The National Responsible Gambling Programme - a public-private sector initiative - is the only one of its kind in Africa.
It was founded in June 2000 and is acknowledged internationally to be exceptionally cost-effective and among the most comprehensive in the world.
The NRGP has these operational components:
- Public awareness and prevention
- Treatment and counselling
- Training for regulators and industry employees
- A Lifeskills programme for schools, Grades 7 - 12
With effect from March 2009, the NRGP has been supervised by the SA Responsible Gambling Foundation (SARGF) which comprises a board of directors, drawn from regulators and the gambling industry.
The NRGP is funded by voluntary contributions from the private sector which includes the casino, horse racing, bingo and limited payout machine (LPM) industries. This comprises 0.1% of the industry's Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) ie company winnings.
In addition, the NRGP receives public grants for special projects, (such as those undertaken for the Department of Finance and Economic Development in the Gauteng Provincial Government in conjunction with the Gauteng Gambling Board).
The National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) was founded in 1999 as a consortium of consultants working with the casino industry. Later, all sectors of the gambling industry - except the National Lottery - agreed to participate in the work of the programme and the public sector became involved in the supervision of the programme through the appointment to a Board of Trustees of a number of gambling regulators. In 2004 the South African Gambling Foundation NPC (SARGF) was created as the body responsible for delivering the programme and the regulators and industry professionals who had hitherto supervised the programme as a Board of Trustees became the Board of Directors of the Foundation in 2007.
The current arrangements were designed to achieve two objectives:
- To ensure that the Trustees collected and controlled all monies that accrued to further the work of the NRGP
- To have three separate contracts with individual service providers rather than one composite contract with the Foundation
The Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which, though independent, will report regularly on its activities to the provincial and national authorities charged with the regulation of gambling.
The board of the Foundation continues to contain an equal number of regulators and industry professionals together with its independent chairperson. There is provision for adding additional members to the board should that come to seem desirable.
The aims of the SARGF are to deliver, respectively, programmes of public awareness, training, treatment, research and a curriculum for schools addressing the need to make people aware of the dangers of gambling and how to avoid them, to ensure that free confidential and expert help is available to problem gamblers and their families, to increase our understanding of excessive and compulsive gambling and associated problems in South Africa, and to ensure that children are taught about gambling as part of the life skills curriculum which addresses gambling issues within the wider context of risk-taking. Contracts for the delivery of public awareness and treatment programmes were awarded after a tendering process in March 2010.
The programme is funded by voluntary contributions from the gambling industry which, it has been agreed, should equal 0.1% of gross gambling revenues (money staked less money paid out in winnings). The Foundation also undertakes special projects at the request of provincial governments or gambling boards which generate additional income. All gambling companies in South Africa contribute to funding the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) except for the National Lottery.
The principal function of the Foundation is to ensure that everything which reasonably can be done to minimise the harm caused by problem gambling is, in fact, done.
This means, first of all, that people with a gambling problem or who are close to someone with a gambling problem, can get sympathetic and well informed advice from a suitably qualified counsellor by telephoning the toll-free counselling line number (0800 006 008) at any time of the day or night throughout the year. The telephone counselling service also facilitates referral to one of a team of some 74 Treatment Professionals located throughout South Africa. These treatment professionals offer a structured course of customised out-patient treatment based on individual psychiatric diagnosis, counselling for the family of the problem gambler and supplementary debt and money management assistance. In rare cases the Foundation subsidises inpatient treatment at a clinic specialising in the treatment of addictions. All problem gamblers who seek help through the counselling line and are referred for treatment are followed up in the context of an Integrated Care Programme.
