THE longstanding legal battle between Phumelela on the one hand and bookmakers in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal on the other, has finally been resolved in favour of Phumelela.
The case centred around the bookmakers’ contention that bookmakers, in addition to their right to take bets on horse racing, possess the sole right to take bets on other sports, to the exclusion of totalisator operators. Totalisator operators, they claimed, are to be confined to taking bets on horse racing.
The bookmakers contended that totalisator betting on sports other than horse racing, falls within the definition of a ‘sports pool’ as contained in the Lotteries Act. The Act prohibits totalisator betting on sports other than horse racing in the absence of a sports pool licence, issued in terms of the Lotteries Act.
The bookmakers further contended that provinces were therefore not authorised to issue totalisator licences for betting on sports other than horse racing.
Having lost their case in the high court, the KwaZulu-Natal Bookmakers’ Society and the Gauteng Off-course Bookmakers’ Association, appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
But Justice KGB Swain of the Supreme Court of Appeal would have none of it.
He ruled that “the application brought by the bookmakers, was opportunistic and aimed at achieving a monopoly in respect of betting on sports, other than horse racing”.
Justice Swain ruled that totalisator betting on sports does not fall within the definition of a ‘sports pool’ in the Lotteries Act and is regulated in terms of the National Gambling Act and the provincial legislation.
A ‘sports pool’ is a scheme under which any person forecasts the result of any series or combination of sporting events, in competition with other participants, and a prize is awarded to the competitor who forecasts the said result correctly.
In totalisator betting, however, the individual amount staked by the winning participant, together with the total amount staked by all of the participants, determines the dividend payable.
That cannot be equated with a sports pool, where the prize bears no relationship to the amounts staked.
A sports pool is therefore a type of lottery, because a lottery as defined is the ‘distribution of prizes by lot or chance’. Tote betting does not distribute prizes by lot or chance.
In his judgment, Justice Swain also says that this finding means that the provincial legislation lawfully regulates and controls totalisator betting not only on horse racing, but also on other sports events. “The provincial licences were therefore validly issued by the provincial gambling boards, to the tote respondents, in accordance with the provincial legislation.”
Justice Swain dismissed the bookmakers’ appeal with costs.