Sports betting is enormously popular in South Africa. Bookmakers who are
licensed to accept wagers on horseracing may also offer odds on sports, so the
sports betting industry and the horseracing industry are closely linked in South
Africa. It is difficult to gather independent statistics for sports betting
exclusively as a result, however.
The most popular sports to bet tend to be those that are played by the national
team, or shown regularly on television. So, American sports like baseball,
basketball, and 'American' football, have very limited appeal in South Africa.
Instead, cricket, rugby, soccer, and golf lead the way.
The South African cricket team was the subject of a huge sports betting scandal
when the captain of the Proteas (the late Hansie Cronje) and several top players
were implicated in match fixing with Indian bookmakers.
Betting on cricket in the sub-continent (India and Pakistan notably) is very big
business, far bigger than in South Africa itself. The match fixing scandal made
sports betting headline news in South Africa, and certain cricketers are still
unable to go back to India because they would be arrested upon arrival (Gibbs
and Boje come to mind).
Betting on rugby, particularly the Super 14 series that pits provincial teams
from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa against one another in a league,
is another favorite for local sports bettors. Betting on rugby internationals is
Wagering on soccer is now the number one pursuit of South African punters who
bet on sports. The reason for this is largely due to the introduction of a
special bet called the Soccer 6 introduced by the operators of horseracing
totes. The Soccer 6 is similar to betting on pools in the UK and offers large
returns if bettors can correctly handicap the soccer card.
There are relatively few online sportsbooks that cater specifically to South
Africans. The betting exchange, BetFair, has many South African users, and
offers betting on local events from horseracing to rugby. The biggest South
African bookmakers such as Lance Michael, do offer online betting on sports as
well as horseracing for their clients, but the vast majority of sports bets are
still placed via the telephone or in person in South Africa.
Betting in-running on sports events (while the game is still in progress) is far
more popular in South Africa than in the USA. Certain sports like cricket are
ready-made for this type of wager because the games take so long to complete and
there is enough uncertainty during the event to sustain liquid markets. This is
another reason why exchange betting as opposed to fixed-odds betting with
bookmakers is likely to become the predominant form of sports betting in South
In global terms the sports betting industry is no trifling matter. It is
estimated by bean-counters that a whopping $600 billion changed hands last year
worldwide as a result of sports betting alone, and you can bet that this number
would be much higher if all bets were reported.
Online gambling generated $12 billion in revenue in 2005, and online sports
betting is estimated to be 5 times bigger than sportsbooks in Las Vegas. Illegal
sports betting where the bets are handled by bucket shops and illegal bookmakers
in the USA is estimated to be 35 times bigger than Nevada.
More than 20 gambling companies are listed on international stock exchanges. The
biggest sports betting companies in the world, including companies like
BetAndWin out of Austria, and SportingBet have market values closing in on $3
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