Recently a Nigerian woman with twitter handle @Mz_okikiola tweeted that she would not date a guy who played sports betting and the tweet got several responses from people. JULIET KUYET BULUS went to town to check the prevalence of sports betting among Nigerians, she discovered that women are riding high on it too
Mrs Agnes Denis, lives with her family in the Kubwa area of Abuja somehow she got herself enmeshed in sports betting. For her at first it was just a smart way of making an extra money from what her husband gives her.
In fact, she even congratulated herself for her smartness especially when she wins, doubling whatever her husband gave her. Indeed she was enjoying herself and then, all of a sudden she discovered that she has become addicted and it was like her life depended on it.
“There is no difference between a smoker, drug addict, a chronic alcoholic and a gambler,” she said with a note of pity for those involved in these ‘vices’.
Narrating her five years’ experience in gambling, the repentant female gambler who has turned a counsellor said, “I can tell you this because I was once a gambler but thank God I don’t do it anymore. It got to a point where I used money my husband gave me for the upkeep of the family to gamble, hoping that I will make enough in time to replace it and sometimes I did but there were times I had to make excuses for my actions. There were times I felt sick when I could not bet, it was that bad.”
Speaking further in an effort to discourage this reporter whom she saw stepping out of a betting shop, she said that she became so addicted that whenever she was out of cash, she loaned from siblings, most of whom had no idea what she really needed it for and those who did, never knew how deeply entangled she was, in it.
“I lost opportunities, relationships, belongings, self-esteem and trust,” she lamented.
Agnes’ case is just one out of many as these days, the number of women involved in gambling or what they call sports betting is increasing on a daily basis.
Reports say about 60 million Nigerians between the ages 18 and 40 years spend up to N1.8 billion on sports betting daily with women accounting for a sizable chunk of this amount.
In recent times, the gaming industry in Nigeria has witnessed tremendous growth as the nation’s economic growth environment pushes millions of unemployed, under-employed and even house wives into seeking extra incomes through sports betting. There are about 45 betting companies and websites driving the N40 billion Industry.
Umme, an operator of Bet9ja, one of the betting shops in Lokogoma, Abuja told LEADERSHIP Weekend that both married and single women patronise his shop and most times, it is not about the passion they have for the game, but the desire to make extra money. “These women who are into it usually just want the money to meet their needs they have no interest whatsoever for the football games,” he said.
“I am able to know this because of the kind of questions they ask when such women walk into my place.”
Sports betting, he said, is a risk one must be emotionally ready to handle as no one is destined to win always. “I have seen a lady lose N50,000 in a bet and she refused to let it go. She came back the following day for a higher stake and ended up winning over a N100,000.”
Umme’s testimony is corroborated by the number of women that testified to LEADERSHIP Weekend that they are involved in sports betting though secretly for fear of what the society will say about them.
Rosemary, an undergraduate studying at Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State, who is active on online sports betting said she was introduced to gambling by her male friends in school in 2017 and so far the experience has been good. “It is a way of making more money to meet my needs because, sometimes my monthly allowance is barely enough to keep me going in school,” she said with some air of confidence.
“I am not irresponsible as people claim gamblers are, because I do not get caught up in the excitement of winning a lot of money at once. So I am safe because I know my limits when it comes to betting and I do not let it take priority when it has to do with my education.”
She, however, noted that she is a brilliant student and it does not in any way affect her grades and besides, all she does is to sit in the comfort of her room and play online. Asked if her parents are aware of this new interest she exclaimed, “Ah! Nobody knows. If they do I will be in serious trouble because my parents are against it. I once heard my Dad say gamblers are lazy people who just set out to make money through wishful thinking and he also mentioned that the monies made from gambling amounts to nothing in the end because for him, success comes with hard work.”
Rosemary says she uses part of her winnings to subscribe for monthly data. “The highest I have won is N30,000 and unlike some who would put in all in a bid to win a bigger amount, I added it to my feeding allowance, did monthly subscription for my younger brother and saved the rest for the rainy day then I paused betting for some months.”
For Olamide Akinwunmi, a young employed lady, it’s all for the fun of it. Caught when she walked into a betting shop to check if she had won only to discover that she didn’t make it, she told our reporter that she is just doing it to kill boredom.
According to her, “I am not bothered that I didn’t win this time after all, I am just doing it to kill boredom especially on weekends. I know it is a game of luck filled with uncertainty. It is only when one is addicted to it that it becomes a problem.
“Some people are so addicted to betting that it seems they will die if they fail to bet. I am not in that category. You are even lucky to have seen me in the centre. It is because of that addiction and what follows it that the society frowns at it otherwise it is just like any other game we play.”
Jessica Okoro told LEADERSHIP Weekend that she plays sports bet to augment the meagre amount she makes as a sales girl. She says the winnings of people is what motivates her to play even though she has never won big. She however said she is confident of winning big someday.
