Gambling In South Africa


In terms of its mandate, the Horseracing and Betting Department is responsible for overseeing the provincial gambling boards’ regulation of horseracing and betting within the country. Currently there are more than 400 totalisator outlets, 300 bookmaker outlets and 11 race courses.

As part of the oversight function the Department is responsible for conducting inspections in terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act 2001, (FICA) within the betting environment. The Department together with the members of the Horseracing and Betting Forum (representatives from all PLAs) have developed a set of guidance notes in respect of FICA for the betting industry.

The Horseracing and Betting Department interacts with law enforcement agencies, regulators, stakeholders and other government organisations for the purposes of effective regulation of the Horseracing and Betting Industry and bench-marking.

The aim of a regulated gambling industry is to ensure that all role players involved in any gambling activity are brought within the broader regulatory legal framework.

Looking Back

Prior to 1994 gambling was prohibited in South Africa and only took place in the nominally independent homelands. Betting in the then South Africa was only allowed in horseracing as this was the only legal form of gambling during that time.

At the time Horseracing faced serious challenges. Tote betting turnovers were declining in real terms and on-course attendances had dropped. Most racecourses were operating at a loss.

In addition, basic management structures were not much altered from decades before, although new entities had been established to manage new elements of the sport like off-track tote betting and the televising of races. By the mid 1990s cluttered management structures made efficient administration of horseracing, extremely difficult as horseracing and betting had expanded rapidly into a multi-billion rand industry with the advent of off-course betting. Consequently, horseracing was not well positioned to deal with its most serious challenge – the post 1994 changes in the Gambling legislation which brought about the termination of the monopoly it enjoyed with regards to gambling


After 1994 the democratic government decided to legalise all forms of gambling in the Republic. Horseracing had to transform itself from a sporting activity into a gambling activity. Provincial gambling legislation was amended accordingly and the national statute followed suit in 2004.

Against the background of the open competitive gambling market, the other major challenge that faces the horseracing and betting industry in the immediate future, is transformation within the industry.

Economic Growth Opportunities

Although horseracing and betting contributes only 16% of total gambling revenue in South Africa it is very important to note the pivotal role played by the thoroughbred horseracing in the South African economy. It has created employment opportunities for over 100 000 people. This figure is significant especially taking the unemployment situation in the Republic.

It is of importance to the horseracing and betting industry, as it is to all economic citizens of the Republic to identify what is it that the industry is doing to contribute to the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative in South Africa?

  • the horse racing and betting industry must be seen to be doing something to address the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and marginalisation confronting those caught within the Second Economy, to ensure that the poor in our country share in the growing prosperity of the industry;
  • the leaders in the industry must make the necessary interventions to accelerate progress towards transformation ; and
  • the industry must harness the Proudly South African spirit and build the strongest possible partnership between all sections of our population to accelerate our advance towards the realisation of the important goal of a better life for all.

The Horseracing and Betting Department within the National Gambling Board is committed to forming a partnership with the industry and all stakeholders in an endeavour to contribute to the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative in South Africa.

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