With a high rate of job loss and unemployment, many Niigerians are taking to gambling as an alternative, fueling growing concerns about its impact on the psyche of the individuals involved.
Several youths have lost their lives, businesses and more due to gambling addiction.
DAILY POST recalls how a 31-year-old man committed suicide in Abia State, Nigeria’s South-East, after reportedly losing N2.5 million to a bet.
The victim, Chukwuma Onoh, was said to have borrowed N1.2 million from friends which he combined with his N1.3 million to place a bet, but he eventually failed to win.
The victim reportedly took a snipper and was later rushed to a hospital where he was confirmed dead.
A similar incident occurred in Ogun State in May 2023 when Samuel Adegoke, a student of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, ended his own life after losing his school fee and that of his colleague to gambling.
The ND2 student of Electrical Electronic Engineering, was said to have drunk a substance after he lost the money in an online betting game while the school was warming up its semester examinations.
Also, a 200 level student of University of Abuja, Dennis Akige reportedly took his life after losing his school fee to gambling in Peyi, Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja in January 2023.
Dennis, whose father happened to be a pastor, reportedly drank sniper to end the shame of losing his N300,000 school fees to betting.
Although the parents of the deceased declined speaking with DAILY POST on Saturday, a neighbour, Miss Blessing Nanna told our correspondent that Dennis had used the money to play virtual sports in a nearby betting shop.
“He (Dennis) was about to go back to school so his father gave him his school fee and some pocket money. But before the day he planned to return to school, the boy went to one betting shop in our area here and started playing virtual.
“Initially, he was winning so he thought he could double the money and have some money to take care of other needs.
“According to those who were in the shop, Dennis started losing the game but he kept playing thinking that he would recover it until the whole money got finished.
“It was two days after the game that we heard about his death”, Blessing said.
Virtual Sports is a selection of electronic games that use random number generators to decide the outcome.
The results produced are completely random, giving the player as much a chance of winning as before. A virtual betting game can be played at all hours of the day.
Although sport betting and other gambling are legal in Nigeria following the introduction of National Lottery Act 2005 which was signed into law on March 30, 2005, involvement of underaged children have also raised concerns.
DAILY POST gathered that some of the sport bettors get addicted right from their teenage years.
A mother, Mrs Josephine Udeh, who spoke with DAILY POST on Saturday, narrated how her only son, Godwin got addicted to sport betting at an early stage.
According to her, Godwin, when sent on an errand would quickly divert to a betting shop where he would squander the money and later lie that some boys hijacked the money from him.
“One of his friends introduced him to this game that has gradually taken him away from us. When Godwin was small, if you sent him to buy anything for you, he would use the money to bet.
“Most times he would lie that some boys forcefully took the money from his hand but we later found out the reality. He was using it to play a bet.
“Currently, he is addicted. Although sometimes last year he won N300,000 and that was the only time.
“The most painful thing is that he no longer likes the life he is living but he can’t stop it. This has affected him in so many ways.
“Godwin is 30 years old and I’m not sure he is into any serious relationship. Whatever he gets, goes into gambling. We have visited some men of God for deliverance, all to no avail”, she lamented.
Gambling as a huge source of government revenue
DAILY POST recalls that an independent accounting firm, KPMG reported in 2016 that one of the leading sports betting platforms in Nigeria recorded a monthly turnover of $10 million.
Similarly, the Nigerian Data Protection Bureau also said that the Nigerian government generates over 730 billion naira from the gaming industry yearly.
But for Mrs Josephine, the Federal Government should scrap gambling.
“They said Nigerian youths are lazy, yet they allow things that make them lazier. There is no time that you will go to any betting shop in the country and you will not see many youths hanging around.
“They are not working but they are playing the game with money so how are they getting the cash if not by stealing?
“If the government can scrap it, it will be a good development especially for parents. The government should ban gambling. It is dangerous to society. Somebody will just wake up in the morning and feel he can win minions of Naira just like that.
“It is not encouraging hard work among our children. It should be stopped or at least regulated”, she said.
Meanwhile, a psychologist, Mr Abah Christopher, who spoke with DAILY POST on Saturday, revealed six ways sport betting and other gambling can be vicious to individuals.
He said, “Sports betting can indeed have negative psychological effects on individuals by contributing to depression, frustration, and in extreme cases, suicide. Here’s how it can happen:
“Addiction: Gambling addiction is a recognized psychological disorder characterized by an inability to control gambling impulses despite negative consequences. Similar to substance addictions, gambling addiction can lead to changes in brain chemistry, reinforcing the behavior and making it difficult to stop.
“Financial Losses: The financial strain caused by continuous losses in sports betting can lead to significant stress and anxiety. This stress can permeate all aspects of life, affecting relationships, work, and overall well-being.
“Isolation: Shame and guilt associated with gambling losses may lead individuals to withdraw from social interactions. They may fear judgment or criticism from others, leading to increased isolation and exacerbating feelings of loneliness and despair.
“Cognitive Distortions: Cognitive distortions are irrational beliefs that individuals may hold about gambling, such as the belief in luck, the illusion of control or the misconception that past outcomes influence future results. These distortions can perpetuate gambling behavior and make it challenging for individuals to recognize the reality of their situation.
“Escapism: Gambling can serve as a form of escapism from underlying emotional issues such as stress, depression, or trauma. The excitement and thrill of gambling temporarily distract individuals from their problems.
“However, when the gambling session ends, these underlying issues resurface, often intensified by the financial and emotional consequences of gambling.
“Loss of Self-Worth: Continuous losses in sports betting can lead to feelings of inadequacy, self-blame and low self-esteem.
“Individuals may internalize their failures and perceive themselves as incompetent or unworthy, further perpetuating the cycle of gambling as a means to escape these negative emotions.
“Overall, the combination of addiction, financial losses, social isolation, cognitive distortions, escapism and loss of self-worth creates a destructive cycle that can have severe psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.”
According to him, “intervention through therapy, support groups and treatment programs is crucial in breaking this cycle and helping individuals recover from gambling addiction.”