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Lotteries and Sports Pools

Gambling and games of chance are magnets to the human psyche. The Lotto is no exception, and the South African public pours millions of rand, every week, into Lotto cash tills in the hope of scoring the big one.

Fortunately, something good happens with that money – some R15 billion has been distributed since 2002. The National Lotteries Board (which operates the Lotto, Quick Pick and other lottery games via a licensee) dispenses funding to a wide variety of needy causes – charities, philanthropic organisations and the like, including officially designated distribution agencies for sport, recreation, arts, culture, national heritage, and even miscellaneous purposes.

There is only one licenced operator at any given time – currently it is Ithuba – and the entire enterprise is carefully regulated in terms of the Lotteries Act 1997.1 For the allocation of net proceeds to be successful, there can only be one lottery system.

  • A ‘lottery’ is any game, scheme, arrangement, system, plan, competition or device for distributing prizes by chance.
  • A ‘sports pool’ is any scheme2 under which someone competes with other participants to forecast the result of any series or combination of sporting events,3 and a prize is awarded to the correct or closest forecast.
  • A ‘promotional competition’ is any competition, game, scheme, arrangement, system, plan or device for distributing prizes by chance if it is conducted in the ordinary course of business for the purpose of promoting something (and the prize is more than R1,004) whether skill is involved or not.

A. General

  1. It is a criminal offence to conduct, participate in or derive any benefit from any competition or lottery in which prizes are offered for forecasts of either a future event, or a past event the result of which is not known.5 6

  2. It is a crime also to conduct, participate in or derive any benefit from any competition, not authorised under the Act, in which success does not depend to a substantial degree on skill.7 8

  3. It is a crime to do any of the following in connection with a promotional competition which has not been authorised under the Act:9
    • to conduct it;
    • to participate in it;
    • to promote it; and
    • to derive any benefit from it.
  4. It is an offence to devise, conduct, organise, promote, or manage any scheme (etc.) which, directly or indirectly, provides for betting, wagering, gambling, or taking risk on the outcome of any lottery unless authorised under the Lotteries Act or any other law.10

  5. It is an offence to advertise or offer participation in any competition, game, or lottery whilst giving a false indication that it is part of, or connected with the National Lottery; or that it is a licenced sports pool.11

  6. It is also an offence to try and influence the winning of a prize through:12
    • coercion, fraud or deception;
    • tampering with equipment, systems, software, data, tickets or materials.

B. Tickets

  1. Any person who does the following, concerning any lottery or promotional competition, commits an offence:
    • forges any ticket, document or thing;13
    • sells (or disposes of) any forged ticket, document or thing;14 or
    • fraudulently changes, or alters any number or figure on any ticket, document or thing.15
  2. It is a criminal offence to obtain, directly or indirectly, any financial gain for conducting, promoting or establishing a syndicate for the purchase of a ticket.16 17

  3. It is an offence to sell a ticket:18
    • at a price higher than that printed on the ticket;
    • on condition that the seller shares in the prize;
    • with any conditions attached, but which are not provided for in the rules of the lottery concerned;
    • on credit; or
    • with the seller’s financial assistance.
  4. It is an offence to counterfeit, forge or fraudulently make a National Lottery ticket; or a sports pool ticket.19

C. General prohibitions and regulations

There are comprehensive regulations governing all of the games of chance. They include GNR.414 and GNR.415 of 18 April 2000 which deal with private lotteries and society lotteries, respectively. Also included is GNR.645 of 20 July 2010 which deals with all aspects relating to the application for, and grant of funding from the National Lotteries Board.

In general, any non-compliance with the Act is a criminal offence, as it is not to comply with, or to contravene any of the Regulations.20

  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 32 of 2013. 

  2. Excluding one applying to horse-racing, so long as it has been authorised under the Act. 

  3. This includes just about any sporting activity in which South Africans participate or watch. 

  4. The prescribed threshold – Regulation 11(4) published under Government Notice GNR293 of 1 April 2011. 

  5. This does not apply if the competition or lottery is authorised under the Act. These include a private lottery, or a society lottery. 

  6. Section 56(a) and section 57(1). 

  7. An example of such a competition would be the well-known ‘spot-the-ball’ competition in the newspapers. 

  8. Section 56(b) and section 57(1). 

  9. Section 56(c) and section 57(1). 

  10. Section 57(2)(g). 

  11. Section 58(1)(a). 

  12. Section 58(1)(b) and (c). 

  13. Section 57(2)(b). 

  14. Section 57(2)(c). 

  15. Section 57(2)(b) and section 57(2)(d). 

  16. Obviously this does not apply to sharing in the prize. 

  17. Section 57(2)(e). 

  18. Section 57(2)(f). 

  19. Section 58(1)(b). 

  20. Section 57(2)(a) and section 58(1)(d).