‘’The better the gambler, the worse the man.’’
There is this famed biblical statement that state – ‘’the one who think he is standing firm should take heed lest he fall’’. That statement properly encapsulate my foray into the world of sports betting and the suicidal destination it almost dumped me.
I have always detest gambling in any form. I believe any act that provides a shortcut to financial success can only end up in regrets. And so, in the days of MMM when people around me were making brisk money from the platform, I refused to participate despite all entreaties and temptations to do so.
I knew that when the chicken comes home to roost, there will be far more tears than joy. When MMM finally crashed, tears really did flow for many.
But there is a form of gambling that is surreptitiously taking over the soul of the nation. It is called SPORTS BETTING.
Its modus operandi has acquired so much sophistication that even informed minds are falling prey to its dubious allures.
It is estimated that 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sports bet. They spend almost 2 billion naira on sports betting daily which translates to about 730 billion naira annually.
But that is just half the truth. There is a huge population of young people below the age of 18 who are also actively involved in sports bet. Never mind the window dressing ”not for persons below the age of 18”gimmicks that bet companies bandies around in their adverts and on betting platforms.
The presence of multiple sports bet shops are immediately conspicuous in many towns and communities in the country.
The cancerous spread of online betting shops is perhaps the most underrated. There is a high chance of its presence in every home on your street. You just wouldn’t know because it thrives on the secrecy religiously maintained by those who patronize it.
Two factors were spotlighted as the reasons behind this huge and surging gambling population – 1. Increasing poverty and unemployment 2. Growing use of internet and smart phones.
In my case, the second factor was the major undoing. The first factor played some role too.
Many times, I have been unsuccessfully persuaded by some friends to make ‘small change’ from soccer bets. I have seen innumerable adverts on the TV and internet blaring sumptuous returns on sports bet by Nigerian betting companies such as Betway, Bet9ja, Nairabet, Sportybet, BetKing and the likes.
In my heart, I laughed them all off for the lies that I know they represent.
But then, he who think he was standing firm was not taking enough heed.
Sometime in the middle of 2018, I lost a job. I wasn’t really bothered. I was so confident in my abilities that I believed I would get a better one soon. In fact, a month into my unemployment, I got a job offer that I confidently rejected in the hope of getting a better one.
I was at a bar in August 2018, quietly sipping my drink and watching a soccer game on TV when an elderly man and a complete stranger came to take a sit beside me – obviously to watch the game too. We engaged in the usual football banter that takes place in such environment and in the process, he told me about how he has been staking his money on football matches for many years and how he has made so much from betting to the extent of building a house from the returns.
Strangely and unfortunately, those words found good reception in my ears that night.
The second day, I visited a Bet9ja outlet operated by a friend and made the first gambling of my life – a 5,000 naira stake on a football match. I lost.
I was so mad.
You see, I have a personality that intensely hate failure. I hate the feeling of being defeated or outwitted.
So I upped my game geometrically – my next stake was a 100,000 naira stake on a Serie A game between Juventus and Chievo. I won, and that victory came with a 19,000 naira profit.
I felt good again. Now, I am the boss.
My third football bet was a little riskier. I staked 50,000 naira on 3 premier league matches combined. I won and with that victory came a 70,000 naira profit.
I felt really good. Now I am on my way to becoming rich from football bets, or so I thought.
Then I staked 50,000, 100,000, another 50,000…..and I lost them all. The mental and emotional disequilibria sets in again.
All these time, I was visiting a Bet9ja shop to place my bet. I decided to change strategy.
I opened an account directly with Bet9ja on my smartphone in order to engage in football bets efficiently. This time, I am going to be more focused and make smarter stakes. In few minutes, I would move huge amounts from my bank account into my Bet9ja account.
Big big mistake!
Within three months of being a football punter, I had lost more than a million naira of my hard earned savings to gambling. In another 3 months, I lost about half a million to football betting. By now, I had lost more than 85% of my savings to sports bet.
I literally lost a grip on my life. I lost my self-confidence, I became pessimistic about almost everything, my relationships and my faith suffered and I lived with severe depression for a very long time.
Even after these heavy losses, I still continued betting for more than a year. Though this time, with subdued amounts like 5,000 naira, 10,000 naira etc.
I would tell myself – ‘’I am not betting again’’ and a week after, I am actively back on track as a football punter.
Someone told me recently that gambling addiction is worse than cocaine addiction. I absolutely concur! Once it takes hold of your mind, it holds on very tight.
