Growing interest of betting among children amidst misleading adverts

In one of my usual daily early morning search for updates of trending global stories, I visited the site which has become my most dependable foreign news source.

This is a popular global news platform and what popped up after I hit the search button was not only the fresh story I was yearning for but a gambling advertisement which ran alongside it crying for attention. The content read: GH₵ 3000 is given when you join. Chances to win iPhone 14 on lucky draw with only 1 bet. This aroused a natural sense of curiosity and instantaneously, I fell for it.

The marketing communication I stumbled upon was brief and left me with no choice than to read it. But moments later I realized that I had been misled by the screaming advertisement when I was provided with another link to continue reading. At this point, the conversation focused more on the money I had to spend before I could win that GH₵3000 fortune. I backed off.

I must confess, I was indeed angry when I came across the notice cautioning against the participation of children aged 18 years and below in the gambling game.

This killed my excitement. I decided to exercise my right of choice to exit immediately. Logically, I expected the caution to appear earlier to achieve its deterrent effect for the sake of the child who it is assumed, lacks the cognitive ability to recognize the advertisement’s persuasive intent.

So assuming that I was an underaged person protected by Gaming Act 2006 (Act 721) there is the likelihood that I would have already formed an opinion to go by the advertisement’s persuasion and invariably, ignore the caution whose “sweetness” cannot be compared with the alluring phrase: GH₵3000 is given when you join.

Chances to win iPhone 14 on lucky draw with only 1 bet.

This raises the question of legislation and how effective the regulatory body functions in checking some of these glaring signs of deception that can easily lure the vulnerable especially, the underaged members of the Ghanaian society to engage in betting.

In December 2019, Haruna Zagoon-Sayeed (PhD), the Executive Director of the Baraka Policy Institute (BPI) wrote a well- researched article that was published by Graphic online in which he raised a red flag:

“Betting is fast becoming a serious social force against schooling in Ghana” – He warned.

He cautioned further that, “if nothing is done about it, it will derail the effort by government and other non-state actors to ensure every child is in school.” This was the outcome of a research his organization carried out.

The respected researcher did not forget to remind Ghanaians that there is a task ahead.

“Target 1 of the SDG 4 demands from all governments to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”

Four years on signs are clear that the situation Zagoon-Sayeed wrote about in 2019 still persists. In most communities across the country, online betting which is linked to football has become even more popular and attractive to many underaged persons who are having a field day amidst their exposure to the accompanying misleading advertisements.

Whether walking on the street or surfing the internet, one cannot easily escape the bombardment of betting ads. Unlike adults who have an option to either ignore or endorse such advertisement based on their preferences, children don’t have that same mental fortitude. A child is likely to fall for anything they see online.

Most betting sites in Ghana have adopted the preaching of the cliché on their ads “prohibited for persons under eighteen ‘18’ years”, yet many fail to adhere to what they preach. This requires that enforcement must follow adverts that target children.

Sports Betting is fun for most people who engage in it but like any other lucrative venture which has the potential to attract children, the pros and cons must be weighed heavily and tackled holistically in order not to create a burden for the child physically, morally and mentally.

The influence sports betting has on children is very strong. Recently, I heard of an incident where a child who had been given money to pay his school fees squandered everything on sports betting. The outcome of the games he betted on came to him as a surprise because all his predictions failed. The child did not weigh at first, the probable consequences of his betting act on his parents who were left in a state of shock because they laboured for the money squandered on betting. The timely intervention of some friends stopped this child from committing suicide. Stories such as this should not be a surprise.

Ghana can learn a lesson from Brazil, one of the world’s greatest football nation, which has strong regulatory measures on Sports betting. The South American country is conscious that a child can easily become a victim of an advert and will never give anything to chance.


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