We certainly have come a long way since the days when sports betting consisted mainly of a visit to the local TOTE, when it was viewed by many as the preserve of the seedier types and consequently was generally viewed as unsavoury behaviour. Today, sports’ betting is a major legitimate industry with companies like Ladbrokes fast becoming global brands.
Horse-racing has traditionally led the way in terms of sports betting. Technological advances such as radio, television and , more recently, the internet has meant that South African punters can now “visit” any track in the world and bet 7 days a week. Punters can now log onto the internet and bet on virtually any sporting event around the world, from bowls to athletics to the indoor hockey championships and the term: “armchair enthusiast” has taken on a whole new meaning.
All of this activity was bound to have some negative fallout and our case it was “Hansie-gate”. We could not believe that one of our favourite sons had strayed so far from the path and we were forced to acknowledge that sport would never be the same ( Hansie Cronje, distinguished cricket captain, was found guilty of match fixing in 2000). Fortunately our national sports have been reasonably free of major incident since. I am sure that somewhere someone was “running a book” based on the likelihood of Bakkies Botha’s next red card.
On a global scale we are a long way from the likes of India, and our sports betting industry is relatively small, however, it is growing at a rapid rate and companies like Ladbrokes, Voltbet, Sportingbet and Sportsbet are reporting progressively higher earnings.
Gambling will always be a divisive topic, with many calling for its outright ban. I do not see this on the cards over here. We are still too new to the concept of legal convenient sports betting for the evils to seem real and the horror stories true. For the time being at least the majority of folks in South Africa are still saying: “ let it ride”