brilliant cocktail menu to work through.
One of South Africa's casinos that are operated by the industry leader Tsogo Sun Gaming, Silverstar Casino is located near the Magalies Mountains in Krugersdorp.
The Silverstar Rewards Programme has three levels - Gold, Platinum and Black - with players earning discounts on everything from entertainment, dining and movies to shows and events. The casino itself has 900 different slot games to try, with staking ranging from 1c to R100 machines. There are also two smoking Salon Privé areas for players to visit at this casino. A variety of table games such as casino classics blackjack and roulette are available here too.
One of the Sun International properties in South Africa, Carnival City Casino is open seven days a week from 07h00 - 22h00.
More than 50 table games - including poker, baccarat and blackjack - are offered at Carnival City Casino, which also has 1,400 slot machine games with stakes starting from just 2c.
Carnival City Casino is a family-friendly destination with activities for kids including arcade games at The Magic Company, as well as bowling and go-kart racing.
Calisto's restaurant at Carnival City Casino is an ideal date night spot, while live entertainment makes a trip to Bru's one to remember.
Located near Tambo International airport, Emperors Palace boasts a range of brilliant facilities like a health and beauty spa, though its gaming is certainly the main attraction here.
Guests have 1,710 slot machines and 69 table games to pick from, so Emperors Palace is one of the very best casinos in South Africa in terms of the sheer number of options that are offered.
Visitors should check out The CODESA Walkway for a deep dive into South African history, while Emperors Palace is also home to restaurants such as Zen, Taste of Mumbai and Hooters.
Another of Sun International's range of South African casinos is GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World, where players can find both smoking and non-smoking gaming facilities.
Activities at GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World range from ice-skating to ten-pin bowling, while the latest movies are shown at the site's CineCentre cinema complex.
For food and drink, the casino resort has fast food outlets and a range of family-friendly dining options, while the SunBet Sports Bar is the perfect place to watch the big game of the day.
GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World also hosts a lot of unmissable live events as well.
In a brilliant Mossel Bay location, Garden Route Casino is a Tsogo Sun Gaming property.
This casino has elite pampering options at La Vita Spa and foodies should definitely make sure they stop off for a bite to eat and a cocktail or two at the Bravo Lounge.
Gaming options at Garden Route Casino include an exclusive Salon Prive area while the Garden Route Rewards Programme rewards the loyalty of customers who visit here often.
The casino is also an ideal base for playing at the Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort, regarded as among the world's best new courses.
As the only licensed casino in Port Elizabeth, the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World is naturally a very popular place to game for South Africans, as well as tourists visiting the nation.
Open seven days a week, like many other top South African casinos the Boardwalk has areas for both smoking and non-smoking, which is very welcome.
This Sun International location has dining options from Greek and Italian to Asian cuisine, while hundreds of slot machines are offered, with stakes here starting from as little as 2c.
Families can visit as there is a daycare centre to keep kids entertained.
Located in a prime location on the coast north of Durban, Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom is a great place to play the popular local game Call Card 52.
There are some 1,286 slots to play here including a range of touch-bet roulette machines.
Sibaya boasts nearly 50 gaming tables and an exclusive Royal Court Salon Privè area too.
Meat lovers visiting Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom can pick from excellent culinary options such as the Royal Court Grill and Butcher Block during their trip to the complex.
Other activities here include Mangwanani Spa and the iZulu Theatre.
Designed to look like an Italian village, the Montecasino complex is truly a joy to visit.
There are 1,700 machines to choose from at Montecasino, which like most other leading casinos in South Africa also has a private casino gaming area as well.
Montecasino attractions include excellent shopping options while players can earn perks through the Montecasino Rewards Programme, as with other Tsogo Sun Gaming sites.
Describing itself as Johannesburg's number one entertainment destination, Montecasino is even home to wildlife park Bird Gardens, where there are a variety of unusual animals along with more than 60 species of birds.
Sun International's Flamingo Casino has plenty of slots and table games while activities that visitors can also enjoy include the Royal Spa, which is the perfect place for some pampering.
Flamingo Casino is also home to the historic Kimberley Golf Club, which opened more than 100 years ago and now holds the annual Barney Barnato Golf Tournament.
The fully supervised Flambino's Crèche and Kids' Zone means families can head to Flamingo Casino and feel reassured their little ones will be well looked after while they enjoy themselves.
Dining options here include Bar 129 and the family-friendly steakhouse Harvest Grill & Wine.
Amazing views of the Klein Swartberg mountains are available for people who choose to stay at the Caledon Casino.
One of Tsogo Sun Gaming's South African properties, the selection of games here is a little limited compared to other casinos.
There are still 300 different slot machines, as well as the standard range of table games.
