Sports gambling has been slow to take off in SA, but times are changing

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

South Africans like sport. And we also like to gamble.

Nevermind the lottery, the JSE is the world's biggest market for single stock futures.

So why is sports gambling not the huge industry here that it is in Britain and the US?

History is partly to blame. Under apartheid, betting on anything besides horse racing was illegal. While democracy freed bookies to accept bets on other games, they battled to attract punters.

Tomorrow's Rugby World Cup match, however, shows things are picking up, according to the chairman of the Gauteng Bookmakers' Association Michael O'Connor.

A key ingredient lacking until recently has been spread betting. This addresses a common problem with local rugby and soccer matches that the winner is a foregone conclusion.

Traditional betting on the winner of tomorrow's Rugby World Cup final between the Springboks and England suffers from this.

O'Connor, who owns The Bullring in Northcliff, is offering to pay 30c for every R1 wagered on a Springbok win. This is in line with the major international bookies tracked by

You could triple your money if England wins, but the odds show that there's a 70percent chance that means money down the drain.

With spread betting, bookies borrowed a concept developed by fund managers wanting to smooth their investment track records against wild share price swings. Instead of simply betting on who will win, punters bet on by how much one side will beat the other.

There are two values quoted. The higher value is used by those opting for "buy" and the lower for "sell" bets.

The spread bet for how many points the Springboks will score tomorrow is 22-24.

If you reckon that 24 underestimates the points the Springboks will score against the English, you would opt to buy the bet at say R10 a point.

Then if the Springboks score 30, the bookie pays you R60.

On the other hand, if the Springboks only score 18, you pay the bookie R60. Opting to "sell" would win you R10 for every point less than 22 the Springboks score, or the bookie R10 for every point over 22.

Spread betting has helped local bookies make betting more exciting, but they still face a problem of a 6percent tax on winnings.

O'Connor said government was looking into this and the tax would probably go next year.