By Adedotun Ajayi
Like most Nigerians, Ibukun heard about gambling when he was a child. His friends said it was fun but he did not indulge in it.
Growing up, he was self-disciplined and always planned for his future. In 2006, he moved from his hometown to Lagos. As a Yoruba teacher in Lagos, it was really difficult to earn a good living. He decided to return back home and start farming, where he would be able to make enough to spend and save for retirement.
He started gambling in his hometown as a way to relieve the pressure of work. He enjoyed betting on dog races via betting outlets in his community which was very easy to access and could win you a lot of money. At this stage he usually bet small sums of money with his friends.
He clearly remembers the day his gambling became an addiction. It was on 15 March, 2011, the day of the Iditarod sled dog race popularly know as “aja sare owo jona”. The race was worth millions, himself and his friends had pooled money on a bet. That day he got very close to winning fourth prize, a result which would have won each of them millions.
From that day he became convinced that betting on dog races was an easy way of making money, much easier than working hard in the farm. He believed that if he’d just had a bit more luck on 15 March, he would have achieved his retirement goal.
As he became addicted to dog race betting, his lifestyle started to change. Every weekend, instead of enjoying time with his wife and children, he was always at the betting shops to watch races and place bets.
Occasionally his wife complained but he felt she did not understand that he was trying his best to prepare them for their return to Lagos.
He noticed his kids were not talking to him anymore. In reality, it was he who had little time to talk to them.
In the beginning, he spends N3,000 to N5,000 a week, but soon it increased to N5,000 to N10,000. He made sure he never spent more than he could afford on betting and the money he lost wasn’t noticeably affecting his family’s lifestyle.
The anticipation of winning a lot of money to retire made him feel excited and allowed him to temporarily forget life’s struggles. Occasionally he would nearly win a large sum and feel relieved by the idea that he was getting closer to his retirement dreams. He believed he only needed a little bit of luck to win enough for the retirement he was longing for.
The most disappointing thing was, he never won much on dog racing.
Ten years went by and one day in 2011, he decided to sit down and audit his betting results. He found out that he had lost about N5,000,000 altogether. He had not only moved further away from his retirement goal but he would need to stay and farm in his hometown for even longer to reach it.
This realisation made him decide to give up on gambling.
He was like a man who had just woken up from a dream and he suddenly knew that gambling would not help him fulfill his retirement dreams.
In the end, nobody forced him to give up dog race betting before he did.
In fact, he didn’t tell his wife about the decision. He simply changed his lifestyle by choosing to fill his weekends with activities he enjoyed such as, chess and spending time with his family. Focusing on these fun, non-gambling activities helped him to not think about betting.
He never went back to dog race betting once he was convinced that it did not work for him. By constantly reminding himself of this fact each day, gave him the strength to stay away from it.
Nigeria being Africa’s most populous country with over 200 million people. Now it could also be the country with the most betting youth.
In the entire population, about a third or more than 60 million people aged between 18 and 40 gamble, according to a recent report by Nigerian pollster Noi Polls.
Gambling is a big business globally to the extent that it is now taxable and regulated as a legitimate business (Requirement of Online Sports Betting in Lagos 2015; National Sport Policy of Nigeria 2009). Betting makes up about 35% of the global gambling market; in 2016 alone, the gambling industry made a total gross profit of 450 billion US dollars which was higher than Nigeria’s GDP in the same period.
Over 2,000 years ago, the first betting events were recorded in history during the time of the Greek city states. The Romans later adopted it from the Greeks and they expanded it into a real business, especially from the famous gladiator games. It then spread to England, with its famous horse racing and subsequently, reached the rest of the world. Over the years, many gambling companies have emerged in Nigeria. They include, Nairabet, Merrybet, Bet9ja, Naijabet, Lovingbet, Surebet247, Supabets, 1960bet, Nairastake, Parknbet, 360bet, Sportybet, Plusbet, Skybetnaija, 9jadollarbet, Visabet, Winnersgoldenbet, and many more. Gambling outlets is widespread in nearly every street in Nigeria’s major cities.
All forms of gambling in Nigeria including sports betting is regulated by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission because they generate a huge revenue from it. The gambling was legalized by the National Lottery Act, 2005 and gambling was defined by the Chapter 22 of the Criminal Code Act enacted in 1990. It is important to note that gambling is illegal for youngsters below 18 years of age in Nigeria; even though its legal actions were hardly being seen or heard against victims within this age range.
Gambling poses a significant challenge to the public health. Recent statistics showed that adolescents and young adults face highest risk of developing gambling problems. This is because of the increase in gambling centres, where the underage are daily being exposed to unregulated forms of gambling and are daily succumbing to the temptation and pressure to engage in the act.
According to Ayodeji Ayanleye, who is a public health educator said gambling addiction can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The stress and anxiety of constantly gambling and losing money can be overwhelming and lead to other problems in a person’s life.
He said “these addictions lead to a loss of self-control, a person may become consumed by their gambling habits and prioritize gambling over other important aspects of their life, such as work, family, and social relationships. This can lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness, as well as a loss of motivation and direction in life”.
On the contrary, Peter Oloyede, a professional gambler said “If you approach gambling responsibly then chances of wrecking your life are quite low. Don’t get me wrong, I know that many people suffer from addiction but there are still ways to get positive emotions from gambling and not lose much money on it. First of all, it’s important to play on decent gaming platforms. If I want to play, I visit reliable websites that uses blockchain technology. It records all your gambling statistics which helps you track all your losses and incomes. Being able to see statistics so easily knowing it can’t be cheated helps to play responsibly” he said
In the same vein, Ayomide Ogunniyi, an entrepreneur said gambling can be a lucrative recreational activity but only if you know how to do it properly.
According to him; “Nowadays, you can find many tips and tricks on how to start gambling and familiarize yourself with the games. The pros of gambling online are that you can learn the games you’re interested in from the comfort of your own home, gambling changed my life positively and I’m not stopping anytime soon”.
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