“Honestly, I bet for the money and not for the love of sports because I do not even know the names of the players, their coaches or clubs and how things are done but I know I need money and since this money is not stolen money, I will keep playing,” she said.
On whether or not her family is aware of her involvement, she said it remains a secret because she doubts if her family will be supportive as they see it as an activity for lazy people who want the easy way out. She believes someday she will win big and her family will come to see betting in a different way. She said she spends between N100 and N150 on a daily basis.
“I do not care how the society see people like us because everyone is in it to survive,” she said but then revealed that she had only been playing the game for two months.
Pam Henry Dung, a psychologist in the Department of Psychology, Plateau State University, Bokkos said, “Gambling is a function of people’s values. Both Islam and Christianity prohibit gambling.
“But then with human nature people have taken their chances to get what they can from it and some have even won big. One thing I want you to know is that gambling has addictive properties which affect mental health. They keep going back thinking they will make it and gradually they sink deeper. When they are unable to have control over the emotions that pulls them to gambling, it becomes a mental health issue. It is better not to get involved at all.”
But how can someone who has been caught in the addiction extricate themselves from gambling? Mrs Agnes Denis was quick to share her own personal experience.
For someone who was a chronic gambler, she said she now understands the struggles of those who are addicted and are trying to set themselves free. “It is not easy to break free from the shackles of gambling addiction that is why I sympathise with those involved rather than chastise them,” she said.
“My gambling habit almost ruined my marriage but for the intervention of my pastor and some church members. It was not easy initially and it took time to regain the trust of my family but I am grateful to be totally free now. My husband got to know about my gambling escapades through a neighbour I had confided in. He got to understand why I always needed money and could not account for the ones he had given me. Luckily for me he didn’t make trouble, but showed a lot of understanding. That helped me a lot. I suggest that anyone who is addicted and wants to repent should confide in some mature persons who can counsel them, not their peers who may likely be in the business also.”
Abubakar Usman, an Islamic cleric, said it is un-Islamic for Muslims to go into such and he would discourage anyone heading this destructive path.
LEADERSHIP Weekend sampled the opinions of different men on their take on women gambling especially if they happen to be their spouse.
One of those who spoke with our correspondent, Emmanuel Oricha, a youth pastor in CTC Family Church, Abuja, said he does not believe in gambling and has no interest in football as a sports. He believes in hard work.
He said, “If my spouse is into such practice, I’ll calmly find out the reasons behind it, make her see reasons to stay away from it and if it is for the money as many claim, there are smarter ways to make money”
Emmanuel agreed that gambling could be addictive adding that it could also lead to other bad behaviours that would in the end not be of benefit to the society.
He added, “I have had stories of people who made money from diabolical means in a bid to place a bet’. The youths he said, need to work smart, hard and trust God.
A business woman who simply wants to be referred to as Victoria says she does not think gambling is done the proper way in Nigeria.
Her words, “As far as I know, in this part of the world, paupers spend their monies and when they do not gain anything, they go hungry leaving their wives and children to suffer.”
She added, “I have seen someone who spent his tuition fees on gambling and has nothing to show for it.
“In developed countries big corporations and the rich gamble because they have mastered the art. They know how to place a bet and when to stay away but all we do here is place huge bets blindly.”
Pastor Noah Ussaini of Destiny Life Restoration Church, Ojo, Lagos described wealth gotten from ‘get rich quick syndrome’ as money that vanishes within the twinkle of an eye. ‘the Bible does not encourage gambling and it goes further to say whoever gathers little by little has plenty.”
To him, diligence is the key to steady wealth. “The Bible says the blessings of the Lord maketh rich and adds no sorrow.”
He reiterated that gambling is a sin and that it has to do with some people losing for others to gain. “This is not of God,” he added.
Pastor Agbolade Okenla of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David, Abuja, said in the world of gambling, nothing goes for nothing and this alone shows it is not the will of God. The act of losing to gain is not scriptural. He said, “Jesus made us understand He does not need anything from us apart from our souls. It is totally out of what Jesus will approve.
“I have had church members who have been in this habit. They came to church and after taking them through the scriptures, they have come to know it is wrong and have turned away from their old ways.”
He added that, an addicted gambler could give anything to get something back and he had seen individuals sold houses, cars simply because there was nothing more to give.”
To him, gambling has a spirit of taking even when one is unwilling to release it.
“Greed is the spirit behind gambling and it keeps drawing them into wanting to have more and oftentimes they end up not having it.”
On how to overcome the addiction he said people had been delivered from it and there is no helpless situation when it comes to God. He said, “Do away with covetousness and impatience. Contentment should be key and when the time is right, God will bless the work of their hands according to his word and he will certainly not bless the work of gambling.”
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