Slot machines ‘target the poor’

15 August 2003

South Africa does not need the rollout of additional slot machines, as they are likely to target poor people, according to Rob Davis, chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on trade and industry.

Davis was speaking at the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Project’s public debate on poverty and gambling on Wednesday.

The issue has been under constant debate since three months ago, when the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board announced its intention to roll out 3 000 gambling machines in the province by the end of 2005.

“The limited payout machines (LPMs) are not intended to be placed in casinos, which targeted by tourists; they will be in licensed taverns, in corner shops and will be largely targeted at the poor,” Davis said.

He explained that large numbers of people were ignorant about the odds and the extent of the prize money involved in this form of gambling.

“They expect to win large amounts of money to pay household debts and support their families. The fact is that if you hit the jackpot on one of these machines, you will not win more than R500.”

He said a lot of people were hooked on gambling as they believed if they won once, they would keep on winning, making them spend much more money than they could afford.

Waldie Terblanche, of the Western Cape social development and poverty alleviation department, said the constant availability of the LPMs would have a largely negative impact on poor communities.

“We pay out about R280-million per month on social grants in the province. We are worried by certain indicators that people use their grants for gambling instead of household necessities,” he said.

According to Terblanche, gambling is a non-productive activity serving as a source of entertainment for rich people who could afford to lose money, but acting only as a temptation to poor people desperately trying to break away from poverty.

“We believe that legal gambling should not be rolled out in our poorer communities and that LPMs should not be rolled out at this stage,” he said.

A recent study on the socio-economic impact of gambling revealed that 72.5% of the 2 050 participants in the study gambled in the 12 months preceding the study. Of those interviewed, 71.3% indicated that they would have spent their money on household necessities if they had not gambled.

The study also found that 22.1% of casino gamblers were unemployed, and that 21.2% earned less than R500 a month.

Source: BuaNews