Nigerians resort to gambling

When Samuel Adekoya, a National Diploma student of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State reportedly committed suicide after losing his school fees and that of his friend to online betting in May, not many people knew how hard the deceased had tried to fight his addiction to gambling.

Reports from those close to him claimed that the undergraduate had attempted severally to quit betting, but that he had always found himself losing the battle to a more powerful unseen force, which kept urging him not to give up, but to try his luck harder. Such is the power of addiction to gambling and games betting.

But in spite of the overwhelming risks involved, findings have shown that more and more Nigerians are embracing sports betting with many citing economic hardship as a major reason for their risky action.

Abiodun (surname withheld), an auto-mechanic specialist, is one of the latest entrants into the chancy world of betting in Nigeria.

He told  that he had resisted the lure of betting until August this year when he finally succumbed to the uncertainty gambling temptation.

“Sometime in the month of August”, began the young man, “two people won some amounts of money, the second person won N800,000 plus. I can’t remember the actual amount the first person won, but I think it was over N500,000. This happened at a time I was experiencing low patronage and I was very broke. So, I decided to try out my luck, but I wasn’t lucky enough to win.”

Abiodun would later try his luck a few more times without any breakthrough. He, therefore, decided to take a break from betting, but he could only fight back the enticement until sometime in September when he returned to his spew.

“In September, I witnessed another person winning a bet and this lured me back. I played a couple of times, but I have only been close to winning on two occasions,” – he said.

A recent research by NOI Polls shows that no fewer than 60 million Nigerians who engage in betting spend a whopping sum of N730 billion annually in staking. This according to an economist, Harrison Adikpe, belies the reason punters who adduce economic hardship as reason for venturing into gambling.

Those who cite hardship as the rationale for taking to betting are not sincere with themselves. Betting is not an economic activity to the bettors, so it can never be a solution to their economic problem. It is purely a game of chance with the possibility of higher risk compared to any other legit form of economic activity. It is, therefore, foolhardy of anyone to consider it as a way of surviving in this hard time.

“The reason is that people lose money more frequently in betting than they win. Imagine someone who stakes with N300 daily, but only manages to win N50,000 throughout a year. Such a person may see that as a massive windfall because the money is coming in lump sum. However, if he or she is discreet enough to calculate how much he spends on betting and do the plus and minus, it will dawn on him that he incurs more losses than he gains” – he posited.

Notwithstanding the risk involved in betting, findings have revealed that as more Nigerians have access to smartphones and the Internet, sports betting market has continued to witness an explosion.

Stakeholders are of the opinion that the trend may persist as digital technology continues to become more prevalent. Currently, it is estimated that over 125 million Nigerians now have access to the Internet, while over 85 per cent own a mobile phone. Sports betting is particularly the most prominent of the betting segments due to the love for football by millions of Nigerians, and the majority of the games are now done online, which encourages privacy of bettors.

Stakeholders in the industry are optimistic that online gaming would grow to a global industry worth $93 billion before the end of the year.

Betting has over the years evolved into a widespread source of entertainment. However, along with its growing popularity, experts say betting also has led to significant financial loss and psychological and physical hardship with the health impact believed to have been magnified during the pandemic, when more and more people reportedly turned to gambling.

According to Abdullahi Afolayan, a psychologist, there’s a wide range of consequences that come with gambling disorders. Like any addiction, the damage can be to a person’s body, their brain or their mind. But the common problems associated with gambling these days are financial debt, loss of time, loss of productivity and damaged relationships.

“Studies have shown that when people struggle with gambling disorders, chances are that they are going to have related health problems stemming from stress, lack of sleep and even heart problems. Much of those health issues are associated with large debts accrued from gambling and from not taking time for self-care or health maintenance.”

“Like addictive drugs such as cocaine, heroin, nicotine and alcohol, gambling activates the brain’s reward system, which is powered by dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter inside the brain that reinforces sensations of pleasure and connects those sensations to certain behaviours or actions.”

Drawing a significant contrast between gambling and addictive substances, Afolayan said:

“Gambling, unlike any other addiction, is associated with cognitive distortions. People say, ‘if I keep gambling then eventually I’ll win.’ You don’t say that about alcohol, tobacco or cocaine. The cognitive distortion often takes place within people who have lost large amounts of money or other assets due to gambling. Sometimes their pride, ego or sense of despair drives them to gamble more, in hopes of making back what they lost.”


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