Sports Betting in South Africa
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Sports Betting in South Africa

Published on 8 May 2006 at 13:46

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 also brisk.

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 Africa.

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 billion.

Related Gambling Articles:
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Sports Betting in South Africa

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