As sports betting becomes more popular in Africa, many people see it as a real problem.

Soccer news Dec 16, 2022

The Ugandan health director was so certain that Argentina would beat Saudi Arabia in the World Cup that he risked $1,800 in allowances for 243 persons who had taken part in a polio inoculation program on the outcome of the game.

Argentina had just lost, and now the official was in hot water. After that, an angry mob followed him, and he stayed inside for days; his supervisor has since warned that he may be fired.

Gamblers and industry experts in at least five African nations have reported that many people perceive the expanding sports betting sector as a way to generate consistent income and escape poverty. Critics warn that widespread poverty, high unemployment, and lax or nonexistent regulation fuel the growth of the sports betting industry throughout Africa.

In Uganda, a poor East African nation with a per capita income of $840 in 2020, sports betting is popular among a wide range of people, from students and politicians to night guards and government employees like the unfortunate health official who is now being asked to refund the money he doesn't have.

After asking for a loan, he claimed the funds were stolen from him. But I sensed his dishonesty and persisted in pressing him for details. In a moment of weakness, he told the doctor, "Doctor, I have to tell you the truth." Mark Bramall, the head health official in the Zombo area, stated, "I put my money on Argentina."

Although there is a need for comprehensive statistics on sports betting throughout the continent, a survey of individual nations reveals a rising trend. The widespread acceptance of mobile payments and the increased demand for digital entertainment during the epidemic have contributed to the current success of online gaming platforms. Bets are often placed on European soccer matches.

While the percentage of South African adults who gambled decreased from 57% to 33% between 2008 and 2016, a government study conducted in 2017 revealed that sports betting increased by 14% annually during that period.

The National Gambling Board of South Africa notes "a starkly different image" compared to "only 10 years ago," when casinos owned 80% of the market share and online sports betting made up 45% of the industry.

South African Responsible Gambling Foundation head Sibongile Simelane-Quntana claimed her organization had observed a "substantial increase" in online sports betting since lockdowns were imposed due to a pandemic. Money for her organization has "grown by 50% from where it was before the lockdown," she claimed, referring to the decline in revenue from casinos.

Some gamblers in Kampala, Uganda's capital, spend all day at one Fortebet store, writing down the scores of the games they win and crossing them off one by one. Manager David Mugisa announced that up to the day of the final, bettors who placed wagers of at least $0.8 each day would be eligible to get a portion of online "betting points" as part of a World Cup promotion.

He claimed that demand from students, day workers, and the urban poor have been driving sales up "with each day," he claimed, particularly during the World Cup.

Mugisa claims that gamblers should have verified the results before collecting their money after Argentina's shocking defeat to Saudi Arabia. He replied, "That game wreaked mayhem."

Sports betting "has become a big money maker even for individuals who are in legitimate job," according to Japhet Moyo, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The average monthly wage for a person in formal employment in Zimbabwe is less than $100. It's an issue since it may lead to addiction and financial ruin for certain people.

Disappointing outcomes in the World Cup have impacted morale there, as they have everywhere in Africa. After England's victory against Senegal for a position in the finals on December 4, numerous clients at a betting establishment in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, trashed their tickets and left in an apparent rage.

African Gamblers often rely on industry income to provide for their families. Harare, Zimbabwe, jobless teacher Philo Ragada was on the edge of his seat as Senegal took on England for a place in the quarterfinals. Even though he cheered for the African side, the Zimbabwean ultimately wanted England to triumph because "that's where my money is." He boasted that his prize money would provide "enough for tomorrow's bread and tomatoes."

A college graduate and current owner of eight betting businesses in the Nigerian metropolis of Lagos, Wale Babalola, initially struggled to find work before turning to gamble as a survival. "I don't know how some individuals would make it in this nation if it weren't for gambling."

Gambler Moses Ssali of Kampala said he is still confident in betting as a source of income despite the disappointment of the World Cup. He is building a three-bedroom home with his accumulated gains, which he claims he has been putting toward "little, minor" purchases like cement one day and sand the next. As a result, he has set his sights on a bigger prize than the World Cup to help him buy roofing materials.

There is rising worry about the business sector as well. According to Reagan Wamajji, a researcher and analyst at the Center for Policy Analysis in Uganda, the expansion of sports betting throughout Africa "threatens to drag young men and women into its lethal depths."

He said the tobacco industry-style "deliberate efforts" against gambling were necessary. Improvements might indeed be difficult to push since the industry is so rich.

Akin Alabi, a legislator in Nigeria and the creator of the major betting website Nairabet, blames a small group of predatory "charlatans" for the industry's problems.

Alabi remarked that "we can only have problems when it is not well regulated" when referring to sports betting.

At the beginning of this year, a parliamentary committee in Uganda proposed prohibiting daytime betting.

Neighboring The biggest sports betting platform in Kenya was accused of tax evasion by the government in 2019, leading to a crackdown on gambling and a revocation of the licenses of many major gambling enterprises. It was determined via a government poll that the percentage of people who saw gambling as a good way to make money dropped by half between 2019 and 2021, from 22.7% to 11.2%.

It has been a rough World Cup for normal gamblers, particularly those who bet money that isn't their own.

Kampala night watchman and avid gambler Gideon Matua recently heard that two of his pals had lost their jobs due to their gambling habits. The first was tasked with depositing to his company's bank account but instead lost the money at a betting shop, while the second stole money from his employer to pay for his household utilities. They were both fired from their security guard positions, he added.

Many people here were sobbing, he added. Someone comes in and bets a significant sum on this one team. In the event of a loss, the players are sent home. They've been forced out of their positions by management in certain cases.

In Kampala, Ssali came out as unflappable.

He lost money on World Cup bets and felt "cold." However, I am aware of the fact that "nothing comes out" if nothing goes in. It takes money to charm a lady, yet she still has the potential to let you down. Any business you start has the potential to fail.

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