Caledon Casino visitors have a choice of strong dining options from da Vinci Restaurant and The Black Sheep Diner to The Blue Crane, which is ideal for breakfast.
Guests can also enjoy one of the Western Cape’s top spas at the Caledon Casino too.
Found within the Greek Isles-inspired Club Mykonos Resort, this casino has several progressive jackpots and a handful of table games, as well as plenty of slots too.
As with other Tsogo Sun Gaming sites in South Africa, perks like discounts can be earned through the Mykonos Rewards Programme, which has three tiers: Gold, Platinum and Black.
The casino hosts a premier entertainment venue in Langebaan and is family-friendly too. Its Arcade games room stays open until 21h30 to keep the little one occupied during a stay.
Tennis courts and putt-putt are among the other fun activities, as well as angling.
Described as one of the Free State’s most exciting and inviting entertainment destinations, Goldfields Casino boasts some 250 slot machines with stakes here varying from 2c to R25.
Poker is available at one of the handful of table games that visitors can take a seat at here too.
Guests who want to take a break from the action during a trip to Goldfields Casino can get a drink or two at Celebrations Bar, with top food also available at Billy G and Explorer's as well.
Open since 2003, Goldfields Casino has experienced childminders on hand at its Fun Factory.
Found in a prime spot by the Scottsville Racecourse in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, the Golden Horse Casino is open from 08h00 – 21h00 daily.
Golden Horse gaming includes more than 450 slot machines. Poker, roulette and blackjack are included in the 22 table games that are offered at this South African casino as well.
Guests can fill their stomachs at Golden Horse Casino's all-you-can-eat buffet Rockafellas or instead opt for a drink at the Derby Lounge.
Part of this casino complex is the four-star Southern Sun Pietermaritzburg hotel.
Facilities here include 18-hour room service as well as an outdoor pool.
Opened in 1991, the Carousel Casino is one of the oldest casinos in the whole of South Africa.
Previously operated by Sun International, the company recently sold its license to the site.
The Carousel Casino is open from 09h00 – 21h00 daily and there is both a main floor and Privé slots for visitors to enjoy here.
Dining options at the Carousel Casino complex include Players Restaurant, which is an all-you-can-eat buffet, as well as Zuri Cafe, which is open for lunch and dinner.
The Victorian-style Carousel Casino Hotel here also boasts a rose garden and a pool area.
A short drive away from Cape Town is Sun International's Golden Valley Casino.
Top slots here include Queen of the Nile, 50 Lions and Double Nutty with about 220 different machines available to play, as well as a small handful of table games too.
Winners Sport Bar is the ideal spot to tune into the big game of the day during a visit to Golden Valley Casino, while local cuisine can be enjoyed at the site's family-friendly Kuipers restaurant.
Claiming to be the most intimate casino in the Western Cape, Golden Valley is also home to the Body DeVine Spa.
More than 400 slot games are available at Emnotweni Casino, which has table games and a Salon Privé area where high rollers can enjoy a private gaming space.
The casino has a couple of fine spots for a bite to eat or a drink, with GlassBar having an excellent cocktail menu and the Jasmine Restaurant having a great breakfast buffet.
Guests who are staying over during a trip to Emnotweni Casino can pick from the Southern Sun Emnotweni and StayEasy Emnotweni hotels.
The Emnotweni Casino is also a great base for exploring the Kruger National Park, just 30 minutes away.
Last but by no means least on our list of top South African casinos is the Marco Polo.
About 800 slot games are offered at this casino, with Coyote Moon and Triple Fortune Dragon among the best ones for guests to try out during their visit to the complex.
The Johannesburg casino, which has a stunning design, has smoking and non-smoking areas available and players can try their luck out on the reels from as little as 2c per spin.
The Marco Polo also has a range of fully licensed bars and restaurants to check out as well.
Naturally, there are many differences between land-based casinos and online casinos. Each of them has its own pros and cons too, which we will come on to a little later, but those who have little experience of either land-based casinos or online casinos might not know what to expect.
Online casinos run through the internet, the same way as online sports betting sites operate. Indeed, many of the top online sports betting sites in the country also have online casino games in the form of bet games.
However, with South Africa having quite strict rules and regulations about what online gambling is permitted, people may be concerned about falling foul of the rules if they do opt to bet online.
There are no such concerns with land-based casinos in South Africa. These are now 100% fully legal, with around 40 different options located around the country for people to pick from. Clearly, one of the main differences between land-based casinos and online casinos is that people have to physically travel to bricks and mortar locations to play casino games.
