Responsible Gambling South Africa

Gambling in South Africa has transformed from being largely prohibited to a regulated and significant industry, encompassing casinos, sports betting, and lotteries. This growth, while economically beneficial, has raised concerns about problem gambling and its social impact. 


Responsible gambling is crucial in addressing these concerns. It involves educating the public about gambling risks, offering support for those with gambling problems, and ensuring ethical industry practices. This approach aims to balance the industry's economic benefits with the need to protect vulnerable individuals and maintain social well-being. 


As the gambling landscape evolves, responsible gambling remains a key focus for regulators and the community in South Africa. This Responsible Gambling Guide covers everything you need to know to gamble safely and wisely.

Fact checked by Bonni Masike
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Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling, also known as gambling addiction, is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the negative impact it may have on one's life. It's recognized as a disorder when gambling behaviour becomes disruptive and harmful to personal, family, or vocational pursuits.

Here’s how to identify if you or a loved one is engaging in problem gambling:

1. Preoccupation with Gambling

Constantly thinking about gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, or thinking of ways to get money to gamble.

2. Chasing Losses

Continuously gambling to recover lost money, often leading to increased bets and further losses.

3. Increased Tolerance

Needing to gamble with larger amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement.

4. Loss of Control

Repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop gambling.

5. Withdrawal Symptoms

Feeling restless or irritable when attempting to reduce or stop gambling.

6. Neglect of Responsibilities

Gambling taking precedence over work, personal relationships, and financial obligations.

7. Financial Strain

Accumulating debt or resorting to illegal means to finance gambling.

8. Reliance on Bailouts

Depending on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.

Strategies for Responsible Gambling

Responsible gambling is essential for ensuring that gambling remains a safe and enjoyable activity. The following strategies can help maintain control over gambling habits and ensure that gambling remains a recreational activity rather than a problematic behaviour.

1. Set a Budget

Decide on a fixed amount of money that you are comfortable losing before you start gambling. Stick to this budget and avoid the temptation to exceed it, regardless of whether you are winning or losing.

2. Limit Time Spent Gambling

Allocate a specific amount of time for gambling and stick to it. Use a timer if necessary. Once your time limit is reached, stop gambling.

3. Understand the Odds

Be aware that all forms of gambling are games of chance and the house always has an edge. Understanding the odds can help maintain realistic expectations of winning and losing.

4. Don’t Chase Losses

Chasing losses, or trying to win back money that you've lost, often leads to more significant losses. Accept losses as the cost of entertainment and resist the urge to keep gambling to recover them.

5. Avoid Gambling Under Influence

Avoid gambling when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as these substances can impair judgment and lead to poor decision-making.

6. Balance Gambling with Other Activities

Ensure that gambling does not become your only form of entertainment. Engage in other hobbies and activities that you enjoy.

7. Use Gambling Tools

Many gambling platforms offer tools to help you gamble responsibly, such as setting deposit limits, loss limits, and self-exclusion options. Utilize these tools to keep your gambling habits in check.

8. Recognize Problematic Behaviour

Be aware of the signs of problem gambling, such as spending more than you can afford, neglecting responsibilities, or gambling to escape problems.

9. Seek Help if Needed

If you feel that you might have a gambling problem, seek help immediately. There are many organizations and support groups that offer assistance to problem gamblers.

Problem Gambling Statistics

  • A 2014 study on the Foundation’s Telephone Counselling Line analyzed 480 calls from individuals aged 18-35, revealing that 62% were males and 38% females.

  • In terms of marital status, 45% of callers were married, 32% single, and 23% divorced.

  • Employment status showed 76% in full-time employment and 16% unemployed.

  • Males with pathological gambling tend to report problems with drug and alcohol abuse, while females are more exposed to depression and anxiety disorders.

  • 2019-2020 SARGF Call Data:

    • 831 calls were received from problem gamblers, self-exclusion, and family referrals.

    • 65% of the calls were from males, and 35% from females.

    • 66% of youth with a gambling problem were single, 27% were married.

Source: South African Responsible Gambling Foundation (SARGF)

South African Laws To Enforce Responsible Gambling

Regarding penalties for violating gambling regulations, the law imposes stringent measures to ensure compliance. These include limitations on the amount of money that can be bet and restrictions on the maximum winnings or losses in a single gambling session. These rules are in place to promote responsible gambling practices. Additionally, all gambling operators are required to adhere to strict anti-money laundering policies and other security guidelines to maintain a safe gaming environment.

