SA gamblers' secret weapon

By Kashiefa Ajam Time of article published Aug 13, 2005

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Compulsive gamblers are wearing disposable adult nappies to facilitate their dangerous habit.

Training manager for the National Responsible Gambling Programme Loren Jordaan says it is already a common occurrence for gamblers to relieve themselves in a glass or bottle at the spot where they are gambling.

However, casinos began to monitor this behaviour and offending gamblers caught in the act are now automatically kicked out of the venue.

However, gambling addicts have become smart: they wear adult nappies. This enables them to sit down and play until all their money is spent, without having to leave their post.

With revenue from gambling increasing from R8.2 billion last year to R9.7 billion this year, more people in South Africa are gambling more often. Experts say it is becoming common for compulsive gamblers "on a winning streak" at blackjack, roulette or the slot machines to wrap themselves in adult nappies, so they do not compromise their luck.

Says Jordaan: "It does not just happen at one casino. It happens at all of them around the country. This is not unusual at all. However, more often, we find that people just do their thing right where they are sitting."

Such unsociable behaviour is a clear sign that a person has become an addict or a compulsive gambler.

Jordaan trains staff at casinos around the country in identifying problem gamblers. She teaches them to look for warning signs and how to give advice about the problem.

She says she has seen her share of odd incidents in her time doing training inside casinos.

"It is disgusting to think that people wet themselves and wear nappies just so that they do not miss anything. But they get up to the strangest things. They can become aggressive towards staff and each other.

"Incidents that stand out include one about a man who had been playing at a roulette table. When the ball didn't fall into the number he had chosen, he just ate the ball. Another man ate a card that had caused him to lose money.

"Then there was an elderly woman playing the slots, and the ceiling collapsed centimetres away from her. She didn't even blink.

"In another incident a woman lay flat on the floor during an armed robbery at one of the Jo'burg casinos. The moment the robber turned his back, she reached up and continued playing the machine, while still lying on the floor."

Jordaan says most compulsive gamblers are also very superstitious.

"A lot of them put their coins in the freezer because they believe that cold coins can make them win lots of money. One woman wore the same jersey for a week - back to front - because she believed it would give her good fortune."

Jordaan added: "These are not bad people - just addicted. People understand alcohol or drug addiction - gambling addiction is the same."

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