What is a Bookmaker or Bookie?

For a start, a Bookmaker does NOT make books! 

A Bookmaker is a person who works in the gambling industry.

They take bets from punters (customers) in person. When bets are received, the numbers are checked and the bets entered. This information is logged into a computer. The punter receives a receipt as proof.

Bookmaking is a complicated world full of confusing mathematics.

You will need to have a good, clear, mathematical head to do this job otherwise you will lose a lot of money.

Horse racing in South Africa is probably the only sport a Bookmaker would be legally allowed to work in.   

How it works: (for example) 

In a horserace, a punter will bet, for example, R100 for a winning position on a particular horse. The horse’s chances are measured by odds, eg: (16-1) – This means, if the horse wins, for every Rand the punter betted, R16 will be received.  In this case, the Bookmaker would need to pay out R1600.

In the United Kingdom, however, Bookmakers can take bets on almost anything … eg:
What colour dress the Queen will wear to a particular event?  How many goals David Beckham will score?  Who will light the flame at the Olympics? The due dates of celebrity babies, etc.

What does a Bookmaker or Bookie do?

  • researching race information and being extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the race
  • making informed decisions to work out the ‘odds’ for races
  • setting up a cash float
  • displaying all the information or punters
  • taking bets from punters
  • answering any queries
  • paying out wins
  • keeping records

Are you … ?

  • interested in betting and a career in gambling?
  • 18 or older?
  • willing to research races, the background to races etc etc?
  • observant?
  • good with people?
  • able to deal with stress?
  • trustworthy?
  • mathematically orientated?
  • friendly and approachable?
  • a person with good communication skills?
  • not afraid to lose money?
  • passionate about sport?

How do I become a Bookmaker or Bookie?

Most Bookmakers will train under an already practicing Bookmaker.


All employees in the gambling industry are required to complete the NRGP Basic Course, on an annual basis, even Bookmakers.

Minimum requirements: 18 or older + Grade 10
Recommended school subjects:  Mathematics and Accounting


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER: Horse Trainer or Bank Teller

Is becoming a Bookmaker or Bookie the right career choice for me?

See below for more info.