From the streets of Lagos, to the creeks of the Niger-Delta; from the savannas of the middle belt, to the hinterlands of the north, you cannot but agree that sports betting have permeated these spaces and have found sweeping acceptance. With each day, comes the proliferation of sports betting houses and the emergence of new dimension(s) to its voyage and acceptance, leaving in its trail, a blend of bitter and sweet experiences in the lives of the youths.
One may wonder what “sports betting” is all about; it involves the activity of predicting sports results and placing a wager (bet) on the outcome. It is regarded a booming business for betting companies. According to an earlier report by Nairametrics, roughly 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are actively involved in sports betting. Interestingly, this is the age bracket where the youths belong. It is therefore a huge business enterprise that continues to thrive, not just because there is a population for it, but because, Nigerians love sports a lot. Safe it is, based on this premise to say that these businesses should have no reason to worry or lose any sleep.
While there have been concerns on whether sports betting is truly a sustainable business model or a ploy by investors to exploit the income and vulnerability of most young Nigerians, this essay takes a visible approach; it presents sports betting as a potential Greek gift, that has propensity to wreck far reaching menacing consequences on the unemployed youths if care is not taken to handle and channel it properly. Meanwhile, a “Greek gift” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a gift given, or a favour done with a treacherous purpose. This means that such a gift presents hidden or unpredictable dangers and has the likelihood to trick and cause harm to the recipient(s). This definition sets the tone for this essay; it establishes a nexus between the various arguments for, and against sports betting and tries to find a common, non-detrimental ground for the youths in the long run.
There is no gainsaying that if properly harnessed, sports betting have the capacity to increase the revenues of a state through taxes and levies paid to the government. Many see it as a gift of financial independence, providing a means of livelihood for the betting operators who are mostly young adults.
In a chat with The Guardian, managing director of ZenithBet, a licensed betting company in the country, Tope Fagbuaro noted that “irrespective of what people think about sports betting, the (betting) companies are really empowering Nigeria, especially the youths, and in doing so, help to curb crime among them”. Quoting him further, he said, “The issue of unemployment cannot be over emphasized. Lots of youths are jobless and few of us decided that we want to be independent and create employment, which is key in the country”.
In a related development, Jukwuese, a graduate of Estate Management in a chat with Saturday PUNCH said, “It is true that Sports betting is not really a job but, it has been my sole source of income for a while now; I don’t win all the time but on the average, I do win quite often. Somehow it happens that I am making a living from it; so, for me, in the absence of a full-time employment, betting could as well be my job at the moment”. Jukwuese thus represents a demographic of numerous unemployed Nigerian youths who have embraced sports betting as a means of livelihood. And to be honest, it is better than resorting to crime in other to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, the classification of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world according to a report by the Brookings Institution, when juxtaposed with the unemployment rate, suggests that sports betting could be a means of escaping the endemic economic situation in the country.
On the one hand, many may see sports betting as empowerment and a way to reduce crime, while on the other hand, others view it to be both problematic and addictive with serious negative effects on young adults. A man who battled sports betting addiction once said, “When I won games, the urge to want more from the betting platform couldn’t be resisted; I would be forced to wager one more and one more rolled into two more and so, my personal savings many times, ended in oblivion. Yet, the jackpot rarely came. At some points, when I lost bets, it births the urge to keep playing, rather than prompt me to walk away. At that level, I had indeed become an addict, and the level of addiction had assumed frightening dimensions. Such dimensions involved me running up huge debts and even stealing money to wager a bet. I would borrow money to stake a bet with hopes of paying back when I won; but in most cases, that doesn’t happen”. Unfortunately this remains the tale of most sports bettors as reports show that there are more pains than gains.
With sports betting, comes other problems such as borrowing, indebtedness, anxiety, and emotional worries in the event of loss of money placed on wagers. Other ugly incidences related to sports betting include bankruptcy, job loss, use and abuse of substances, depression and stealing. Some are even lured into ritualism, which involve the use of “good luck charms” to improve their chances of winning.
Our youths have therefore become addicted to search for easy success; no one preaches the virtue of self-contentment or hard to them. Their religious leaders help their daydreaming by telling them prosperity tales that do not feature hard work. The nose-diving economy wouldn’t help matters either.
Much as sports betting presents itself a gift in the form of employment, empowerment and a seemingly lure away from crime, the truth remains that there is every probability that once the youths get too much involved in it, and sees the seemingly quick benefits, their zealousness towards working hard and reaping the rewards of hard work through other side hustles will diminish. The assumption that an easy door to success, prosperity and breakthrough has been found, sets in. The hope of hitting the jackpot is nursed. In doing so, days will roll into months, and months into years and the deception continues. This is the stage it becomes the dreaded Greek gift. Will concerned stakeholders therefore continue to fold their hands and watch the lives of the youth waste away like that?
Conclusion and Way Forward
Now, the government must make deliberate efforts to inspire youth-friendly policy frameworks aimed at creating sustainable jobs for the youths. This will help reduce the youths’ over dependence on sports betting or take them completely away from it. Also, the government must warn the youths about the implication(s) of over reliance on sports betting. Just like in tobacco adverts where the federal government warns that “smokers are liable to die young”, they should also warn the youths of the long term consequence(s) of sports betting.
Religious leaders should preach patience and hard work. Parents on their part should inculcate in their children, the culture of hard work – that hard work pays, and that there remains no short cut to success. The youths themselves, should look inwards to find other sources of income asides sports betting. They should ask themselves the question, “how was I able to succeed during the Covid-19 pandemic during which all sporting activities were suspended?”
Yes, money is made by taxing the betting companies, but the government must be more concerned about the moral and financial wellbeing of the youths. Sports betting companies on their part must begin to communicate with the youths with clarity and reality. Many have thrown caution to the wind, as the content of their adverts now revolve around quick wealth and a false utopia. This is because if care is not taken, the betting companies will continue to thrive at the expense of the helpless youths and the damages it’ll cause, may never be fixed.
This gift as a matter of urgency needs to be carefully handled now, before it becomes a Greek gift, ready to cause untold harm to the recipient – the unemployed youths. This is the only way sports betting can point the way to the Eldorado, and become a lifeline and a saving grace to the teeming unemployed youths.
–Gbemi O. O et.al (2020), “The nexus between the increasing involvement of youth in betting games and unemployment: the Nigerian perspective”, Journal of Humanities and applied social science. Emerald Publishing Limited, DOI: 101108/JHASS-02-2020-0026
Chukwuemeka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a deep thinker and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu via “email@example.com”