April 20, 2024

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Sport betting: more of harm than good?

By Soremekun Samson Seyifunmi

The concept of betting perhaps dates back to the stone age. It started even before the dawn of recorded history. Betting is in fact one of human’s oldest activities. It is believed to start with a six-sided dice in a region in West Asia in about 3000 BC, to the widespread of gambling houses and betting on fighting animals in China in the first millennium BC. 

Betting, whose main concept is on risk, be it big or small, can be seen or referred to as the process of risking a sum of money, possession or some valued item against someone else’s on the basis of the outcome of an event. This event could be anything and is always unpredictable. At the end of the day, one of the two parties has something to lose.

Now, sport betting is the act of predicting the outcome of a sporting event and placing a wager on that outcome. For instance, you predict a football match outcome against another person’s prediction, the person with the correct outcome wins the wager placed.

Sport betting is believed to have its origin in ancient Rome, and its spread to the whole world is all thanks to globalization. People see it as a quick means of making money, while also being fully aware of the risks and in most cases, a very low odd of winning. This has now become a popular legal activity in many nations.

Many have argued the fact that sports betting has impacted the society more negatively than positively, with each claim being backed up by reasonable points to an extent. Ranging from religious views to societal norms, sport betting has been regarded as an evil big enough to be dealt with.

Many religions around the world have shown their displeasure in these activities, describing it as against uprightness. Two major religions that maintain their stance against this supposed menace are Islam and Christianity.

The Islamic religion is especially against any form of gambling, sports included. Muslims believe Allah strictly forbade any form of gambling. This is stated in different parts of their Hadiths and many of their religious scholars. Beyond that, they regard it as a social evil.

While Christianity does not outrightly state anything like sport betting in the Bible, but it cautioned excess love of money as the root of all evil. This is a sore. Many preachers believe gambling encourages indolence, rather than hard work.

Society has also been waging war against sport betting. While some legalized it, with age restrictions in certain cases, some have totally prohibited it, most especially in the eastern part of the world. One might begin to wonder what makes religion and society stand against it. Well, there are quite a number of reasons.

Most people, young and old, go into sport betting to make their lives better financially. Unfortunately, the end is usually the other way around. It rather pushes them further into poverty. 

Established business owners perceive betting as an ill-conceived strategy of poor people to get out of poverty that only drains them of whatever meagre income they are able to bring in.

A particular Adebayo (not real name), a student who lives around Yaba, sharing his personal experience confirmed the possibility of this theory. ”I’m not from a rich family, so everything I do is to make us rich. I started sports gambling around three years ago and I can categorically say they’ve collected more money than I have collected from them. There are some points when you feel luck is shining on you and you just keep winning. Then a time will come when you start losing, but because you’ve had winning streaks, you won’t want to stop. Before you know it, more than what you have previously won has gone”, Adebayo explained with mixed emotions, almost teary.

Another Oriyomi, a white-collar worker, has a sombre story to tell. He explained that he was introduced to sports betting by his colleague who seemed to have a winning streak. In a bid to get higher returns, he started staking higher as much as a million naira and above in some cases. “I started with like #1,000, but I wasn’t winning. Until this my colleague said it was because I was staking small amount, he was staking the likes of #200,000 to a million naira. 

“One day, I was to deposit one company money with the bank when my colleague said there was a sure ‘2-odds’. This was to earn me double of the #2.5m I wanted to deposit. I didn’t think twice before staking, while he staked #2m also. Just as my luck in this has always been, we lost. Basically, I have never won and I’m sadly still paying the debt at work.” 

Surprisingly, not just men are involved in sports betting. Idera, a female student of the University of Lagos, concluded that life is a risk. She said “Life itself is a risk. Either we win or not, it’s still a risk. We just keep playing, tomorrow fit be our day. Although I have lost plenty money, I have won plenty money too”, she said without an iota of regret.

The simple truth about betting is that most people lose more money than they win. It is the hope that they could be the next winner that keeps them going. The United States for example has lost $125bn on sport betting since its four years of legalization, according to The Guardian.

Additionally, sport betting often leads to increase in crime rates, as people who consistently lose out can resort to stealing. Ironically, repetitive betting tends to become an addictive behaviour. People find it hard to quit in the hopes that they may be the next lucky person. People have lost their jobs, had mental and physical health issues as well as relationships breakdowns over betting problems.

An owner of a betting shop in Ikorodu, Lagos, narrated an experience of a suicidal customer who took his life in reaction to losing a game.

“There was one guy that came to play. He played Man City to win Chelsea on UCL final in 2021. Unfortunately, Chelsea won. He left here to jump into water. It was later I heard that he used, both his school fee and that of his siblings. The only thing that saved me from the police was that he was more than 18 years old”, he said.

But despite all these, sport betting still on the rise with different betting sites coming around. Could there be any good?

Mr. Seun Ajidagba, a sports analyst, explained that technology is a supporting factor to the rise of sport betting. “People don’t have to go to shops before they play, everything is online and at their ease. In fact, they prefer to play online so that when they win, nobody knows and vice versa when they lose. But the evil is that even children that are not legal can be permitted to play”, he noted.

The availability of online play has given rise to the existence of punters. These are individuals who have made a profession of recommending game bets based on their knowledge of the games. Twitter users like Mr. Bayo and Mayor Ekiti have gained popularity by providing bettors with suggestions for ‘sure bets’.

Ajidagba, talking about the likely benefits of betting said, “one of the good sides of sports betting is that it makes people research. People won’t bet because this is the team they support. They will do their research to see the best team that can win”.

“Another thing is that it helps the government to generate local tax. This way, it boosts the economy of the country which will in turn be of gain to the people, even those that played”, he added.

He also described sports betting as a cool way of making money. “If you know your way and you do your research very well, I promise you that you will make cool cash. And this is with little or no stress, especially when you book on your phone. Sport betting can even be your side hustle, this will help people in their bid to have multiple streams of income”, Ajidagba noted.

Entertainment value is also another advantage Ajidagba cited. “We have many people who don’t play to win. They play for the fun of it. And this is entirely fine. We also get entertained by it.”

Should sports betting be stopped or not? Ajidagba opted for regulation rather than outright ban of the activity. “I strongly believe that sport betting should not be canceled. People only see the disadvantages. It can be regulated, and this must include limiting those who play. If you are not up to the legal age, you shouldn’t be allowed”.

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