Submission to the public debate on


National Gambling Bill 2003

From Gamblers Anonymous Gauteng Intergroup

In the preliminary drafting phase leading to the new National Gambling Bill, the following submission was made by members of the various gamblers anonymous groups in Gauteng with a view to improving the social impact sections of the Bill. As people who have become problem or compulsive gamblers, and who have for many years helped others to deal with the ravages of addictive gambling, we feel that we have a unique insight into the causes and effects of problem gambling.

What follows are excerpts of the recommendations that were submitted for inclusion in the Bill as well as a preamble outlining the principles behind this submission.


Problem, compulsive and addictive gambling and its attendant social impact is on the increase. Much like the HIV/AIDS issue was ignored in its early stages in the mid 1980’s, to ignore the exponential growth of problem gambling and its attendant impact on society at this crucial juncture will, in a few years, result in a crisis that is out of control.

1.1 Our concern is that the gambling industry derives a significant proportion of its revenue from addicted gamblers and makes most of its money from addicted gamblers. To quote the Hon. Nick Xenophon, Member of Parliament for South Australia "This industry makes the cream of its profits from addicted gamblers and from the vulnerable in our community."

1.2 In the words of Professor Robert Goodman in the preface to his seminal text on the economics of the gambling industry:

"A model of economic development that relies on gambling and chance to replace the jobs lost by productive industries is at least as disturbing for our future as the losses suffered by unsuccessful bettors. The shift in the role of governments from being watchdogs of gambling to becoming its leading promoters is also troubling. They have taken the schizophrenic role of picking up the tab for the increase in problem gambling while, at the same time, spending even more to promote its causes. Instead of serving the needs of their citizens, these governments are becoming predators upon them.

While proponents exaggerate the benefits of gambling expansion they downplay and often refuse to acknowledge its hidden costs which, as our research indicates, can be immense-running into the hundreds of millions in a single State. These costs are showing up in a variety of ways. Huge portions of discretionary consumer dollars are being diverted into gambling, resulting in losses to the restaurant and entertainment industries, movie theatres, sports events, clothing and furniture stores, and other business. In addition, police departments, courts and prison systems must contend with a whole new range of criminal activity, much of it caused by addicted gamblers.

Along with the devastating human tragedies of problem gambling come additional private and public costs, ranging from money lost by people who make loans to problem gamblers and aren't paid back, to the cost of treating, prosecuting or, in some cases, incarcerating problem gamblers who turn to crime to pay off their mounting debts."

    1. It is heartening to see that the Minister specifically asked for proposals that sought to address the growing problem of compulsive gambling. Such recommendations and provisions for adequate protection are now more of a feature of the Bill and are to be heartily commended.
    2. It is unfortunate that many of our citizens and regulators look upon compulsive gamblers as a mere aberration of society, people who are morally weak and who have no capacity to contribute meaningfully to society anyway.
      1. It is sad that such gross ignorance exists, because more often than not, such problem gamblers are highly capable people who can make an enormous economic and social contribution but who have unfortunately found themselves to be in the grip of a devastating progressive illness.
      2. Compulsive gambling has only relatively recently become widely accepted as a disease by the majority of treatment professionals.
      3. Gambling is as addictive as any substance and international research is now showing that the addiction – much like the substance addictions – is more a function of brain chemical processes than it is of external chemical application. In other words, the substances excreted by the brain (most notably dopamine) during the formation of any addiction are far more powerfully addictive to the brain than any substance that can be administered to it.
    3. It is the common refrain of the gambling industry and its proponents, that problem gambling only affects a very small percentage of the population, perhaps 2%. (Our research puts this figure much higher)
      1. There is a strong propensity for this percentage to grow over time especially as gambling becomes more and more prevalent in society. In Australia, for example, some states indicate that this figure is nearer to the 7% mark. (As our research indicates in South Africa.)
    4. What is less commonly understood by those who are not intimately acquainted with the effects of problem gambling, (this includes the gambling industry) is the wider social impact of the addiction.
      1. Various international studies have shown conclusively that each compulsive gambler directly impacts on between eight and eighteen people.
      2. When seen in this context, it becomes more apparent that anywhere between 16% and 36% of the South African population is being badly affected in some way by the devastating effects of a disease that cannot, without help, be controlled by the affected person.
    5. Even more problematic is the distressing combination of poverty, HIV/AIDS and gambling availability.
      1. Recent studies have shown South Africa to be 4th highest on the "propensity to gamble" index whilst we languish at 97th in per capita income.
      2. It is no coincidence that we are also in the top ten nations of gambling availability.
    6. Against this background, it is gratifying that the new Gambling Bill contains a number of provisions for combating the social ills of gambling.
    7. In our opinion the clauses and charters that deal with the social impact of gambling should at least rank on a par with those that deal with such trivial matters as central information registries.
      1. While it is necessary and important that some form of central monitoring system, electronic or otherwise, is established to provide a foundation for regulatory activities, this is trivial in comparison to the overarching need to educate and protect society and to regulate and control an industry that of its own accord will not readily exercise self restraint.
    1. We trust that the due care required in this bill to combat the effects of earlier ill-informed policy decisions will not be overshadowed by the desire for haste in the creation of new law.
      1. The bill allows a unique opportunity to set a clearer and more appropriate path for the gambling industry and the society in which it operates.
    2. It is conspicuous that there has not been any public undertaking to include the National Lotteries Act in the gambling law redrafting process. In this respect it I important to note that:
      1. Lotteries are as addictive as any other form of gambling and in many cases more so – especially among members of the poor.
      2. Exactly the same recommendations that are now proposed to regulate the gambling industry ought properly be applied in exactly the same manner to the Lotteries Act
      3. It is hoped that in the passing of this new Bill into law, consideration will be given to enforcing the redraft of the National Lotteries Bill within a short stipulated time period, and that this redraft would contain measures substantially similar to measures contained in the new Gambling Act.
    3. Despite the many recommendations designed specifically to limit the capacity for the gambling industry to do harm, it is important to point out that all of the following recommendations are made in the following spirit and with the following acknowledgements:
      1. The underlying principle of a free society is that its members must be free to choose whatever activity they wish and yet with the understanding that the consequences are causative.
      2. Over regulation of society can lead to more harm than good, specifically where perceptions of freedom of association and choice are affected.
      3. Under regulation can and has lead to exploitation of privilege – in this case the exploitation of the issuance of limited licenses - and it is the duty of government to protect its citizens
      4. While in no way condoning the Casino industry specifically, it must be recognized that substantial investments in infrastructure have been made by that industry – investments that have had a very positive effect on the regions where these have been made. In this light it is the writers belief that:
        1. The outlet for gambling has been adequately catered for within the existing framework of casinos, sports betting and lotteries. To further create harm by adding to the means of disseminating gambling addiction through the introduction of yet further and more widespread gambling availability is folly. The rollout of the Limited Payout Machines (LPM’s) should be halted indefinitely.
        2. If it was the intention that the LPM industry would help to generate a means for black economic empowerment, then other means can be found to do this. Means that are substantially more beneficial and far less damaging to society.
        3. Any forms of Internet or online gambling should be made illegal for similar reasons.

