GTA Online’s new casino goes bust in South Africa because online gambling is illegal here

Launching today, the game’s new update opens up the Diamond Casino & Resort complex in Los Santos, featuring “lavish amenities, exclusive shopping, first-class entertainment and state-of-the-art gaming facilities”. Unless you’re in South Africa or one of the multiple other countries that bans this sort of thing.

According to users on Reddit and Twitter, the free DLC – which includes new in-game diversions like slot machines and card games – isn’t working as expected in some locations, probably due to local restrictions on online or even regular gambling. Although the Diamond Casino & Resort location is available to visit, this guy confirms, you can’t actually interact with anything in it. Instead, you can only gaze upon it, and wish for what you don’t and can’t have. Which is also a metaphor for the status quo in Mzanzi, I guess, so that’s… something.


Online gambling has been technically illegal in this country since 2004 (the National Lottery is an exception because… because), but enforcement of this legislation is not exactly consistent. It’s illegal to operate an online gambling service in South Africa, and it’s illegal for a South African citizen to use online gambling services, but prosecution for these offences is almost entirely non-existent.

Even though GTA Online also uses in-game currency for gambling purposes, I suppose Rockstar is playing it safe this time. Also, obligatory joke about getting out of bed being a gamble in South Africa.


Local legal-expert-to-the-games-media Nick Hall explains on Twitter that because in-game currency Shark Cards can be purchased with real cash and used to buy casino chips, it meets the South African definition of “a gambling game”, and that’s a no-no.

Some people have made inevitable comparisons with gambling activities in other games like Red Dead Redemption 2, but these don’t support purchases with real cash – not directly, anyway, but the game’s Gold Bar DLC purchases can be used to boost in-game currency, so it’s definitely a somewhat ambiguous distinction. Gold Bars, Shark Cards, more or less the same thing.

In the meantime, you can sign a petition that won’t solve the problem unless Rockstar nukes GTA 5 Shark Card DLC purchases in South Africa and is that even what you actually want or use a VPN.


Turns out, you can’t (or can, but I’ll get back to that) use currency acquired with Shark Cards to purchase casino chips, making this ban even more inscrutable.

In theory, however, a player could use Shark Card currency to buy an in-game vehicle, for example, sell it, and use that currency to purchase casino chips – which is kind of like laundering that cash, if you think about it, so that’s fun. It’s also convoluted, and a flimsy premise for disabling the feature entirely.

But complicating matters even more, some users on Reddit and Twitter are claiming that you can use Shark Cards to purchase casino chips, so… I dunno?

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