While there are a lot of casinos in South Africa to pick from, not everyone will live close to one. However, casinos have made themselves into fully-fledged hotel resorts, which means they can be the ideal way to spend a vacation for people who like playing games such as blackjack. Some games are also very different when played at land-based casinos. For example in poker, it is hard to read an opponent at an online casino, but when playing in person this is far easier.
Another difference between land-based casinos and online casinos is that the latter does not have any set opening hours. While many land-based casinos shut their doors overnight, online casinos allow people to play their favourite games 24 hours a day. This can be handy for people such as shift workers who might have unusual sleeping patterns as a result, but still want to be able to try their luck at the virtual roulette wheel or blackjack table in the hope of winning money.
Land-based casinos might sometimes have a dress code too. Many of them are aiming to be luxurious places to go, which means people dress to impress when they visit. It is typical to see men in suits and women in cocktail dresses when going to play at one of South Africa's leading land-based casinos. Obviously, there is no such dress code in place for online casinos, where people are able to play in the comfort of their own home, or even when they are out and about.
Online casinos can be accessed from anywhere, which means people can play a game of poker from their own bed, for example, with this flexibility welcomed by a lot of individuals. This is particularly handy right now with land-based casinos in South Africa subject to a lot of rules and restrictions around COVID-19. Safety measures have been brought in to restrict the spread of the virus, but those people who opt for online casinos instead do not have to worry about this.
It is clear there is a world of difference between land-based casinos and online casinos, but what are the main pros and cons of each of them? Let's take a look at the plus and minus points next.
Land-based casinos provide a fantastic experience. There is a reason why Las Vegas is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, with South Africa trying to tap into a similar appeal with the high number of casinos that are dotted around the country. Providing a social experience, land-based casinos give players the chance to meet new people and they are often glamorous places to go to, with visitors making a major effort to impress with their appearance.
South Africa's top land-based casinos offer far more than just gambling games. They are often set in resorts with amazing facilities including world-class golf courses. This means they can be a part of a holiday of a lifetime, providing memories people just do not get at online casinos. One of the pros of land-based casinos is how well they look after their clientele.
It is not uncommon for casinos to offer free food and drinks to people who play their casino games. This is in a bid to encourage them to stay for longer, spending more money, but it does mean that people who are on a budget can have a great night out and even come out in profit overall if they can get lucky.
They also often have rewards schemes that mean players earn loyalty points when they spend cash on casino games. This can allow people to work towards a variety of prizes and perks. However, it is fair to say that the bonuses and promotions on offer at online casinos do tend to be a little more generous than those that are up for grabs at South Africa's land-based casinos.
The main positive of online casinos compared to land-based casinos is the clear advantage they have in terms of flexibility. Online casinos run around the clock, which means people can log in and play their favourite games at a time of their choosing, whereas land-based casinos in SA are likely to shut down overnight. People who do not live anywhere near a land-based casino in South Africa will also find that playing online games instead to be a lot more convenient as well.
Online casinos also offer bonuses and promotions that their land-based alternatives cannot. As an example, no deposit bonuses are often offered by online casinos to tempt in new users. This gives people a chance to sign up and play for free, without risking any of their own money. It is fair to say this would never happen at a land-based casino.
Some slot games are also offered in demo mode, giving people an opportunity to see whether or not a game is the right fit for them. On the flip side, the offers put on the table by online casinos can be subject to a dizzying array of terms and conditions. While they might look great on paper, buried in the detail of the small print will be things such as the wagering requirements needed to unlock bonus funds. There might also be a maximum win limit in place, restricting the amount of money a player can win.
Another of the significant cons of online casinos is it can be harder to remain in control of spending. Although online casinos have responsible gambling policies with things like deposit limits and time out periods in place, some people have suffered addiction issues at online casinos.
Land-based casinos can have the same issue, of course, but players who visit them can stick to a budget by only taking a certain amount of cash to play with when they attend.
The number of casinos in South Africa is changing all the time as some resorts close down while new ones are being built as well. The latest data from the NGB - which is the body that is responsible for the regulation of South Africa's gambling sector - suggests there are around 40 casinos in the country, but it remains to be seen how the coronavirus pandemic will affect this.
Yes, while the picture regarding the legality of online betting in South Africa is a little bit more complicated, the rules and regulations for the sector as they stand mean that casinos are 100% legal in South Africa. People can therefore choose to visit one of the many world-class casino and hotel resorts in the country without having to worry about breaking any rules.
South Africa has a high number of world-class casino resorts with the country rivalling the likes of Macau and Las Vegas for the title of the gambling capital of the world as a result. Naming the best casino in South Africa is difficult as everyone has personal preferences over what they want from a casino, but some leading contenders include the likes of Mykonos Casino, GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World, Emperors Palace and the Caledon Casino.