File image. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal is the second biggest gambling province – but while the revenue generated at the slots runs into billions, organisations that help people with gambling addictions say the industry creates serious problems.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released their first gaming industry report titled “Betting on the future South African gaming outlook 2012-2016”, and revealed that South Africans wagered R257.6 billion on gambling in 2011, which equates to more than R8 000 a person 18 years and older.

And the gaming industry is set to reap even more rewards as PwC statistics indicate turnover is projected to rise at a 6.3 percent compound annual rate during the next five years to R349.6bn in 2016.

Most of the gambling activity occurs in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, which together comprised nearly 77 percent of total gross gaming revenues in 2011, said PwC in a statement.

Casino gaming accounts for the most at R14.9bn in gross gaming revenues [which is the amount gambled less that returned to the gambler] last year. Sports betting comes second at R2.2bn, of which horseracing earns the biggest bets at R1.675bn.

PwC’s report indicates that most of the gross gaming revenues for horseracing are generated in KZN at R648 million and Gauteng at R547 million.

Nikki Forster, PwC Gaming Industry Leader for South Africa, said: “The gaming industry is often associated with glamour, high rollers, opulent settings and the trappings of wealth. As a business, however, the margins are low, a large portion of the costs are fixed, regulatory compliance is stringent and profitability depends on volume.”

Organisations working with people who have gambling addictions said these figures represented people who in many cases had gambling problems.

Raj Govender, director of Gamhelp, an organisation that assists people with gambling addiction, said gambling had become a common pastime.

“Senior citizens make special trips to the casino, family and office functions take place near a casino, people are moving homes closer to casinos, and what we are commonly seeing now is that people don’t feel they are supporting their sports team if they don’t place a bet on their team.”

He said families were being torn apart by gambling, and recently-married couples were divorcing due to gambling.

“What we are seeing more and more is an increase in people who are addicted to sports betting, and this is worrying as this is a new trend and we need to stop it before it gets out of control,” said Govender.

The chairman of a local Gamblers Anonymous group, who cannot be named as it was policy of the organisation to keep identities anonymous, said the gaming industry was making billions from people battling to make ends meet.

“So many people are being blacklisted, and going to the casino to place bets gives them false hope that they can make it rich quick,” he said.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Dessy Tzoneva said they assisted people who were overwhelmed with financial problems. “People’s spending habits and stress and gambling problems take a toll on their mental health and this affects the entire family; if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed you need to find help.”

The Consumer Fair’s Thami Bolani (formerly the National Consumer Forum) said: “When you go into casinos you see people are living in a pipedream that they will win, they are just ending up in more trouble.”

Help Lines: Sadag 0800 753 379; Gamhelp 083 766 5664