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THE HISTORY OF GAMBLING IN SOUTH AFRICA
• How might we know whether the San gambled hundreds of years ago?
• Ancient populations of southern Africa also seem to have had gambling.
Bushman paintings depict people engaged in a type of gambling activity.
• The settlement of the Dutch at the Cape during the 17th Century saw the
first ban on gambling in 1673.
• The Diamond and Gold Rush in the Witwatersrand area attracted
gambling on a grand scale.
• Prior to 1996, all gambling in South Africa was illegal, except for betting
on horse races and the hotel casinos established in the former
“homelands” in the late 1970s.
• The effect of banning gambling was that it drove the gambling business
out of sight from the police, and made it an industry often managed by
criminals and organized crime syndicates. Street gangs, such as the
Msomi's, the “Spoilers” and the Sherif Khan Organization, were involved
in managing illegal gambling.
• Why do you think the new democratic government made gambling legal
• In 1994, the new government had to make a democratic decision whether
or not to legalize gambling. In 1996, certain forms of gambling were
made legal, allowing adults to decide for themselves how and where to
spend their money on things they enjoy, without harming others or society
as a whole.
• The government also makes counselling services available for those people
who gamble excessively or become addicted to gambling.
• There are now 40 licensed casinos, a national horse racing totalisator
(“tote”), a few bingo halls and the national Lotto lottery.
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• Outside these official structures, there is still lots of illegal gambling,
e.g. “ukudlala ngemali” (Zulu for “gambling”), “itoti”, Finder-Finder
(played with bottle tops and stones), and Fafi games.
• The minimum legal gambling age is 18, but many children younger than
18 gamble or work for the “runners” of the Fafi games.
• The South African law regards a “minor” as anyone under the age of 18.
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