The 'negative socio-economic effects' associated with gambling are of paramount importance to the new online gambling legislation recently approved by Parliament. Research figures suggest, however, that problem gambling is not a supremely South African problem.
According to a recent study carried out by the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) the percentage of respondents illustrating signs of problem gambling has actually dropped from 6.8% to 4.8% in the last three years.
According to Dr Roger Meyer, Medical Director of the NRGB, the number of people seeking help for problem gambling has remained stable despite a surge in South African online gambling destinations in recent years. It is his opinion that in South Africa "the pool of problem gamblers is constant irrespective of the availability of gambling services."
This situation is in stark contrast to the US where the issue of problem gambling amongst teens and young adults is becoming an increasingly worrying phenomenon. According to a study published this month by Buffalo University's Research Institute on Addictions, an estimated 750,000 American youths can be classified as problem gamblers.
The study, carried out from 2005 - 2007, also found that gambling activity increased along with life changes such as leaving school, starting work, moving out of home and getting married. Furthermore, female gambling rates were virtually non-existence during adolescence but rose to 3% amongst women, as opposed to the male rates that remained constant with age. So the government should take note of the American example and prepare themselves for the populational pitfalls of problem gambling. It may well be the case, however, that South Africa and the US are simply worlds apart.