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How Online Casinos Work – Online Gambling Explained

Written by

Melissa Kruger
clockReading time 6 minread

The ever-increasing popularity of online casinos (and, in part, mobile casinos) has seen a wealth of sites become available to South Africans. If you already know your way around casinos, playing at those will be simple. If you don’t, what do you need to know about online gambling to get started?

Join us as we explore what online gambling truly is, explain how to get started, and introduce you to the basics of gameplay at South Africa’s best online casinos. Let’s begin.

Online vs Traditional Gambling

Firstly, you should know that there are some key differences between online gambling and traditional casino gambling in brick-and-mortar, land-based venues. Online gambling has been made to be simpler, more efficient, and open to more people. However, that alone is not one of its key selling points. Below, you’ll find a table where the key differences between the two types of gambling options are highlighted.

Online Gambling Sites
Land-based Gambling Venues
Offers regular bonuses and promotions.
Bonuses are usually limited to VIP/new players.
Open 24/7. You can take a break at any time.
Limited opening hours. May lose your seat if you take a break.
Supports thousands of games with no waiting times.
Limited casino games and seats at tables are available.
Reliable support and FAQs to answer all your questions.
You need to know how games work before you enter the casino.
Withdrawals are slower than in land-based venues.
Receive winnings instantly.
Play on the go from any location.
You must physically be present in the casino.
Your only expenses are wagers.
Expenses can include food, drinks, accommodation, and entertainment, alongside bets.
Most games are less atmospheric and realistic.
Land-based venues have a better atmosphere for the most part.
Bet when you are ready and take as long as you need.
Betting windows are in force, so you must be on the ball with your bets.

Online Casino Basics

As you can see from above, online casinos naturally have many advantages over land-based venues, with their counterparts excelling in just a few areas. The ability to access online casinos from anywhere, at any time that suits you, and play a broader array of games with seemingly no limit are all highlights of choosing to play at casinos.

To play at an online casino, you’ll typically need to first make sure that South Africans can join the site. After that, you’re going to want to grab an account with a payment method accepted at the site. With these two steps complete, you can start to play at an online casino. The sign-up process is a lot simpler than it might sound. Let’s walk you through that next.

How to Start with Online Gambling

Signing up at an online casino is a straightforward and simple process. There are three steps to betting online, and these include:

Choose a Casino

Firstly, you need to choose a casino. We recommend that you select a casino that is licensed and regulated and that accepts players from South Africa. This means that they should accept the South African rand as their currency, provide bonuses that are SA-friendly, and offer a great array of games for you to choose from.

Create An Account

Having found a suitable casino that you wish to join, you now need to sign up there. There will be a button to do this in the lobby (homepage). An e-form will pop up where you can enter your personal details – do that. Submit the e-form and check for a verification e-mail or SMS. Confirm your account and then sign in.

Deposit Funds

Once you’re signed in, you can head over to the cashier or deposit page. Select the payment method that works for you (making sure that they accept the ZAR currency) and enter your details. You must also choose a sum to deposit that falls between the minimum and maximum limits supported by the casino and/or payment provider. Confirm the transaction. Your funds should arrive in your account immediately. 

How do Online Casino Games Work?

Just like their land-based counterparts, online casino games give you a chance to win real money. There is no such thing as a guaranteed way to win, although you deploy strategies in some games to boost your chances. Online casino games come in all sorts of shapes or forms – from slots to table games, instant win titles to video poker and live dealer casino games. Here’s what you need to know:

Software Providers

Casino games are developed by software providers. Each has their own specialities and hallmarks. Evolution Gaming, for instance, focuses on live dealer games, while Microgaming produces slots for the most part, including epic jackpot slots. The number of software providers featuring at South African casinos can vary from a handful up to twenty or thirty, perhaps more. The general rule here is that you want to play at a site with thousands of games and many different types of games represented.

Random Number Generators (RNGs)

Unless they are being run by a human dealer over a live video stream (live dealer games), casino games are run by RNGs (random number generators). These are algorithms that ensure that each spin, roll, or deal is totally random. RNGs cannot be hacked and cannot be cheated. There is no way to predict what the outcome of the next turn will be, ensuring fairness for both the player and the casino. 


There are some games where multiplayer options come into the mix. While RNG table games are played against an AI dealer, live dealer casino games will feature a human dealer and sometimes other human players. Poker tournaments and games are the most common games to feature multiplayer rules where you are competing against other members of the casino. However, some slots have community jackpots, where each player works as part of a larger team to land progressive jackpot wins that are then shared amongst other bettors.

