In a recent survey, SA gambling has been shown to add a massive R17-billion to the South African economy, an amount that the country may be in dire need of. The Casino Association of SA recently announced that it had conducted a survey of the casino industry in SA, and the results showed just how valuable both land-based and online casinos are. Additionally, the survey showed that despite the current economic hardships many South Africans are dealing with, they are still playing and the revenues for gambling has increased by almost 10%.
The Association’s CEO, Adv. Themba Ngobese stated in a recent interview that the gambling industry as a whole does less harm than it does good and with programmes to treat those with gambling problems, the creation of over 60 000 jobs in an economy plagued by unemployment and a massive cash injection into the economy, the gambling industry is not all bad.
In many economies, online gambling and land-based casinos are huge money makers for government and a number of studies have shown that governments are using the money they get from gambling to fund their budgets and boost their economies. What many economists are wondering though is how sustainable this is, and how moral it is too. SA online casinos and land-based casinos have certainly gotten their fair share of flak from religious and ethical groups who state that gaming is dangerous, can lead to addiction and broken homes and has the potential to send the morality of our society into a downward spiral.
However, social anthropologists could argue that it is not the government’s place to try and stop society members from making their own decisions, especially given that there are stricter laws placed on online gambling than there are on alcohol and nicotine consumption. Given the funds that SA gambling has made available to the economy, should the moral high ground take precedence over the government being able to provide more assistance to those in poor economic situations?
The National Lottery Commission recently made clear its intention to fight illegal gambling considering it is losing support for the Lotto. According to Sershan Naidoo, a Commission representative, illegal gambling is negatively affecting the Lotto and Ithuba, the lottery operator, is trying to garner support through the Lotto Indaba to try and combat this. However, what is not being addressed here is the value that the gambling industry brings to SA, especially considering the financial crises the country is facing due to economic mismanagement and unemployment.
What the SA public deserves to know is: where is the middle ground between financial stability and morality? Is there one? And if SA gambling is heavily regulated, what effect will this have on our economy? These are not questions that are easily answered, but the New Year may bring about some changes in the way the government regulates both the online and land-based casino industries. Whether these changes will be positive or negative is still unclear.