Rest Mutore, Sports Reporter
. . . betting houses not spared
THE sporting blackout due to the coronavirus pandemic has not only affected fans who enjoy watching games, but also those with financial interests – the punters.
Betting has become common in the country as several football fans throng betting houses in various cities to place their bets on different sporting disciplines.
And since the outbreak of coronavirus, major sporting events around the world have been cancelled leaving punters stranded.
The development has not only affected the risk-takers, but betting houses too as the number of people coming is significantly declining.
A number of people, particularly men, have been treating betting as a source of income as they travel from difference suburbs to town and spend the whole day gambling.
Hordes of people sitting on benches writing bets on small pieces of paper, meandering queues and that ambience of people enjoying various sports was a common feature in betting houses before the coronavirus outbreak.
That is no longer the situation.
It can only take less than a minute to head count people taking these risks now.
The suspension of football in the world’s most popular leagues like English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Absa Premiership among a host of sporting activities has hit hard on both bookmakers and the punters.
H-Metro Sport visited some betting houses in Harare – speaking to gamblers, betting houses officials and sport fanatics to ascertain the impact coronavirus-related cancellations and postponements have had on the world of sports betting.
A self-confessed betting addict who identified himself as WeBuhera said he is now struggling to make ends meet since the postponement of matches.
“I personally survive on betting, I pay rent and buy food for my family through betting. To tell you the truth I don’t know how I am going to pay rent for this month.
“I had placed some bets for about two weeks and the next thing we were told the matches have been suspended. We are stuck because this has become a source of income for some of us. What do I do? I have no option but bet on those unknown leagues that are still active but tanzwa nekurohwa mari manje.
“The problem is most of the teams are not known and you even struggle to get the results,” he said.
He said despite most sporting events being called off, people are still coming to betting house which put them in danger of the disease.
“People are still coming and you can see there are people here though the numbers have significantly declined. But those are still coming and gathering here are exposed to coronavirus,” he said.
WeBuhera pleaded that betting houses should not be closed but push those running the facilities to have some measures to protect people.
“I don’t support closing betting houses but at least put sanitizers at the entrance and on tables as well as posters educating people on measures to take,” he said.
Another punter Arron Choga of Goromonzi said it is more of a crisis to the betting community and sports fanatics at large.
“I would call it a crisis, sport unifies people, sport heals. You can see that during weekends or even debates on social media.
“I also do betting but I have been in this betting house for more than an hour now I can’t place my bets. There is nothing to bet. This is a gamble and you don’t just risk your money but look at the teams that you know their form and players.
“Only leagues from some countries in Asian and South America are still activity but who are those teams, you end up losing your money so I am thing of putting it on hold. It’s unfortunate that poverty might end up pushing you,” he said.
Brian Mukaro of Chitungwiza described the coronavirus’s impact on sports as unfortunate but he is forced to compromise.
He said it is sad that they now betting dogs and horses.
“Mdhara hapana yekutamba, takutoita zvembwa. But it’s sad because you don’t even know this dog and hautomboipi chikafu, ko kana iine nzara.
“It’s now a guess work unlike when football, cricket and other sports were active. You would know that Barca inopedza Bhora because they have Lionel Messi not to say that dog number 5 inopedza masports iwe usingaizivi.
“But we don’t have option, I have mastered playing these dogs, the ones with big chest have possibilities of winning,” said Mukaro.
Another football fanatic, Tendai Tsvimbo of Hatcliffe, said he is feeling the impact though he is not a betting addict.
“I am into betting but not an addict. I can live without it but I came here to gamble but there is nothing. There are no teams to bet.
“The other issue now is on how we used to spend our weekends. No more going to clubs watching football, it’s a very difficult situation. Takutongoswera tiri paden,” said Tsvimbo.
This has not only affected gamblers but those employed in betting houses as they fear losing jobs.
An employee with Superbets who declined to be named said there are chnaces of losing their jobs.
“As you can see, no one is at the till. There are no longer queues, everything has just changed and we might end up going home.
“These gamblers are paymasters and the cancellation of sporting events means we are doomed,” she said.
An official at Moors World of Sport who preferred to comment on condition of anonymity said there is already talk of reducing staff.
“There is already that talk of reducing staff because there are no people here as you can see. This is the same situation of you go to all our branches and what’s next? We are going home.
“We just pray the disease is contained fast. There are also chances the government will instruct us to close so that people don’t gather here,” she said.