Some of the following recommendations have been included in the new Bill. For clarity, the entire set of recommendations has been included here.


That a new chapter is included in the Bill for the specific purpose of addressing the negative social impact of gambling providing for inter alia:-

    1. The establishment of a national advisory committee on responsible gambling (perhaps SACREG can be used as a model)
    2. National policies on the inclusion of appropriate public warnings in all advertising relating to gambling including the prohibition of:-
      1. Statements that give the impression that playing for longer, buying more tickets or playing with greater amounts of money increases the chances of winning.
      2. Statements that falsely give the impression that gambling is merely another form of entertainment.
      3. The contribution of moneys by the gambling industry to bodies that deal directly with the impact of problem and compulsive gambling, such amounts being determined either by means of:-
        1. A percentage of gross gaming revenue and linked to the prevalence or increased prevalence of problem gambling.
        2. Gross cost according to the estimated costs of addressing problem gambling as more fully determined by policies established elsewhere.
    3. The purpose of clause 2.2 above would be to ensure that some level of commercial self interest is enforced on the gambling industry to ensure that it properly monitors and regulates problem gambling and the negative social impact that arises from it.
      1. There is no gambling industry in the world that effectively self regulates to the point that the broader social impact of problem gambling is effectively addressed.
      2. It is pointless to compare the lack of similar regulation in the liquor, tobacco or other industries (as the gaming industry is wont to do) because the purpose of this bill is to regulate gambling, and not smoking or drinking.
      3. Our experience in the last few years has shown that in the case of Casino’s (The problem is likely to be far worse for Limited Payout Machines-LPMs) the implementation of such seemingly simple mechanisms as "self exclusion programs" has been nullified because of a lack of will and enforcement capacity by the casinos and the regulatory authorities.
    4. Recommendations and the formulation of national policies on the implementation of appropriate control measures to curb problem gambling where it is found, including such measures as Smart card or ID linked gambling where all gamblers are required to produce such a card in order to gamble.
      1. Lack of such a card would prohibit that person from gambling and would be an effective way to ensure the policing of a Self Exclusion program.
      2. Such a card would have to be produced by all gamblers (it is a simple matter to register a first time gambler) to enable a person to gain access to the designated Gambling areas.
      3. In the case of LPM’s by inserting the card into the machine or entering an appropriate ID number
      4. In the case of Casinos, the production and swiping of the card on entry to gaming floors.
    5. Formulation of policies for the establishment or extension of counseling and treatment services to areas where gambling is available specifically in poorer communities:-
      1. Such services be paid for by the gambling industry and the government pro rata to the rate of taxation applicable to that sector of the gambling industry.
    6. In the event that self exclusion or other appropriate mechanisms are included in the general social impact policy guidelines that:-
      1. Gambling debts will not be enforceable upon any person contravening this mechanism.
      2. Regulatory authorities responsible for the oversight of such policies will be held accountable in the event that they are not enforced.
    7. Regular and ongoing research into the impact and prevalence of problem and compulsive gambling to be conducted by independent bodies, paid for by government. (Funded by the Gaming Industry)
      1. The results hereof should be reported to government, (SACREG) and published in the media on an annual basis.
    8. Criminal sanctions for the following contraventions:-
      1. Any concern and or person involved in the gambling industry making political donations.
        1. This clause needs to be amplified by making specific reference to the persons and or concerns that are covered by the offence.
      2. A member of any political party being an employee, director and/or shareholder of any company involved with or aligned to the gambling industry.
    9. In the case of LPMs an annual fee per machine to be paid to a fund to help offset the effects of the shift away from other forms of entertainment such as live music.
