Bookmakers, also known as bookies,  deal with betting slips and cash payments from, or to, customers. Duties include setting up the cash float and till whenever the betting shop opens for business. They also update and display race information.

Bookmakers organise and manage gambling activities, which may be in a licensed betting office, in which case they are known as betting shop managers, or at a sporting location such as a racetrack, when they are known as turf accountants, or online through the internet.  They need to be able to answer any queries customers might have. When bets are received, the amounts are checked and the bets entered, along with other information, into a computer. In return the customer receives a receipt as proof.

A good, clear mathematical head is necessary for this job. If a customer wins, the bookmaker will pay the customer out immediately. In a horse race, a customer will bet, for example, R100 for a winning position on a particular horse. The horse’s chances are measured by odds, for example sixteen to one (16-1), therefore, for every Rand the person puts down, R16 will be received if the horse wins, thus the bookmaker would need to pay out R1600.

Bookmakers check their records at the end of the day to ensure that their tills balance. Tele-betters place bets telephonically. The procedures are almost the same, but customers are not dealt with face-to-face.

Other tasks are to research race information and be very knowledgeable about all aspects of the race, to make informed decisions to work out the 'odds' for the race, to set up cash floats, to recruit, train and supervise staff, greet customers and promote products to them, deal with complaints tactfully, provide a high level of customer service, set and monitor sales targets and organise staff rotas.  Most bookmakers will train under a practising bookmaker.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 18 years of age
  • friendly and helpful
  • enjoy working with people
  • able to work with money (balancing)
  • good communication skills
  • not afraid to lose money
  • enthusiasm and good sportsmanship
  • good knowledge of field in which bets are taken

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

No specific level of schooling is required, however most employers prefer at least Grade 10.

What to Study

In-service training can be undertaken, under the supervision of an experienced bookmaker. A general knowledge of computer and horse-racing, for example, is a prerequisite.


  • bookmakers
  • self-employment

Further Information

Any reputable bookmaker

Getting Started

  • try to obtain part-time or vacation work at a racecourse and observe procedures
  • familiarise yourself with the various types of races and bets
  • make an appointment to speak to a bookmaker about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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