Commentators have nixed the idea of dog-racing in South Africa.

Marianne Merten

Political Bureau

Dog racing should not be legalised because of concerns for the welfare of the animals and doubts there are enough punters to support it.

This emerged during a briefing in Parliament yesterday by a commission that conducted a review of the gambling industry.

“There’s a strong lobby around dog racing, but it is a very small sector. Given the limited demand and the problems associated with it, we did not think it should be legalised,” said review commission chairwoman Astrid Ludin.

Commissioner Stephen Louw, a politics lecturer at Wits University, said that it wasn’t clear South Africa had the capacity to regulate dog racing, which was often little more than a backyard operation.

Countries where dog racing was popular struggled to control the retirement of animals and overbreeding.

In the case of horse racing, the commission proposed a clear separation of racecourse ownership from that of totes, and tightening of regulations on financing and taxing of bookmakers, totes and other betting offices.

The National Assembly’s trade and industry committee heard that more research was required into dice and card games and fahfee, a long-established game of chance involving betting on numbers and symbols, often inspired by dreams. “Fahfee... has been taken over by gangs from mainland China, who are investing the money in abalone smuggling,” Louw said.

The proliferation of poker, which is illegal outside casinos, electronic bingo machines with unlimited payouts in easily accessible venues such as shopping malls, and online gambling were also concerns.

Better law enforcement was needed to ensure public spaces and gambling spaces remained separate, including separate entrances so shoppers didn’t accidentally come across gambling.

Illegal establishments often remained open owing to a province’s lack of political will, and sometimes lack of capacity, to close them down, said Louw.

The review also recommended the merger of the National Lotteries and the National Gambling boards to give oversight to the National Gambling Policy Council and establish a “professional”, independent body to distribute lottery funds as grants to charities in an effort to separate the grant-making and compliance enforcement functions.