      1. Countries such as Australia and the United States hotels, public bars and similar places are spawning grounds for live entertainment artists.
      2. As these venues increasingly made their space available to LPMs (or their equivalent) places for live entertainment became increasingly rare. This was found to have a dramatic impact on these societies in the long term and such countermeasures as recommended in 2.9 above were among many proposed to deal with such problems.
    10. In so far as online gambling is concerned:-
      1. That no debts in any form of interactive or online gambling are enforceable, including credit cards.
      2. That any advertising of any form of online gambling within the borders of South Africa be declared illegal and covered by a criminal sanction.
      3. That local internet service providers are forced to restrict or block traffic to and from international online casinos.
      4. Background to clauses 2.10.1-2.10.3.
        1. Internet gambling is the fastest growing and potentially most pernicious form of gambling.
        2. The Fiscus and society derive no benefit whatsoever either by way of taxation or in any other form (be it the creation of employment or otherwise.)
        3. While GAGI in no way endorses a return to draconian prohibitionist legislation, internet gambling has the potential to be the least controllable and the most damaging.
        4. It is the one way to lose ones house without ever leaving home.
        5. The best way to ensure some measure of protection for our society from online gaming is to ensure that the online casinos leave our citizens alone.
        6. By not allowing online casinos to advertise their services and making it very difficult for them to enforce payment will diminish their ability to stay in business.
          1. Most international credit card companies until relatively recent times allowed their clients the option of not honoring their debts incurred in gambling.
          2. Perhaps the time is right to permit them once again to have the same degree of freedom to help their clients.
    11. Raising the legal age of gambling from 18 to 21. The prevalence of youth gambling problems has become a source of major international concern.
    12. Banning ATM and credit card machines within a reasonable distance from gaming floors, places and buildings.
    13. Requiring all gambling establishments to post large visible warnings about the dangers of gambling at the entrances to such venues and in other prominent places as reasonably required by the national advisory committee envisaged herein (SACREG)
    14. Enforced closure of any gambling facility for a minimum period of six hours in every 24 hours.
    15. All gambling establishments:-
      1. To have a prominent time display.
      2. To publicly announce time intervals appropriately as determined by the national advisory committee envisaged herein (SACREG).
    16. Requiring that where the victims of gambling related crime can specifically prove that the proceeds of such crime have gone to a particular gambling industry, the industry concerned shall compensate the victims of the gambling related crime if the amounts cannot be recovered from the gambler.
    17. Requiring that the cycle rate or rate of game play in all electronic slot machines be limited to a maximum of four games per minute.
      1. Available research indicates that the faster the machine the faster the reinforcement and the greater the rate of gambling addiction.
    18. Prohibiting the use of a credit and/or charge card for the purpose of paying for gambling.
    19. Prohibiting in any gambling establishment the use of any inducements to gamble such as:-
      1. Free cash, vouchers, points or credits on games.
      2. Membership (whether on payment of fee or not) of a jackpot or gambling club.
      3. Free or discounted food or drink.
      4. Free entry into any lottery.
      5. Gifts or awards of any kind.
    20. Requiring gaming areas to be separated from other areas of the licensed premises by walls and doors so that persons using existing licensed premises for purposes other than betting on gaming machines cannot see into or hear any noise emanating from that gaming machines area.
    21. The protection of children and minors by not having any gaming area within close proximity to any facility that is likely to attract minors or children such as:-
      1. Children's play equipment.
      2. Ice cream machines.
      3. Electronic games.
      4. Other entertainment or inducement designed to attract children.
    22. Making it a criminal offence covered by an appropriate sanction for a parent to leave a child under the age of 12, in the casino care centres in excess of 2 hours, within any 24 hour period.

Dudley Baylis.

GA Norscot Manor and

For and on behalf of GAGI