The Foundation, however, is at least as concerned to prevent people from becoming problem gamblers in the first place as it is to ensure that they are effectively helped if they do develop problems. To this end an extensive public awareness programme highlights the dangers of gambling and how to avoid them, exposing myths about gambling and encouraging people to adopt practices such as setting limits to their losses in advance of starting to gamble. These messages are disseminated in all South African languages through the media of newspapers, television, radio and public transport. The public awareness programme also provides brochures etc to gambling venues which should be easily accessible to players and which are reinforced by appropriate signage in gambling venues. Also, as part of this programme, training about problem gambling issues is given to all staff working in the industry. The public awareness team are also responsible for liaison with politicians, regulators, the media, health and social work professionals and interested members of the public. They also organise special events (such as gambling awareness days), conferences and seminars, exhibitions as well as being responsible for co-ordinating and publicising the work of the other service providers when, for example, they are invited to give interviews to the media or to speak at national and international conferences.
By common consent, however, in all jurisdictions, too little is known about the causes of problem gambling and consequently about the best means of preventing it through regulation and consumer education and about successfully treating it. The Foundation, therefore, supports very high quality research which focuses on the particular circumstances of South Africa and especially its less advantaged communities. This research combines pioneering work carried out in South Africa with the application to South African circumstances of cutting edge international research. Research projects include regular studies of rates of participation in different forms of gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in South Africa. Studies have also been undertaken which focus on the relationships between poverty and ignorance and problem gambling as well as on the behaviours which distinguish the majority of gamblers who never get into trouble with gambling too much from the few who do.
The national schools programme was originally initiated in order to ensure compliance with the provision of national gambling legislation which requires that all school learners be taught about the risks of gambling and how to avoid them in the same way that they are taught about the risks of drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex.
The schools programme has developed a text based teacher's manual for Grades 7 - 9 which has been piloted and revised in the light of feedback from the pilot and is now being rolled out nationally. Similar text is currently being written for Grades 10 - 12. Both sets of text-based will be supplemented by a dedicated website where teachers and learners can not only access the text based material in electronic form but can also access a substantial amount of supplementary material designed to improve learners understanding of risk-taking generally as well as of mathematics, money management and debating skills.
Although it is very difficult to measure scientifically how effective our work is in terms of altering behaviour, the programme has been favourably evaluated (particularly in relation to its cost) by Professor Robert Ladouceur of the University of Naval in Quebec - one of the world's leading authorities in this field. We also have evidence that a large majority of those who complete our treatment programme report that they are problem free six months later. Finally, we have consistently found that problem gambling numbers in South Africa have remained stable or decreased since 2001. This is in conformity with findings from other jurisdictions where responsible gambling programmes are operative and suggests that, with good regulation and the kind of programme we offer, it is possible to keep the number of people who get into trouble with excessive gambling small, especially as compared with other problems such as substance abuse or excessive consumer indebtedness. At all events, the South African National Responsible Gambling Programme is very well thought of internationally and the Foundation's executive director is regularly asked to address international conferences and to advise governments on responsible gambling issues.
In line with the findings of national and international research, the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation recognises that South Africans fall into one of the following categories:
- Non-gamblers are those who don't gamble at all on any form of gambling, including the lottery. This group was estimated to constitute about half the South African population in 2009.
- Recreational gamblers are those for whom gambling is a harmless recreation, and who do not spend more time or money on gambling than they can comfortably afford. They typically determine beforehand what they consider to be acceptable losses. B y and large their gambling activities cause little harm to themselves or their loved ones and their behaviour is associated with minimal guilt. They simply require information and education on gambling behaviour to enable them to make sensible decisions. This group was estimated to constitute about 47% of the SA population.
- Problem gamblers demonstrate gambling behaviour that creates negative consequences for themselves, for others in their circle of friends and family, or for the community. Using the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, this group constitutes around 2.5% of the South African population.
- Pathological or compulsive gamblers have a psychiatric disorder diagnosable by strict clinical criteria. It is regarded as a disorder of impulse control and has a very poor prognosis. Such gamblers are unable to control their gambling, leading to significant damage to themselves and others. They are often very difficult to treat. The group constitutes about 0.5% of the SA population.