Online gambling addiction is a pandemic in SA, sucking in children and adults

Online gambling addiction has become a widespread scourge in South Africa that is being likened to the Covid-pandemic – but worse. More men, women, and even children are getting sucked into the world of gambling right in front of their spouses, families, and even co-workers; all it takes is a mobile phone in their hands, or a laptop, and a few taps on the screen.

Apart from the risks of losing family, friends, and even oneself in the spiral of addiction, online gambling can also affect your credit record, and thus your chance of securing a home loan.

While your credit profile does not know if you spend your credit card money on gambling or bread and milk, Wikus Olivier, managing director CreditSmart Financial Services, says it does reflect your ability to keep up the minimum required payments on time every month. Thus, online gambling can impact your credit record if it is financed through your credit or cheque card.

“The luck of the draw can see you win, or lose, and in most cases, people lose. The funds used from the credit card are gone with the losses, but the outstanding balance remains. If you cannot repay the balance on your credit card, it will affect your credit score which will affect your potential to qualify for a bond.”

To avoid affecting your credit record, you must set a limit to your gambling and stay within that limit when playing online games. It is very easy to overspend, max out your credit cards, and then have to deal with the problem of not being able to pay it back.

“I want to earnestly encourage you: Don’t gamble with debt. In some cases, people will take out additional loans to repay a card that they maxed out while gambling, or people turn to more gambling in the hopes of making up a shortfall by winning. It seldom happens the way they hope for.”

Olivier adds:

“Don’t spend what you don’t have, don’t gamble on debt. There will be an expectation of an instalment after the money has been spent.”

Echoing this, Kay Geldenhuys, head of sales fulfillment at ooba Home Loans, says online gambling will also affect your credit record if you are applying for numerous pay-day and personal loans to fund your habit.

And if online gambling is your full-time profession and you are fully reliant on your generate income – and have no other income, banks will view this as an unsustainable source of income that cannot be verified.

Ultimately though, online gambling expenses will be viewed by the bank in the same light as an entertainment expense.

“Prospective homebuyers often expend a greater proportion of their monthly income on incidental entertainment expenses which can be reduced once the bond has been registered. Therefore provided the homebuyer confirms that these online gambling expenses will reduce or fall away once the bond is registered, it will be excluded from the bank’s affordability calculation.”

The problem, however, is when online gambling becomes an addiction and you are unable to control your gambling. Like any addiction, if it gets to this point, more than just your credit record will be affected.


Online gambling is a growing scourge in South Africa

Poobie Moodley works closely with people who have gambling addictions, and says that the current state of online gambling addiction in South Africa is more widespread than the Covid pandemic was, with even children as young as 14 getting hooked on it and seeking help for their cravings. The increasing number of women also seeking help for their addiction to online gambling is “unbelievable”.

“Addicts do crazy things to get money to gamble. I have heard from married women who wait for their husbands to fall asleep so they can take their credit cards. They clean out their accounts and then place the cards back where they got them from. We even have people who don’t pay their kids’ school fees or don’t buy food for their families because they use the money for online gambling.”

The problem is not just limited to South Africa though as online gambling – and addiction to it, is hitting “almost every country in the world”.

“Because it is online, gambling is easier than ever before. One can sit in front of their boss, children, partners, and clients and pretend to be working on their phones or computers, meanwhile, they are placing bets. There may be no food in the home and so people feel that if they feed money into gambling then they can pay for food. But either they lose the money or, if they win, they just keep playing.”

Even though many online gambling sites require ID for players to sign up, Moodley says children under 18 with addictions have reported that they did not need to provide this.

Online gambling is a regular pop-up on most web pages these days, with some sites even offering people guarantees of R1,000 just to place a R10 bet. They also offer them betting odds that are better than the bookmakers’, so people feel they have great chances of winning. And this is how they are sucked in.

“It is just so easy to get pulled in. There is no need to drive to a casino or make an excuse about needing to go out.”

While some people may try online gambling with the good intention of just getting some money to pay bills or school fees, it rarely ends with just that win, he says, adding that people don’t even need to be struggling for money to get addicted.

“There is no cure for addiction. But this doesn’t mean you need to live in your addiction. If you have a serious desire to change, then there is support available.”


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