For most people, our gambling days started on the primary school playground where we wagered our marbles against the other kids. From there, some of you turned to casinos for a thrill. And then, it became as easy as sitting on your bed in your pajamas in front of your laptop with online gambling sites, such as Silversands, gaining popularity.

But a recent ruling in the North Gauteng High Court has declared online gambling illegal in South Africa, because the National Gambling Act of 2004 does not make provision for it. This ends years of debate about whether online gambling technically takes place at the location of the server (which in the case of Piggs Peak online casino would be Lesotho) or the location of the computer of the person gambling. The High Court ruling decided that the online gambling takes place at the location of the computer, which means it takes place in South Africa, and that makes it illegal. This now means that both people who participate in online gambling and the online gambling service providers are breaking the law and could receive a fine of up to R10 million or ten years in jail. Howevr, a proposed bill that aims to make provision for online gambling in our legislation and to regulate it has been approved by parliament. It has not been passed yet.

The National Gambling Act states its purpose is “to ensure that all gambling activities are conducted responsibly, fairly and honestly [and to] protect minors and other vulnerable persons from the negative effects of gambling.”

Therefore the law hopes to decrease cases of gambling addiction by making it less accessible. And perhaps this will prove to be a good thing, because for some, the search for lady luck is not just a once in a while recreational activity but an almost religious compulsion. Gambling addiction is often seen as an invisible illness because there aren’t any obvious physical signs and also because an addict will go to extreme lengths to hide their problem.

So, how do students feel about gambling?

Hendrik Lourens, a second-year actuarial sciences student, feels that on the whole gambling is morally wrong. But he says, “From a social point of view, if you’re gambling for relaxation purposes and not to make money, then I could approve it. But even you just gamble with R200 rand that you’re willing to lose, you still care about losing it. It’s like buying fireworks: they’re pretty and fun, and then they’re gone.”

Second-year BCom economics student Hennie Pretorius, says, “I only go gambling about once every two months, with money that I would have spent on something else, like going to a restaurant, anyway. But if you’re using money that you don’t have to waste, like your child’s school fees, then it’s wrong. Anything that you take to the extreme is bad.”

And Timmy*, a first-year economics student doesn’t gamble because it goes against his religious beliefs. “I’m Christian. And according to the Bible, gambling is wrong. Banning online gambling is good, because any way that will help to cut down on gambling is good.”

You can almost say that gambling is in some ways a lot like drinking alcohol. Neither is illegal, both can be fun, but both can also become a problem.

Kin Hubbard, an American cartoonist, once said, “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.” Good advice for those of us who struggle with the lure of lady luck.

Perdeby supports responsible gambling. Winners know when to stop.

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