Casinos should follow South Africa

17/02/2011

The UK should have South African-style casinos offering visitors a variety of entertainment in addition to gambling, according to Jonathan Parke, a senior lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Gambling at the University of Salford in the north of England, writes Business Report.

He said many people visited South African casinos to watch stage shows, socialise in pleasant and safe surroundings or eat in the restaurants without gambling at all. The casinos caused less problem gambling than the large number of bookmakers to be found on street corners in the UK, or the gaming machines in British shops that offered limited payouts for small stakes but tempted poor people to feed in more coins through repeated attempts to win jackpots.

Attempts to legalise entertainment complexes, including large casinos in the UK, failed when the British parliament decided to allow only one in the country.

Gambling provides most of the profits for hotel and gaming firms, including Sun International, which hoped a few years ago to expand to the UK but has invested in Chile and Nigeria instead.

Among other activities, Parke has been prominent in the development of the UK’s first problem gambling education programme for counsellors and has trained gambling industry stakeholders in the psychology of gambling and social responsibility.

South Africa’s National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) is a public-private sector organisation integrating monitoring, public education, industry-wide training, a national treatment network and a problem gambling counselling telephone service. It is funded by voluntary contributions from the casino, horse racing, bingo and limited payout machine industries, which donate 0.1 percent of gross gambling revenue. The programme also receives public grants for special projects.

Recent research shows the number of problem gamblers has been steady at between 4.6 percent and 4.8 percent of the population for the past three years.

According to the NRGP “the available evidence suggests that regulated gambling at casinos constitutes no greater risk than other forms of gambling, but that illegal gambling on games such as Fafi (popular in the townships), dice and cards does significantly increase the risk of problem gambling”.

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