Editorial Comment: Mental health damage in sports betting is real

TODAY, we have led our coverage with the story of the booming industry of sports betting in Africa.

It’s relevant to our constituency of readers because it’s also an industry that is booming in Zimbabwe.

In the past, it was all about horse racing with punters trying their luck on races either here at home or in other countries.

But, things started to change and we saw a number of betting shops, which now deal in sports betting, emerging around the country.

We have also seen thousands of people, who have become punters, who converge at these shops on a daily basis to try their luck.

They take their chances on football matches while others bet on rugby games, cricket matches and just about every sporting discipline.

All these guys are taking a chance because we know that professional sport, by its nature, is very unpredictable.

There are no guarantees on the outcome of the matches and in top leagues like the English Premiership, even the lowly-ranked sides can regularly stun the favourites.

This means there are also no guarantees of success as many of the punters usually gamble according the odds provided by the bookmakers, which will always favour the big boys while suggesting that the minnows have little chance to succeed.

Some punters have struck it rich but, in this game, they say the house never loses and where one punter strikes gold, thousands will be counting their losses.

This is where the problem starts, where those who would have lost end up dragging themselves into an ocean of debt to try and cover for their losses or go again in search for the elusive fortune.

Our article today is about a prominent Ugandan blogger who has claimed that the booming sports betting industry in Africa is now one of the leading causes of poverty and break-ups in marriages and relationships across the continent.

Charles Onyango-Obbo, who has a huge social media following, feels the rising popularity of the European leagues, especially the English Premiership, is to blame for the increase in gamblers chasing fortunes at the expense of their mental health and relationships.

Onayngo-Obbo claimed the African gambling market was worth a staggering US$37 billion and the biggest chunk comes from sports betting.

“Sports betting firms have monetised the football craze in devilishly genius ways,” he claims. 

“Of the US$37 billion African gambling economy in 2022, sports betting accounted for the lion’s share.  “Addiction levels are high, and critics say sports betting is among the leading causes of poverty, and marriage/relationship break-ups in Africa today.

”The sports betting industry in this country is regulated and there are laws to protect the betting firms and the punters.

However, we feel more should be done in terms of educating the punters about the dangers of addiction to sports betting.

We agree with Onyango-Obbo that the damages inflicted by this industry should be analysed and, where needed, help offered to those who end up as victims of their elusive search for gold.

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