Operators offering gambling services, whether land-based or online, must obtain a license issued by the government, ensuring that all gaming activities are fair, transparent, and compliant with the regulations. Failing to comply with these laws can result in significant legal consequences for both operators and individuals who engage in underage gambling.

Overall, the legal framework in South Africa emphasizes the importance of responsible gambling, the protection of minors, and the integrity of gambling activities across the country.

Resources and Support for Problem Gamblers

In South Africa, there are several resources and support options available for individuals dealing with problem gambling:

South African Responsible Gambling Foundation (SARGF)

The SARGF foundation offers free and confidential treatment and counseling to those affected by problem gambling and their immediate family members. It has been active for over 18 years and has treated more than 18,500 people. They offer a 24-hour, 7-day counseling line, providing free support, information, assessment, and referral for face-to-face counseling with a network of mental health professionals across the country. Their website is responsiblegambling.org.za.

Recovery Direct

This organization offers a free addiction recovery course that includes information about the dynamics of addictions and how individuals can make significant changes to their mindset and life. It provides a comprehensive approach to recovery, including support for self-exclusion, a process where individuals can request to be excluded from gambling-related activities. More details about their treatment program and self-exclusion processes can be found on their website www.recoverydirect.co.za.

Gamblers Anonymous

This is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength, and hope with each other to solve their common problem and help others recover from a gambling problem. Membership is free, and the only requirement is a desire to stop gambling. They can be contacted at 078 789 0868 or 078 528 6583, and more information is available on their website www.gasouthafrica.wordpress.com.

Gambling Therapy

Offered by Gordon Moody, this global service provides free practical advice and emotional support to anyone affected by gambling. They can be contacted via email at support@gamblingtherapy.org, and more information is available on their website www.gamblingtherapy.org.

Whether it's through a helpline, group sessions, or individual counseling, help is available for those who need it. 

Role of Gambling Operators in Promoting Responsible Gambling

In South Africa, gambling operators play a crucial role in promoting responsible gambling practices. These operators have a responsibility to ensure that their customers are informed about the risks associated with gambling, and they must take proactive steps to prevent problem gambling. Here are some of the key measures they are undertaking:

Providing Clear Information and Implementing Age Verification

Operators are tasked with offering transparent information about the potential risks of gambling. Additionally, they implement age verification measures to prevent underage gambling, a critical step in responsible gambling practices.

Self-Exclusion Programs

These programs are a significant focus for operators. Gamblers can opt for self-exclusion, wherein they exclude themselves from gambling activities for a certain period. This approach is supported by the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation (SARGF), which also promotes tools like GamStop, a program that helps players to self-exclude from multiple gambling sites simultaneously.

Training Gambling Industry Employees

A key initiative is the training of employees working in the gambling industry. This training teaches employees how to interact with customers, understand their needs, and identify problem gambling behaviours. Educated employees can play a vital role in promoting responsible gambling and identifying individuals who may need help.

Public Education and Awareness

The operators, in collaboration with organizations like SARGF and the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP), work on public education campaigns. These campaigns aim to inform the public about the risks of unhealthy gambling and promote beneficial behaviours such as self-control and sticking to a budget.

Counselling and Treatment Services

Operators contribute to the provision of counselling and treatment services for problem gamblers. These services include free and confidential outpatient treatment and counselling services, as managed by the NRGP and SARGF.

Through these measures, gambling operators in South Africa demonstrate their commitment to responsible gambling and the welfare of their customers. Their efforts contribute significantly to preventing the development of gambling addiction and ensuring a safer gambling environment​

Policy Innovations to Foster Responsible Gambling

New legislation proposed in 2022 aims to regulate and control remote gambling activities in South Africa. The bill focuses on establishing provincial authorities for licensing, regulating advertising for online gambling entities, and protecting minors and vulnerable individuals.

The proposed legislation is expected to create a more regulated and safer environment for online gambling players and operators. It could also significantly contribute to the nation's economic growth by harnessing tax revenues and creating job opportunities.

Lisa beukes

Lisa BeukesVerified

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Lisa Beukes is a Johannesburg-born adventure seeker, horse enthusiast, and scuba diver who's making waves in the online casino industry. With a journalism and media studies degree from the University... continue reading
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Verified Fact checked by: Bonni Masike