Research has shown that gambling amongst youth is considered a risky behaviour and a public concern (Winters, Stinchfield, Botzet, & Anderson, 2002). According to Ssewanyana and Bitanihirwe (2018), gambling disorder is associated with adverse psychological, physical, economic, legal and social outcomes. Social and psychological negative impacts related to youth gambling may include poor academic performance, crime related activities, high stress levels, depression, and suicide ideation (Messerlian, Deverensky, & Gupta, 2005).

Ssewanyana and Bitanihirwe (2018) states that young people are increasingly exposed to gambling activities with the rapid growth of gambling industries in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa such as Kenya and South Africa.

Moreover, young people as a result of their susceptibility to risk taking and not being aware of the potential undesirable effects of such behaviours, their engagement in creative gambling may cultivate into a gambling disorder. Ssewanyana and Bitanihirwe (2018) argues that, given the high levels of youth unemployment and the genuine low wages in Sub-Saharan Africa, an increasing number of young people seek alternative means to gain income and gambling seem attractive.

To understand the prevalence of gambling as well as describing the nature of problem gambling among the South African youth, the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation commissioned a research study in 2014 on its Telephone Counselling Line. The data was captured over a 6-month period and it analysed data of 480 calls received, were from aged 18 and 35.  62% of these calls received were from males and 38% from females. 45% of callers were married, 32% single and 23% were divorced. 76% were in full time employment while 16% reported that they were not employed.

According to the DSM-5 one of the symptoms of pathological gambling is making repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling. Sinclair (2014),

reported that diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling share similarities with drugs and alcohol dependence, which include features such as withdrawal, tolerance, diminished control and impairment in important activities. Sinclair (2014), further indicated that males with pathological gambling consistently report problems with drug and alcohol abuse, while females consistently become exposed to depression and anxiety disorder.

The South African Responsible Gambling Foundation Telephone Counselling line received 831 calls between March 2019 and March 2020 from problem gamblers, self-exclusion and family referrals, 65% of the calls received were males, while 35% were females. The statistics further shows 66% of youth with a gambling problem are single a further 27% were married; 4% engaged and 1% divorced.

In terms of employment status, the statistics indicated that there is a huge gap between those in full time employed (66%) and those who were unemployed (20%). 16% of the youth who called were self-employed while 8% were employed part time and the statistics for those who were students were 4%.  (The South African Responsible Gambling Foundation, 2020)


There is an increasing number of young people engaging in gambling related activities in South Africa. Many of them engage in gambling either due to unemployment or the low income they are getting from their jobs. Statistics from SARGF of the year 2019/20 indicated that there were males engaged in gambling activities than females. The 2014 statistics of calls received from the youth corroborated the 2019/20 stats, as they both show a high volume of calls received from young males than females and that most of these calls received, come from full-time employed youth (The South African Responsible Gambling Foundation, 2020). There is however an opportunity for the SARGF to conduct further research to understand why young males gamble more than their female counterparts.


Winters, K. C., Stinchfield, R. D., Botzet, A., & Anderson, N. (2002). A prospective study of youth gambling behaviors. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 3-9.

Ssewanyana, D., & Bitianihirw, B. (2018). Problem Gambling among Young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Frontiers in Public Health, 6-23.

Sinclaire, H., Pretorius, A., & Stein, D. J. (2014). A counselling line for problem and pathological gambling in South Africa: Preliminary data analysi. Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

Messerlian, C., Deverensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2005). Youth Gambling problems: A public health perspective. Health promotion international, 69-79.

The South African Responsible Gambling Foundation. (2020). Telephone Counselling Statistics. Johannesburg: SARGF.