Playing Slots in an Online Casino

Slot machines are the most prevalent and common games you will find in online casinos, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – from jackpot slots to mobile, 3D, MegaWays, book and classic slots (fruit machines). Irrespective of the type of game you play, most slots work in largely the same way, like so:

A slot contains reels (which spin and contain the symbols) and paylines, which are pathways that run across the reels. You’ll spin the reels on each turn, and symbols will show up on those reels. In most games, you’ll win if you land three or more identical symbols on one or more of these paylines running across the reels. The number of reels and paylines will vary. Each symbol has its own prize, too, with some more valuable than others.

At the same time, video slots also come with other features. These may include wilds (substitute symbols), scatters (symbols that count wherever they land), and bonus rounds. Bonus rounds can include free spins, click, and win bonuses and more. Some slots also feature progressive jackpot prizes – uncapped prizes that rise with each bet. 

The general procedure for playing online slots is like this:

  • Load the slot
  • Using the wager buttons to place your bet
  • The reels will spin, and they will stop spinning with symbols appearing
  • If three or more (on a payline) are identical, you’ll land a win
  • That win is based on the amount wagered x value of the winning combo of symbols

Of course, some slots break that mould, but generally, that’s what you can expect to see in your average nickel-and-dime online slot.

Unlike land-based casinos, online slots won’t see you lose your seat if you get up to do something else or take a break. Moreover, there are many more of them. A typical land-based casino might have a few hundred or thousand slots, but many will be the same game. An online casino has thousands of slots, and every single title is different.

How do Mobile Casinos Work?

Mobile casinos enable players to bet anywhere and at any time. However, there are two types of mobile casinos out there. The first is no different to playing at an online casino. Here, you’ll use the web browser on your phone or tablet to access the website. There, you can sign in and play as you would if you were on your computer. The casino must be developed in HTML5 to play at these types of mobile casinos.

The second type of mobile casino requires you to download an casino app. These are specialised sites optimised for mobile gameplay. They may feature more snug, better fitting and easily navigable menus and designs, with games specifically designed for gaming on the go. However, apps need frequent security updates and take up space on phones.

There is a market for both forms of mobile gambling. Indeed, some South African casinos may offer you either option or both.

How Do Online Gambling Payouts Work?

Assuming you land a win on a slot or another casino game, the prize will be added to your current balance. This is often displayed on the screen. When you are done playing a game, you can exit it. The balance will remain in your account. To withdraw it, you’ll need to head over to the cashier or banking page.

Once there, you can select the payment method you wish to use to withdraw your winnings. Again, enter your banking details to confirm the transaction. You’ll need to make sure that your withdrawal is within the limits set by the site and payment provider. Furthermore, you may need to provide identity verification through a KYC process to complete the transaction. Withdrawals can take anything from a few hours up to seven days to clear, depending on the payment method selected and the casino in question.

Online Gambling Advantages and Disadvantages?

As touched on earlier, there are perks to playing at online casinos and a few disadvantages. Some of the main advantages to playing at online casinos include the ability to play anywhere and at any time, to not have to wait to play games, and to land a larger array of games to choose from. You can also access support, claim more bonuses and promos and shop around. Your expenses will also be less than visiting a land-based venue.

However, we should also highlight the disadvantages. There are some online casinos out there that are spurious and aren’t to be trusted. Furthermore, some dodgy casinos rig their games, and these aren’t as common in land-based venues. Finally, many online casinos lack some of the pizazz and atmosphere you’d get from playing in a brick-and-mortar casino.

The Legality of Online Gambling?

Of course, you should only gamble when it is safe to do so. Technically, online gambling in South Africa is illegal except for national lottery, sports betting, and horse racing betting websites. However, despite online casino games being outlawed in 2010, there have been no reported prosecutions in the country for online gambling (when playing at offshore casinos). These are casinos based outside of South Africa. If you intend to gamble online, we’d recommend ensuring that you’re playing at a site that is licensed and regulated outside the country. Online sportsbooks and land-based casinos (when licensed in the country) are fully legal in South Africa, though.

Is Online Gambling Safe?

Assuming you play at a casino that is licensed and regulated, betting online is perfectly safe. There are always going to be a few dodgy sites out there that you’ll want to avoid. However, choosing a casino that has its games RNG-certified, that is audited, offers responsible gambling tools, and is licensed and regulated by reputable bodies will ensure safe and fair gambling opportunities for South Africans. 

Melissa Kruger Author at PlayCasino
Melissa Kruger

E-Payments and Casino Payout Specialist

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Melissa Kruger is your go-to gal if you're trying to navigate the complex landscape of online casino payments and withdrawals. She's tried and tested all possible payment methods at South ...continue reading

Safe Payments Specialist
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