I fought a long, tough and lonely battle till I was finally able to let go completely.
Gambling is estimated to be the cause of at least 500 suicides in the UK every year.
Sometime in 2018, Kelvin Sluman (a British) while on a boat with his son (Aaron), noticed a Bet365 app on his son’s smartphone and warned him to desist from gambling like a good father would do. Four months later, Aaron who was 23 years committed suicide after losing £750 in one night to football betting.
Joshua Jones (23 years old) who was finishing his first year working with a major accountancy firmed jumped from a 9th floor balcony to his death, tormented by his gambling habit.
Chris Bruney (25 years old), a British with a job that pays £60,000 annually and a loving wife, committed suicide after being lured back into betting through promotional tie-ups with football. Oh yes! those advertisement from sport bet companies in-between the soccer matches you watch on TV led to the death of a promising young man.
He committed suicide after losing £119,000 in the 5 days prior to his death. A coroner ruled that he died from the ‘’shame of gambling’’.
Joshua Jones, a musician, began betting at 17 and by 6years later when he committed suicide, he owed up to £30,000. His family tried to help after he admitted his gambling addiction to them. They installed blocking software on his computer and took him to a specialist clinic, but he could not beat his addiction.
Natasha White (34 years old) would spend more than £1,000 of her £1,900 salary in online betting in less than 24 hours. As her parents later found out, Natasha spent £20,000 in a year on her addiction which was more than her annual salary. In August 2018, Natasha was found hanging at her home.
There are examples of tragic endings for football punters that are close to home.
In 2016, Uchenna Akachukwu committed suicide by hanging himself in his room in Akwa Ibom state after losing 22,000 naira to sports bet. He was a perpetual sports gambler and had use his boss’ money for the bet in the hope of replacing it after his big win.
In 2018, police in Ilorin, Kwara state, confirmed that a 25 year old man killed himself by hanging because he lost out in a betting over the outcome of a European Champions league match. The young man staked his motorcycle, which is his source of livelihood, on the match.
In 2020, a 28 year old man identified simply as Suga committed suicide in Bayelsa state after using his boss’ money worth 150,000 naira to play Bet9ja virtual games.
Recently, a friend told me of a young man who staked 500,000 naira on a match. He lost and promptly went to commit suicide. My sister told me of her friend’s husband who took the money he was supposed to use to execute a contract for a client and staked it on football match. He lost, couldn’t get another fund to execute the contract and is currently languishing in a police cell.
In countries like China, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Qatar etc, gambling is either banned in some form or totally banned.
It is not a coincidence these countries are either developed or developing countries. Their governments were smart enough to recognize the silent socio-economic devastations and human development catastrophes that gambling is capable of unleashing. They saved their citizens the calamitous distractions of pursuing shortcuts to prosperity at the expense of pursuing ambitions that add value to the society and bring sustainable prosperity.
It will be instructive to note that the prosperity of betting companies is tied to the losses of their customers. They live large on the tragedies and tears of those who patronize them.
The flexibility and sophistication that internet and smart phones provide has further expanded the customer reach of these bet companies. In fact, sports betting appears like the in-thing among Nigerian youths presently.
Today, someone somewhere is ignorantly walking into a life-altering trap due to the mouth-watering monetary gains being aggressively advertised by bet companies that is based on false hope.
The ideal thing would be for the Nigerian government to totally ban gambling in all forms within its territory. With the extent to which sports betting has eaten deep into the national social consciousness, a partial ban would fail woefully.
But one can hardly trust the Nigerian government to toe that path given their notoriety for awful governance and ignoble/nonchalant leadership.
From the eyes of my experience, my advice to anyone reading this is:
If you have never been involved in gambling in any form, do not ever make the mistake of going down that road.
If you are already into gambling or sports bet and you’ve recorded more gains than loss, stop now and forever. You are just a stone-throw away from tears should you chose to proceed.
If you are into gambling or sports bet and you are mostly counting losses, do not cling to the hope that you will ‘hammer’ overnight by continuing. The tears will only flow harder.
When you are in a hole, the first thing you must do to stand a chance of coming out is to stop digging.
Slow and steady does it.
Be content with the little you have and keep working. One day, you will hit your gold and when it comes, you have a better chance of sustaining it.
Be wary of the merchants of dubious hope. Your pain is their joy and the odds will always be far more in their favour.
Cheers to the storms that shook us without blowing us away.
Happy new year!