South African Lotteries

Published: 29/08/2012

In 1997, the National Lotteries Act of the Republic of South Africa was passed to establish a National Lotteries Board (NLB) and pave the way for legally regulated lotteries and sports pools. Among the NLB’s first actions was create a National Lottery as a source of funding for “non-profit entities working for the public good” through the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF).

On the morning of 2 March 2000, the country’s initial ticket offering was made, followed by a highly publicised live drawing nine days later. As it turned out, the very first person to be named as a jackpot prize-winner was a struggling, 47-year-old single mom, Sharon Valentine. The Plumstead nursery school teacher pocketed half-a-million rand (tax-free) for a perfect match of the numbers drawn—3, 12, 21, 29, 38 and 48.

Ever since then, the game currently known as SA Lotto has been a part of the fabric of South African society. It has produced many big winners, but none bigger than the various charities that the proceeds support. Over the past dozen years, the NLDTF has granted more than R14.4 billion to good causes.

Of course, not all winners end up as lucky as they at first seem. Indeed, many SA Lotto winners have discovered misfortune down the road from success. In 2001, a chauffer from Zimbabwe by the name of Batsirai Mupfawi became South Africa’s first mega-jackpot lottery winner. His R5 lotto ticket matched on all six numbers for a Grand Prize of R14 million. Happily, he declared that he could at last complete his education. But ten years later, he was broke, with a string of accumulated debts, and he still hadn’t finished his matric.

One of the youngest winners ever was Jason Canterbury from the Cape Flats. Just 18 years old at the time, he won R6.7 million in 2003. Over the next several years, his winnings evaporated and he turned to drugs and crime to support a free-wheeling lifestyle. That in turn led to a clash with a drug runner, whom he killed in 2008. Canterbury was subsequently sentenced to 28 years in jail.

In 2003, Lotto Plus was launched as a supplement to SA Lotto with weekly games priced at just one rand. In 2007, the license to operate the National Lottery was awarded to a private company called Gidani (Pty) Ltd. Since then, the available games have expanded to include Wina Manje (scratchcard), SportStake (a sports lottery) and Powerball. Fully 34 percent of all revenue is paid to the NLDTF, six percent is retained as retail commission, ten percent goes to operational costs and 50 percent is distributed as prizes.

The Powerball lotto game, in particular, has been a big hit on the Internet as well as among paper ticket buyers. Launched in 2009, it has a guaranteed jackpot of R5 million, which rolls over until claimed.

The game is based on a double matrix grid, whereby players select 5 of 45 numbers and 1 of 20 numbers. The latter is not a bonus ball but a vital component of the game, which must be selected along with the five winning numbers in order to claim the top prize. Each board costs R3.50, and two live PowerBall draws are held every week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The very first Powerball winner was a 34-year-old man from Polokwane, who claimed a jackpot worth R30 million in October 2009. Oddly enough, the same fellow had also won the SA Lotto Grand Prize worth R11 million back in 2002. For obvious reasons, he preferred to remain anonymous.

In February 2010, a middle-class mother of two tried her luck with a R70 Powerball “quick pick” and caught richest lotto prize ever awarded in South Africa—R91 million. That record win held until June 2011, when a young transport entrepreneur in his 20s got the numbers just right for a whopping R102 million win.

Published on: 29/08/2012

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