Let’s Address Harm Sports Betting Is Causing to the Ghanaian Youth

It is no more a doubt that sports betting has already become a menace in our society. Some few years back, this article would probably bear the caption “watch the creeping menace of sports in our society”. But as reactional as we have often been as a society, we have sat and allowed our youth to be soaked in sports betting and will very soon start looking for unavailable resources to deal with the visible ill-effects of it on our youth.

Even though gambling is considered legal in Ghana, the uncontrolled manner with which the industry has operated over the past years should be a great concern and worry for us all. A country that would want to permit such social profiteering venture need to be swift with its social controls and regulations in order not endanger the development of its young population.

One of the manifest dangers of sports betting is its effects on child education. Many school children including JHS pupils and SHS students have deeply been engulfed in sports betting to the detriment of their studies. A research conducted by a social policy think tank, Baraka Policy Institute in 2019 on sports betting prevalence and its effects on education and child development revealed very worrying trends.

The findings showed that, sports betting was fast becoming a serious social force against schooling in the country. In that research, it was found that a large number of school children were engaged in sports betting using online platforms through mobile phones as well as physically being present at betting centres.

The study revealed that, children less than 18 years use the ID cards of their older siblings or even parents to register to enable then access their monies. I need not remind us that it is illegal for under 18 year-olds to engage in sports betting in Ghana. The time children or the youth spend on betting indicate that, they spend very little time on their books especially during weekends and mid-weeks when football matches are mostly played and shown.

One key dimension to the sport betting situation and which must be a concern and worry is the way and manner sports betting has become very visible and more pronounced in our communities. There is what can be described as a proliferation of sports betting companies across Ghana where betting centres and signboards can visibly be seen in every major street in most towns across the country. A simple search of sports betting companies in Ghana will reveal not less than 30 of them.

Another key concern on the canker of sports betting is how sports betting companies visibly make their presence pronounced in poor communities compared to affluent communities. Serval studies have noticed the huge presence of an array of sporting centres by numerous betting companies. In Accra for example, communities such as Nima-Mamobi, Jamestown, Ashaiman, Kasoa, Labadi, Accra Newtown, Kotobabi among many other underprivileged communities have had their fair share of this canker.A visit to these betting centres conspicuously shows under 18 years children present at these centres, many a time in their numbers.

If certainly, as a society we understood the reasons for banning younger population from engaging in such ventures, we would certainly need to put up appropriate deterring structures to protect these innocent people.

The conventional notion that sports betting is a source of revenue generation for the country ruins the foundation of moral and social development. The negative effects of sports betting far outweigh its superficial benefits. The price we shall pay as a nation by having a generation of youth who become redundant yet in whose hands the future of this country is entrusted could be unbearable. Sports betting breeds laziness. Imagine a young man winning a cedi equivalent of $100 for just predicting the outcome of a match. Such a person will not see the value of hard-work. And this will serve as a big demotivation to learn a trade, any handiwork or continue schooling.

This will naturally progress into having a generation of young men and women who will be lazy and ill-equipped to face the ever-challenging world turning them into liabilities to our communities and our nation.

Sports betting also breeds frustrations, distress and disaffection against one’s self as well as against society. There have been many instances both in Ghana and abroad where some young men have become frustrated and violent sometimes to the extent of attempting suicide after losing a bet.

Of course, one can not lose mention of the harm betting is causing its own fraternity, the sports, football in particular. Even the Ghanaian premier league and its other associations has not been spared of this social vice. Talk of the many football corruption cases that have been fuelled by sports betting. Even as a football enthusiast as we are, or let me say, as I am, one can no longer enjoy watching football at popular football viewing centres and enjoy the traditional fun of it, as the entire 90mins will be a discourse on which score line will meet the best betting cut, as most fans are simply (now) interested in score lines that will meet their cut and not the skills and play of players and teams.

Certainly, if something urgent is not done including taking critical decisions to safeguard our youth, then the future of our country will be left in danger. It is certainly derailing our shared development efforts including the goals of the SDGs and the Constitutional aspiration of providing quality functional education to all.

This article suggests, as way forward, the urgent need for government to strengthen regulations including implementing already existing but relaxed laws guiding gaming in Ghana including barring the youth, less than 18 years, from engaging in betting activities. Again, the media should consider this a very important social advocacy and as a moral responsibility and mount serious campaign on educating the populace on the canker of sports betting. As media houses, we should certainly not be persuaded or enticed by the income we gain from advertising for betting companies. Again, the religious community particularly, religious leaders; Pastors, Imams as well as traditional leaders (chiefs) should consider this fight as a religious obligation.

Finally, and very importantly, but certainly not the end solution, there is the need for parliament to consider the sports betting situation a national crises and respond appropriately by embarking on legislative reforms that is directed at protecting the innocent population; children and the youth. This will include measures that aim at restricting access to betting activities by people who already by law are not allowed to engage in it but have found ways to do so, particularly through the use of mobile phones with the advent of online or mobile betting. Some countries including Singapore have succeeded in banning online gambling and as a country can learn from it. Again, many other developing countries such as Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Sudan among many others have gone steps further to either ban gambling activities or impose huge restrictions including increased taxations to discourage its operation in order to protect its citizens particularly, children and the youth.

Source: allafrica.com

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