News ยป KZN

Thabiso Goba
7 minute read
29 Jan 2022

Increase in online gambling during lockdown periods

Thabiso Goba

Another impact of Covid-19 lockdowns has been an increase in the number of South Africans participating in online betting.

Another impact of Covid-19 lockdowns has been an increase in the number of South Africans participating in online betting.

The South African Responsible Gambling Foundation (SARGF), which provides free counselling to people struggling with gambling problems, said they have seen a considerable increase in calls to their organisation since the first level 5 lockdown in March 2020.

Most of these calls, the organisation said, involved online betting.

For better or worse, access to gambling has been made easy through interface friendly online platforms.

Alpheus Matlala, is a treatment & counselling specialist at SARGF. His daily job entails offering guidance and counsel to people struggling with betting.

“After the lockdown, we got a lot of calls from people who had gambled away their entire salaries or homes and were scared to tell their families,” said Matlala.

“When the country was locked down, people had nothing to do, so they spent a lot of time online and because of how easy it is now to bet online, that’s what they did,” he said.

Matlala said SARGF’s mandate is to advocate for responsible gambling.

“Gambling has been around since the beginning of time, we want people to see gambling as entertainment, not something that someone should lose their entire salary on,” he said.

Matlala said he has acknowledged the rapid increase of betting adverts in mainstream media in recent times, but was encouraged that all adverts ended with a caution.

Matlala said the phrase “winners know when to quit” has become very popular due to lobbying from organisations like his to promote responsible gambling.

“I can’t say betting companies are not doing enough to warn people of the dangers of betting. [On] every betting advert or website you will see our numbers … and that’s very important,” he said.

“When I lose I take a break for three days without betting so that I don’t have that depressive period of quickly trying to recover the lost money.”
Nwabiso Dlamini

Nwabiso Dlamini from Clermont recently took up betting after he lost his job last year as a video director.

His unemployment status was further compounded by the fact that he was a new father. Dlamini describes himself as a knowledgeable football fan, so predicting the outcome of games is not very hard for him. “I won’t lie, it is going very well so far, I have had a good start to the year,” he said.

That good start, he said, was winning over R35 000 in January.

“I was able to buy baby clothes with that money and also contribute some to home improvements. If I get another big win, I am planning on purchasing more equipment for my photography business,” he said.

Dlamini said he does his betting exclusively online because it is more convenient than standing in packed rooms with other punters. He said he understands the dangers of gambling and how quickly things can go sideways.

“When I lose I take a break for three days without betting so that I don’t have that depressive period of quickly trying to recover the lost money,” he said.

His general opinion is that the expanded access of betting has been good, especially for people like him who are unemployed.

“There are people who live very comfortably on just betting, much better than people who work a 9 to 5. It can be a force for good,” he said.

“Online betting comes down to individualism. It is great for disciplined people but it can be destructive for people who are not disciplined.”
Adeshan Moonsuamy

Online betting has become so pervasive that there are punters who start paid Telegram groups to share their tips.

Dlamini said he is in a VIP group run by an experienced punter and everyone pays a monthly fee of R200 in exchange for one tip a day.

“In a group of about 200 people, the punter makes on average R40 000 a month, just from subscriptions alone. That is better than what many jobs pay here in SA,” said Dlamini.

Adeshan Moonsuamy from Durban has been betting on horses all his life at the Greyville race course.

Like most punters, Moonsuamy, said he has moved online.

“It is much better than standing at the totes (bookmakers) in a long line and not making your bets in time at some instances,” he said. 

“Online betting comes down to individualism. It is great for disciplined people but it can be destructive for people who are not disciplined.

“At least at the totes (bookmakers) the long process of withdrawing money and standing in lines discouraged people from spending a lot of money. Now your bank account is linked to your betting application and you can make transfers in seconds which is very dangerous,” said Moonsuamy.


Contact 0800 006 008 if you need help with gambling problems.

The counselling line operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

They provide free support, information, assessments and referrals for face-to-face counselling with a mental health professional from their treatment network throughout the country.

Here’s some advice from the SARGF website: If your gambling is causing problems in your life, there are things you can do to stop it being an issue.

You can take the following steps to change your life:

Set some goals

Setting short-term and long-term goals may help you to stay focused and clear about cutting down or giving up your gambling.

Avoid high-risk situations

High-risk situations, such as the use of credit cards, taking out loans, carrying large amounts of cash, using gaming venues for socialising, or gambling as a reaction to emotions, will weaken your resolve to control or stop your gambling.

Talk about it

Talking about gambling problems with somebody you trust who is not judgmental can ease the pain of bottling it up. It can also reduce the stress that causes you to continue gambling.

Ask for help

If you are finding it difficult, you do not have to handle your gambling problems on your own. Many people seek professional help. We offer free, professional, confidential help, advice and support services.

Face the feelings

Becoming aware that you could be a problem gambler may cause feelings of shame and guilt. Self-blame and self-harm can increase stress and may cause you to gamble more. However, acknowledging the problem and taking steps to seek help can help you change your life for the better.

Be kind to yourself

Stop beating yourself up over your gambling problem and focus on the steps you are taking to overcome it. Acknowledge your positive achievements and write them down to remind yourself of your strengths.

Find an alternative recreational activity

Many people gamble because they do not know what else to do. Try to find an alternative recreational activity.

Prepare for a lapse

A lapse occurs when you gamble again after deciding to stop. If this happens to you, you do not have to continue gambling. You can use this to learn more about what triggers your gambling. When a lapse occurs, examine what worked and what didn’t work with your plan.

Money management

Arrange to have a trustworthy person help you with money management.

Cancel credit and ATM cards or give them to the person supporting you.

Only carry a limited amount of money.

Arrange with the bank to only provide small daily amounts from ATMs.

Tell family and friends what you are doing and to not lend you money.

Consider having two people as signatories on your accounts.

Eliminate the cash withdrawal facility on your credit cards.

Pay bills by direct debit or cheque.

If dealing with other people’s money is too much temptation, avoid jobs where you handle cash.

Avoid keeping large sums of money in the house.

Pay as many essential bills on pay day as possible.

Consider paying some bills in advance.

Think of something you would really enjoy having or doing and regularly save money towards it.