Pretoria - The number of problem gamblers in South Africa has remained constant at less than one percent of adults since 2005, the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) said on Monday.
"Over 95% of the adult population experiences no problems of any kind. About 0.5% experience very severe problems and about a further four percent more or less mild problems," NRGP executive director professor Peter Collins said in a statement.
This was the key finding in a major study of gambling in South Africa conducted over the past year by the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation. A total of 3 000 adults living in the country's four major cities - Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town - were polled.
"It was also clear from the study that, contrary to popular belief, regular casino players are no more likely to become problem gamblers than those who regularly participate in other forms of gambling. On the other hand, there is a high correlation between becoming a problem gambler and playing informal or illegal games".
While a mere 8.3% of the sample said in 2005 that they had not taken part in any kind of gambling in the last 12 months, this rose to 47.9% in 2008.
The number of people playing in casinos also decreased. Regular slot machine play dropped markedly, from 13.9% of the sample in 2005 to 3.7% in 2008.
In contrast regular players of Fafi (a traditional township game) increased from four to 5.1%.
Collins said decreases in gambling participation reflected the effects of the recession and the numbers of previously regular lottery players who did not resume regular play when the lottery was reinstated after having been suspended.
"Again, contrary to popular belief, when times are hard, people don't tend to gamble more in the hope of getting out of financial difficulty: on the contrary, they tend to gamble less because they have less to spend generally on entertainment. This is well documented in relation to gambling revenues around the world, both past and present."
The research also revealed a continued acceptance of the current regulatory framework governing gambling, which controlled the type of gambling allowed and where it could take place.