Responsible gambling

The National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP) is a resource that integrates research and monitoring, treatment and counselling, public education and awareness, as well as industry training. It is still the only programme of its kind in the world that is jointly controlled by a public/private sector partnership which involves government regulators and the industry.

 The NRGP is managed by the SA Responsible Gambling Foundation (SARGF) which comprises a Board of Directors who represents regulators and the industry. The SARGF reports to the SA Council on Responsible Gambling (SACREG), established by the National Gambling Board and a public/private sector partnership. There is a high degree of accountability and transparency in terms of financial management. Reports on the activities of the programme are published regularly.


Treatment and Counselling

The NRGP’s toll-free Problem Gambling Counselling Line service operates countrywide 24/7and is staffed by up to nine multilingual telephone counsellors. It received 16 192 calls in total during the year, of which 2 891 were problem gambling specific calls and referrals.

The NRGP’s national network of 75 Treatment Professionals provided free and confidential outpatient treatment and counselling services to 1 318 problem gamblers, referred 15 problem gamblers for inpatient treatment, 25 problem gamblers for debt management counselling, and assisted 28 relatives of problem gamblers with family counselling.

The capacity of the Treatment Management Team was greatly improved with the appointment of clinical psychologist Dr Adele Pretorius as the Treatment Director, with effect from September 2010. The team embarked on a partnership with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town, under the leadership of Professor Dr Dan Stein. Objectives are to   develop capacity for clinical evaluations, diagnosis of problem gamblers with co-morbid conditions (like alcohol or drug addiction) and to provide clinical supervision of treatment professionals and treatment options based on best practices.

Another appointment is psychiatrist Dr Heidi Sinclair, who is the first incumbent of the newly established Fellowship in Pathological Gambling in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town – a first for South Africa and the African continent.

The treatment programme, in its entirety, was reviewed and a number of recommendations were implemented in order to improve quality of the services and the pace of delivery. Professor Graham Barr, who has been central to the preparation of materials for the NRGP’s Handbook on Gambling, has also reviewed the data programme used to capture counselling line statistics in order to implement phased improvements.



The Training division offered its Basic and Advanced courses to 2 842 industry employees from the various gambling sectors in all the provinces. The division also provided training to counsellors from the Health Society of South Africa and to the ToughLove support group for parents of children with addictions. Staff also participated in a corporate wellness day for 900 Unilever staff in Johannesburg. An ongoing initiative is the alignment and updating of the course materials in order to acquire SAQA Accreditation of the Basic course.



The Research division is headed by the NRGP’s Executive Director Professor Peter Collins and comprised of a team of nine local and international academics. They are Professor Don Ross, Professor Graham Barr, Andre Hofmeyr, Dr Carla Sharp, Professor David Spurrett, Jacques Rousseau, Dr George Ainslie, Dr Andrew Dellis and Professor Harold Kincaid. 

Work on four long-term research projects continued during the period under review. 

  • The National Prevalence Survey, the third such study since the inception of the NRGP in 2000, is the most comprehensive national survey ever done of gambling behaviour in a developing country. This report is published on the NRGP website.
  • The first four of six waves on the Longitudinal (Panel) Study of Problem Gamblers has been completed. It is looking into the causes of changes in severity of individuals’ problem gambling. It will confirm South Africa’s place in the ranks of the small group of countries that constitute the forefront of shared international knowledge on how best to implement and sustain responsible gambling. The 6th wave is due for completion at the end of 2011.
  • The Poverty and Gambling Study – the analysis of data gathered during 2009, from a peri-urban community in KwaZulu-Natal, was completed in March 2010 and made available on the NRGP website. This was an opportunity to investigate the objective facts behind anecdotes that suggest unusually high rates of purchase of lottery tickets among poorer South Africans.
  • Work continued on the studies in cognition and gambling, exploring the way in which the brain compares present and future rewards using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). A third of the targeted sample has been completed. The study protocol was recently amended to incorporate a structured clinical interview for pathological gambling, as well as a screening measure for impulse control disorders. Data collection is anticipated to run until March 2012.

fMRI is a key method for testing a new insight into problem gambling that has come to the fore and partly through the efforts of the NRGP’s research team. It tests the hypothesis that problem gamblers are made up of two different kinds of people. Results demonstrate that a proportionally small number in the group is truly addicted to gambling, in a way that can be observed in their brains and, in time, perhaps controlled by medication. A larger number of problem gambles have problems that are less serious; some problems come and go over the person’s lifetime; and some are subject to self-control.

Establishing the scientific basis of this distinction will play a major role in moving to optimal policy for the reduction of problem gambling.

The NRGP continues to publish and disseminate the monthly electronic newsletter, Responsible Gambling Digest, which provides its readers with a broad overview of international developments in the study and treatment of problem gambling.

As a sign of the high esteem in which members of the NRGP’s Research team are held, they continue to submit papers for publication in reputable academic journals and are regularly invited as guest speakers to international conferences. Dr Andrew Dellis has begun a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cape Town, which will be used for research on the South African gambling behaviour. 


Public Education and Awareness

The Public Education division, under BEE-accredited public relations experts Corporate Image, continued with the main thrust of the NRGP’s awareness and prevention programme. The main objectives are to educate gamblers and potential gamblers and society as a whole, particularly learners, adults and senior citizens, about responsible gambling.

A national print and electronic advertising campaign was run during gambling peaks, over the holiday season. The print and electronic media is constantly monitored to ensure a speedy response to issues in the communication environment. During January and February 2011 an advertising campaign was run on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3. A taxi branding campaign around the metropolitan transport hubs in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London commenced from mid-2010.  Communication materials are disseminated in a number of languages.

Other communication channels used include information leaflets, occasional newsletters (NRGP News) and the NRGP’s website ( Information is regularly sent to the relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committees as part of the public advocacy campaign. The Executive Director and the NRGP colleagues were also consulted by officials conducting the investigation into DTI’s Gambling Review Commission.

The NRGP sent representatives to the Western Cape Gambling & Racing Board’s Responsible Gambling Forum meetings held three times a year.

During February 2011 Tamra Capstick-Dale delivered a presentation on how regulators can improve the image of gambling at the 8th Gaming Regulators of Africa Forum at Sun City.

Three international academics visited South Africa. In September 2010 Professor William Eadington was keynote speaker at the one-day conference for regulators. In February 2011 Dr Jonathan Parke shared his expertise with the NRGP’s telephone counsellors, and Professor Jon Grant presented a paper at the Regulators and Treatment Professionals Conference and Workshop late in February 2011.


National Schools Programme

The National Gambling Act of 2004 requires that minors and other vulnerable persons are protected from the negative effects of gambling and that a broad-based public education programme about the risks and socio-economic impact of gambling is provided. Since 2008 the NRGP has been developing and piloting a programme called Taking Risks Wisely (TRW), as part of the life skills orientation syllabus in schools. It has been very well received by the participating teachers and learners at five schools where it is applicable, thus far.

All inputs for the Taking Risks Wisely Grades 7-9 course materials were finalised during August 2010, after the last feedback workshops with participating teachers in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Additional resources for teachers and learners, in the form of a schools website, were developed and the entire manual of TRW 7-9 was made available on a flash drive. Planning for the national roll-out of TRW 7-9 during the second half of 2011 is well advanced.

Meanwhile the compilation of the TRW Grades 10-12 course materials has been completed, and a pilot programme is scheduled to start during 2011/2012.


Gambling helpline:
0800 006 008