File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi
File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Online betting on the rise during lockdown

By Nathan Adams Time of article published Aug 3, 2020

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Cape Town – Sumo wrestling, chess and WWE wrestling are among some of the unique things gamblers are choosing to bet on during the lockdown.

Online betting is on the increase in South Africa as people continued to hedge their bets during the lockdown, even when casinos closed their doors.

The National Lottery continued during the lockdown and even though punters weren’t buying tickets at Lotto outlets, they still chose their numbers online and via banking apps.

The National Lottery Operator Ithuba confirmed that the biggest ever jackpot paid to someone who chose their numbers via a banking app was paid out during the lockdown.

The R153 Million PowerBall Plus jackpot from the July 10 draw was won by one lucky KZN man who chose his numbers via the Standard Bank smartphone app.

In a statement the lottery operator adds that banking app lotto players are not only increasing but winning big. It confirmed that in the past four months, FNB Banking App players have been striking it lucky with four winners hitting big jackpots.

BetXchange, another online platform, said they noted an increase in betting. The company says: “In July, on a single R10 lotto bet placed on the UK 49’s Double Draw Lottery, an avid BetXchange player got all 4 numbers and a bonus ball right and was suddenly R4.6 million richer.”

With this growing trend, Dr Mike West who has a practice at the Akeso Medical Health facility, says there are notable problems as well: “It is estimated that 1 in 10 South Africans gamble.

“In response to lockdown, online spaces and mobile phones were often the only way that people could gamble, and the use of these types of services has increased rapidly, both in South Africa and across the globe.”

Casinos were allowed to reopen last month and when GrandWest opened their doors on June 30, there were long queues of people waiting to try their luck on the slot machines and tables.

That day, GrandWest paid out R1 million to a woman who hit a jackpot on a slot machine, and in the past month have paid out 29 jackpots totalling more than R4.4 million.

Sun International’s group Chief Operations Officer for Hospitality, Graham Wood, said: “We were extremely pleased by the positive response to the reopening of our casinos. Many of our regular customers had kept in touch with us during lockdown so we knew they would support us.”

But he says there were some adjustments that needed to be made since reopening.

“The new curfew unfortunately, reduces our operating hours and revenues at a time when our primary focus should be stabilising our business to save jobs.

“We appreciate that government has to consider the cost of lives, but we hope that the curfew will be applied only as a short-term measure to achieve a state of readiness to cope with a pandemic that we are told will be with us for a long time,” he said.

Sunbet (Sun International's sports betting platform) also recorded different trends during the lockdown.

“Some of more unusual sports we took bets on include Sumo Wrestling, Chess and WWE Wrestling.

In the first month of lockdown, table tennis was the number one sport in terms of bets placed with Sunbet followed by Esports which received the second highest number of bets placed.”

With the announcement last week that leisure travel within provincial borders is once again allowed, Sun International is also reopening their hotel at The Golden Valley Casino in Worcester. Wood said: “Some of our properties such as the Wild Coast Sun (in the Eastern Cape) and Golden Valley Casino in Worcester are very dependent on out of town visitors.

“We have our extensive health and safety protocols in place so we are ready to reopen and we are confident that we can more than meet governments safety standards.”

West remains concerned though that with more ways to play, even during the lockdown, people could get into trouble: “There's no shame in admitting that you've lost control of your gambling and there is help available for you.”

He added: “There's no point in chasing yesterday's losses, in a game of chance there are no winners in the long run, just people who lose less.

“Gambling can be fun, and it should always be fun. If it's not fun any more, that's a good sign you need to take a break for a while.”

The National Responsible Gambling hotline is 0800 006 0080 and has support programmes available.

Weekend Argus

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