Curbing the sports betting menace in Nigerian youths

By Qwenu.com (Jerome-Mario Utomi)

Talking about young people, human development experts have described the stage as a moment of the storm, a stage in the developmental growth where young adults would want to explore and express self, as well as want to know more about the world.

This uncensored urge naturally comes with inherent challenge which adversely affects the youth’s education and promotes social vices such as premarital sexual escapades, instant gratification, the proliferation of fake news, and erosion of societal values.

But looking at recent commentaries, it’s no more an overstatement that our effort to create a more humane nation has recently witnessed a setback with the advent of sports betting on our shores.

This should however not be construed as a prediction of doom.

To explain; sports betting as a form of lottery or game of chance is neither restricted to a particular age nor sex but fueled by the grinding poverty and starvation with which our country is currently afflicted.

In this context, there is nothing essentially wrong with sports betting if well regulated, but looking at the number of minds so far corrupted, and ‘destinies’ destroyed by this game, it becomes unfortunately true that like a turbulent ocean beating great cliffs into fragments of rocks, so has sport betting submerged our countrysides – bringing social, moral, cultural, and economic devastation upon our youths with their future now hanging on the balance.

Given this preceding awareness, nothing becomes more self-contradictory than the realization that its operation is backed by an enabling act. Interestingly as it appears, the act among other things provide for the establishment of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission charged with responsibility for the regulation of the business of national lottery in Nigeria as well as the establishment of a National Lottery Trust Fund.

Similarly, while some pro-sports bet advocates have argued that it cannot be called a gamble as it has a regulatory agency; others at different times and places expressed similar sentiment saying that; since the winnings of sports bet are usually predicted on outcome of legitimate games of soccer, addressing sports bet as a gamble cannot square up with logic as no good means can give birth to a bad end.

Arguably a well-chiselled position particularly when one remembers that sports betting provides a means of livelihood for the teaming operators. But before celebrating the vision and wisdom behind the above, it becomes more important that Nigerians first look at the crowd of young adults that daily fraternizes with sports betting centres, review some ‘exiting progress’ recorded in this direction, and instincts coming from the larger society.

Going by reports, the cold truth is that beyond this advantage, its negative psychological effects such as; loss of fortune, loss of businesses, depression, death through suicide, assassination or heart attack, loss of sleep (insomnia), insanity, marital problems between the gambler and the young spouse as the gambler is always temperamental and agitated – on our youths, outweighs the usefulness.

But, even more, some well-meaning Nigerians had recently begun to question its usefulness to national development in the face of sterling beliefs that sports betting acts as a gateway to and possesses the capacity for luring addicted players into criminal acts such as internet crimes (yahoo-yahoo in the local palace) and armed robbery.

The questions that now confront us as a nation are; how did parents suddenly lose control over their children to yield obedience to the power of sports betting? How many of the youths in Nigeria would overcome the temptation currently posed by sports betting? Who will stop those that cannot apply the virtue of moderation? Shall we entrust the future of our youths to the present regulators? Or must we as a nation allow the useful and the useless like good and evil go on together allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes in the nearest future?

For one thing, if an attempt is made to provide answers to these questions, it will definitely establish a link between the proliferation of sports betting centres and the high unemployment challenge in the country.

My reason is not far-fetched.

The unruly behaviours of some youths notwithstanding, the lack of political will on the part of the government to tackle the unemployment challenge in the country from its roots, or see the urgent necessity to cease politics and turn outwards to look for constructive and creative channels to fight the enemy called unemployment in the country contributes to the ever-increasing number of youths that throng different sports betting centres in all the major cities of the federation.

But this may not be the whole explanation.

Nigerians have learned through painful experience that greed, peer pressure, and laziness among some of these youths have conjoined to give a boost to this newly adopted culture by our youths.

In my views, this is a clear socioeconomic problem that we collectively as a nation will have to determine how to solve- as the future strength of our nation depends on these young people.

To get started, apart from coming up with more efficient regulatory framework, government at all levels – federal, state, and local government areas must take politics out of our education and concentrate on empowering the youths through creation of jobs that will keep these youths gainfully engaged as well as prepare them for jobs of the future – the leadership of our nation.

In addition to the above, skills acquisition for these youths and financial empowerment to those trained and actively regulating the business activities of this lottery outfits will be another step taken in the right direction by the government.

On their part, faith-based organizations and the civil society groups as change-agents should develop the people’s capacity to welcome new ideas, reject unwholesome behaviours that can endanger individual lives and that of the entire society.

Finally, let every youth in the words of Mahatma Gandhi develop a habit of accounting for everything that comes into, and goes out of his/her pocket and be sure he is the gainer at the end.