#Editorial

Gambling Epidemic in Nigeria

IN Nigeria, gambling, once deemed an antisocial pursuit, has undergone a transformative shift, evolving into a pervasive issue with alarming consequences. Even though discouraged by religious bodies, which warned against the quest for quick wealth. Many Nigerians particularly the youths are neck deep in risk gaming. In Section 236 of the Criminal Code, the Nigerian government legalised certain forms of gambling to generate tax revenues. This has made gambling more acceptable to the public, especially to the under-aged.Gambling is defined as the betting of something valuable with an awareness of risk and an expectation of gain, gambling encompasses various activities such as online sports betting, lotteries, and slot machines.

PROBLEMATICALLY, gambling, particularly football betting, thrives in Nigeria, and its true scale remains elusive. Regulated by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, the minimum legal gambling age is set at 18 years. Unfortunately, under-aged indulge in it. A recent study also revealed that 36% of Nigerian adults engage in gambling, with 53% of them being daily gamblers. Shockingly, report also shows that around 57.2% of school-age children have gambled, with 77.6% of them doing so in the past year and 58.3% reporting unrestricted access to gambling establishments.

MONETARY gain, fueled by greed, unemployment, economic hardship, and poverty, stand as the primary motivators for gambling. Other factors include the pursuit of enjoyment, passion for sports, and peer group influence. The negative effects of gambling are manifold, affecting individuals, families, and society at large. Uncontrolled gambling can lead to financial difficulties, extreme poverty, and strained family relationships, accompanied by engagement in risky behaviors like excessive drinking, substance use, and crime.

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THE HOPE notes that with western influence and rapid technological advancements, the gambling problem in Nigeria is expected to escalate. Unfortunately, preventative measures are largely absent. There is need for a multipronged public health strategy involving the government, gambling industry, policymakers, and academics. Mental health professionals stress the importance of addressing gambling addiction promptly, as it can lead to severe mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

PUBLIC awareness campaigns are vital in informing the community about the potential risks and dangers associated with gambling. These campaigns should be designed to reach a wide audience, utilizing various media channels to convey messages about responsible gambling practices, potential harms, and avenues for seeking help. Implementing responsible gambling policies is crucial for safeguarding individuals from the negative impacts of excessive gambling. Regulatory oversight is necessary to enforce measures such as deposit caps, self-exclusion options, and mandatory breaks during extended gambling sessions. These policies empower individuals to set limits on their gambling activities, promoting a safer and more controlled gambling environment while minimizing the risk of addiction and financial harm.

STRENGTHENING and enforcing regulations on gambling businesses ensure that they operate ethically and adhere to responsible gambling standards. The Hope therefore calls on regulatory bodies to actively monitor and enforce compliance, imposing penalties for violations. This approach not only protects consumers but also maintains the integrity of the gambling industry by holding operators accountable for promoting responsible and fair gaming practices. Collaboration with industry stakeholders is pivotal in promoting responsible gambling habits. By engaging with the gambling industry, regulatory bodies can encourage the development and implementation of initiatives that contribute to research, education, and treatment programmes.

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DEVELOPING and promoting help lines and support services is essential for helping individuals dealing with gambling addiction. Accessible and confidential avenues for seeking help by those struggling with gambling-related issues can find the support they need. National and state orientation agencies play a key role in prevention initiatives, particularly targeting youths through educational programmes. These initiatives should focus on raising awareness about the risks associated with gambling from a young age, emphasizing the importance of responsible decision-making and the potential consequences of engaging in gambling activities.

INVESTING in data collection and research on problem gambling prevalence, risk factors, and effects is essential for informed decision-making. By understanding the dynamics of problem gambling, policymakers can tailor interventions, rules, and policies to address specific challenges. Ongoing research ensures that strategies remain effective and responsive to evolving trends in gambling behavior, contributing to the development of evidence-based approaches to mitigate the impact of problem gambling on individuals and communities.

BY implementing these measures, The Hope believes that the Nigerian government, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, can address the root causes and consequences of gambling addiction, safeguarding the well-being of its citizens and the integrity of the society.

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