The menace of sports betting and online gambling is gradually snowballing into a societal menace that may consume the populace if means are not instituted to curtail them.
According to reports, four out of every 10 Nigerians are actively engaging in sports betting and gambling, pushing tens of thousands of young men into psychological depression and poverty.
“As long as I have money, I’ll transfer to my online betting account, select the best games in my estimation, and play. I only stop when I run out of funds, but that only lasts a few days or so. It is that bad,” a 15-year-old boy with a gambling addiction confessed to the media.
Another teenager in the city of Enugu also detailed his journey into gambling addiction.
“I started betting because I felt that I had a little knowledge of soccer, but it has become a daily habit.
“If someone sends me N2000 (about $4.8) now, I will definitely use N500 (about $1.22) at least to bet online,” he stated. At the moment, he spends around N 20000 (about $48.66) monthly on gambling.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria, 60 million Nigerians, 4 out of every 10, actively engage in sports betting. These bettors collectively spend $5.5 million on betting every day, amounting to a whopping $2 billion yearly.
Another report reveals that Nigerians likely to bet on sports are typically males between 18-40-years old. Of that number, more than 50 percent bet daily.
Hidden in plain sight, a sports gambling addiction is raging amongst Nigeria’s young people, and no one is talking about it.
Gambling is not new in Nigeria. Before the advent of the internet, in the 90s, betting pools were the forms of betting favoured by the elderly. However, online betting changed the landscape and the demographic.
With the internet, betting has become easier and more accessible, especially to the youth. There are numerous betting sites like Bet9ja, Nairabet, Naijabet, 360bet, amongst others.
The biggest attraction for online betting is the promise of quick gains. “It seemed like magic. You put in some money and get more out of it. When I started betting, I imagined all the things I would do with the money I make. I thought it would be easy, making predictions and winning,” a punter revealed.
This line of thinking is prevalent amongst young bettors and is perhaps understandable given that Nigeria just exited a recession; with the unemployment rate still placed at about 33 percent for the first quarter of 2021.
For the average Nigerian young person, being enamoured by seemingly easy routes to wealth appears almost inevitable.
All of these have culminated in a raging online sports gambling addiction for a lot of youths.
According to Dr. Tiwatayo Lasebikan, a senior resident at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Lagos; betting addiction is a mental disease with potentially debilitating physical and psychological consequences. One of the classic signs is an intense and impulsive craving to bet.