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The house always wins

In a nutshell: Online gambling has become normalised as a harmless pastime and a way to make a quick buck by the South African youth but is it really as harmless as social media makes it out to be?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “The house always wins,” well, it’s true. The odds are always in favour of the house. Basically, this means all gambling is designed so that the “house” (i.e. the gambling companies) will always make a profit. Even though you might hear about someone hitting the jackpot occasionally, the truth is most gamblers end up losing money.

Whether through advertisements or friends, the South African youth has      become increasingly drawn into the world of online gambling and sports betting. A survey conducted 2021 found that 74% of South African youth participate in some form of gambling. Influencers use platforms, such as X and Instagram, to share their gambling experiences. Often social media make gambling seem like a harmless pastime, instead of a potentially harmful addiction. And unlike physical casinos where age verification is compulsory, online gambling platforms don’t have strict age verification checks, making it easier for people younger than 18 to engage in gambling activities.

Nolwazi explains…

“Social media influencing” is another way for companies to advertise which means they pay influencers to say that they use the products or services. In real life, these influencers are not gamblers themselves.

South Africa’s economic challenges, including poverty and unemployment, have contributed to the appeal of gambling as a means of escapism and a quick way to make money for the youth and disadvantaged individuals. But this escapism often comes at the cost of losing already scarce resources. 

Why is gambling so risky?

Gambling is presented as an alternative to hard-work and as an easy way to secure your financial future. This false belief can encourage young people to neglect other important life pursuits such as education or employment to pursue gambling.

Some gambling platforms allow you to place bets with very low amounts, such as 10 cents. Seems harmless, right? But even these small bets can add up. Gambling often leads you to bet more and more money, chasing that thrill or hoping to win back what you’ve lost. It’s a never-ending cycle.

Nolwazi explains…

Online gambling vs. Lotto

Online gambling is like playing card games or betting on sports online, while the lotto is about buying tickets and hoping your numbers come up. Both can be fun, but they are equally addictive.

For 2021/22, South Africa’s gambling industry saw total gambling revenue worth R34 billion, a 48% increase from the previous year. Gambling companies are designed to make money, not give it away. So, while gambling might seem exciting and like a way to make quick money, it’s not a sustainable way to earn an income.

Maybe you’ve only heard success stories but there are also many stories of people losing their pension, business and family due to online gambling.

And let’s not forget gambling is purely dependent on chance, meaning that there is no skill involved in determining the outcome. Ultimately the house controls the outcome. 

Everybody loses

It’s not just the person dealing with the addiction that is affected but everyone around them too. It has a ripple effect on their family, friends, and broader social network. Addiction thrives on secrecy, and many keep their gambling habits a secret, feeling ashamed. But this secrecy makes the problem worse and stops them from getting the help they need. Gamblers Anonymous offers support to people in breaking free from the cycle of compulsive gambling.