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Game Of Hope, Game Of Addiction: A Menace to the Nigeria Youths by Oyinola Abosede.

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Introduction

The love for sports has in recent times taken a new dimension with the advent of betting companies “probably” as a way of building a network of sports fans. Betting games are often seen and described as an activity people engage in by placing predictions and stake on various games with the hope of winning money from the wager placed on the games. The betting game predictions usually involves basketball, horse racing, football, martial arts amongst many others. While there are debates and controversies surrounding betting games discourse, a growing body of literature explains that it has been exacerbated by the unemployment rate in the country.

This essay examines the nexus between the involvement of youths in sports betting and unemployment from the Nigeria perspective. The first part of this essay focuses on sports betting as a game of hope and addiction. The second part demonstrates a critical appraisal on the menace to the unemployed youths while the third part gives a collective responsibility and the way forward.

A Game of Hope and Addiction

If my secondary school knowledge of Economics serves me right, we were taught that “gambling is an insurable risk.” Many continue to wallow in their dreams that one day their bet winning will make them very rich to fulfil their life’s expectations. Then I remembered some years ago, having bagged a degree in business management from one of the prestigious universities in Nigeria, like most white-collar workers I often got dressed early in the morning. My computer laptop bag which I carried like a briefcase, suggests to people that I was going to the office. When I return home in the evening, my neighbours often asked me. “How was work today.” I always reply in my tired voice “work was fine”. But the truth is that I had created a “job” for myself. I was more or less, a professional punter. Sports betting was what I did and when I leave for work on working days every morning, my office was actually any sports bar around town. On getting to the bar, I would connect to the internet with my laptop, open the website of any of the sports betting companies and start to work on permutations or forecasts, in order to come up with the bet I would place for the day. Just like in “law” where it is said that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, a punter is more or less a winner at least until the result of the bet comes out. I always remember this feeling I had, after a bet has been placed that good news was on the way. But the downside to this hope was that on the average, most punters end up losing, but would continue coming to place more bets all in the expectation that the next bet would win them something.

Yes, the economy is bad and there are limited prospects for employment opportunities.               But is sport betting the answer? Should our youths continue to justify the popular saying that the black man is idle and uncreative?

My search reveals the answer buried deep in the factors influencing sports betting in Nigeria.

Innovation and Internet Betting Option

The use of internet and information technology has influenced the involvement of youths in playing betting games from the comfort of their homes or wherever they are. Since the internet can easily be accessed anywhere in the world, sports betting on smart phones has made it easy for our youths to stake on games and even check online if they win. Also, I believe another contributor is the invention of mobile prediction apps that are built on the principle of artificial intelligence and data analytics which often help our youths to make more informed and accurate bets.

Youths “get rich quick” Syndrome

Many of our youths have developed the mindset of getting rich quick while there seems to be nothing wrong with this, most of it is fuelled by the loss in the age-old value system where the watchword was the “dignity of labour”. This age-old value system has now been abandoned by most of our youths today. In fact, most of them now run to betting games centres with the hope that it will make them get rich quick while jettisoning hard work and dignity.

Increase in the Participation of Indigenous Companies

Jogging down the memory lane, when betting games where still offline and with low indigenous company participation in the industry, the rate at which our youths were involved in sports betting was low. But with the unemployment and underemployment among the youths, many betting companies have identified business opportunities in the betting game industry and has made many indigenous companies to invest into the sector. And this investment has led to the eruption of betting centres and shops across Nigeria and thus increased the participation of youths in sports betting.

A Critical Appraisal

Youth unemployment has become a major challenge in the 21st century. In Nigeria, for example the 2019 unemployment rate of 23.1 percent was projected to reach 33.5percent in 2020 (Premium Times, 2019).  This represents a huge population of Nigerians who are willing to work but they cannot find employment. I believe this explains why we have sea of heads at sports betting centres across the nation. It also shows how desperate young people want to make money not through paid employment, but by guessing the correct outcome of football matches and other sports. I am fully aware that even the old are involved in this but I am more disturbed when I see young people engage in this act because they are supposed to position themselves to take over the economy and leadership in the country.

In as much as sports betting may come with a promising and a tempting return, it also has negative psychological effects on the youths.

These include:

Laziness and Poverty

The belief that someday a person will become a millionaire just by a single winning has ultimately made many of our youths to be lazy and led them into perpetual poverty. I believe once a person starts to engage in betting as a way of life, hard work will drastically reduce thus leading to frustration, depression and even suicidal attempts after losing a bet.

Debts and Financial Embarrassment

I had a friend who used the huge loan he collected for a project to place a fixed match bet with the hope of winning but unfortunately the whole funds went down the drain and he was financially wrecked. Majority of the youths go to the extent of borrowing or using the money entrusted to them to place a bet with the hope of paying back after they must have made some profit. This attitude has caused financial embarrassment among many people in the society.

Conflicts in Relationships

It is no longer news that some people who are eager to fund their dependence may result to stealing cash from close good buddies and sometimes from members of their area just to stake on games, while some youths go farther to pay for fixed matches. All of these lead to conflicts in relationship most times when their hopes are shattered. I strongly believe the earlier we realize the damage in sports betting on our youths, the better. Need I say that it is imperative to take action now so that the effects would not become so bad that a fix might be nearly impossible.

 

A Collective Responsibility

Just like I cited in one of my winning essays that while the government should faithfully play its part by creating more employment opportunities in order to curb unemployment and other menaces associated with it such as sport betting, poverty among others. The truth is that genuine transformation requires the commitment of the people and most especially the onus is on the youths. We must no longer live as though it is the duty of other people to change the country, while our own duty is merely to live in the country after it is changed. Every Nigerian must develop a personal intervention plan for the country. Individuals, religious, professional bodies and non-governmental organizations must play deliberate and active roles in building our people and developing the nation.

 

The Way Forward

I strongly recommend that the government, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders should come up with policies and strategies to govern and regulate sports betting in Nigeria. Furthermore, the government should sensitize the youths on the effects of gambling as this will help youths make wise decisions on involvement in gambling.  In addition, our youths should also be motivated to come up with creative ideas which I believe will enhance self-employment and help to reduce their involvement in sport betting.

I see the stars. Do you?

 

REFERENCES

  1. Youths and Sports betting retrieved from thenationonlineng.net
  2. The nexus between the increasing involvement of youths in betting games https://www.emerald.com/insight/2632.279x.html.

 

Oyinlola Abosede, a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Obafemi
Awolowo University is an intellectual fighter for emancipation.
and an advocate on social issues. He wrote in via oyinlolaabosede9@gmail.com