Don't gamble with your and family’s health and wealth

An innocent pastime can quickly turn to addiction

If you gamble as a pastime, you should not to spend over 2% of your discretionary income. Anything more will take you into the dangerous territory of gambling addiction.

There is concern around the increased number of South Africans betting their income away in the hope of making a quick buck and risking becoming gambling addicts.Picture: 123RF/RAWPIXEL
There is concern around the increased number of South Africans betting their income away in the hope of making a quick buck and risking becoming gambling addicts.Picture: 123RF/RAWPIXEL

If you like gambling as a form of entertainment or just a mere pastime, you should make sure not to spend more than two percent of your discretionary income. Anything more than this will take you into the dangerous territory of gambling addiction, which is always detrimental to not only your mental, physical and financial wellbeing, but also that of your closest and dearest family members and friends, the experts warn.

South Africa’s gambling revenues are forecast to hit R35 billion by 2021 and remain a significant contributor to government tax revenues, employment and capital investment. 

However, there is concern around the increased number of South Africans betting their income away in the hope of making a quick buck and risking becoming gambling addicts.

A bigger cause of concern is the rise of sports betting, particularly on online platforms where instead of betting on the outcome of roulette or slots, you bet on the outcome of a sporting event, according to Pietro Calicchio, Southern Africa’s hospitality and gaming industry leader at PwC.

Gerald Mwandiambira, certified financial planner and director at the Financial Planning Institute, warns that gambling is an addiction akin to alcohol or drug abuse. “It makes the addict out of touch with reality and gambling losses in particular can lead to further financial challenges, further fuelling the addiction.” 

He says that what makes gambling particularly addictive is the “one win” or “jackpot” dream or even the memories of a win in the past. 

A recent survey by the National Gambling Board showed that more than half of the people who placed regular bets did so because they truly believed in their chance of winning, while close to a quarter of those surveyed said they did so because they were in need of money. 

There are various betting options and platforms available, Mwandiambira explains, with most online betting platforms hard to regulate or monitor, adding additional risks to your financial wellbeing.

David Weare, Momentum Consult Franchise Principal and financial adviser, cautions that an addiction takes over your daily life, monthly financial obligations and future financial goals. 

“Once you start using income that is meant to service your monthly expenses or is earmarked for savings, investments or a retirement annuity, that’s when the habit is out of control,” Weare says.

While gambling offers the chance of winning big, the law of maths is against you as not only must many more people lose to allow one person to win, but also the house always wins. 

An addiction takes over your daily life, monthly financial obligations and future financial goals.
David Weare, Momentum Consult Franchise Principal and financial adviser

Mwandiambira says if you were to gamble as a pastime, you should put aside no more than two to three percent of your disposable income and only if you can afford to do so. Spending beyond that becomes an irresponsible pastime, he says.

“You can also be responsible by betting only the ‘profits’ you make from betting and recycling your wins. This will help you avoid dipping into required income and savings,” Mwandiambira advises. 

The South African Responsible Gambling Foundation advises social gamblers to remain vigilant by placing small bets and playing slowly, calculating your average loss and setting a daily loss limit for how much you’re willing to lose. 

If your financial circumstances are already dire, you are no position to lose one cent, so it would be wise to steer clear from gambling houses and betting platforms.

If you want to protect your finances while using online betting platforms, you need to be a bit savvier than simply knowing when to stop.

Does the platform offer some kind of welcome bonuses upon placing the initial deposit, do they have various options for placing a deposit and do they offer fast and reliable withdrawals? These are all important questions to ask to safeguard your money against not only betting losses but also online scams. 

Weare says that a gambling pastime should not be stigmatised, instead society should tackle addiction to save families from destruction. He says if you or a loved one develops an addiction, it is a good idea to seek professional assistance to wean yourself or your family member off it.

If you, or a loved one on whom you are financially dependent, have a gambling addiction you can approach the Provincial Gambling Board to be voluntarily excluded from any gambling venues and platforms it regulates.

The board will circulate your information to all licensed venues for them to prevent you from gambling or betting. However, it remains your responsibility to stay away from such venues. 

Some online betting platforms also support self-exclusion. That means if you feel like you are losing control of your play you can request that they restrict you to access to your account. 

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