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Gambling now vogue in schools

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SOMETIMES, when you think you have seen it all, you’ll just discover you haven’t seen anything. Last week, I wrote about checking drug abuse in schools, but I just found out that drugs are not the real danger.

Gambling is the real menace walking the streets and wrecking homes quietly now. It’s not new but it has found a new ferocity. The reality is as crushing as scary. Gambling involves risking something of value on an uncertain event in hope of winning something of greater value.

There was a time that adults hid to gamble in whatever form. Then, it was a thing of shame for such gamblers and even their families, to indulge in what was then considered as pastime of low-lives.

Gradually, the stigma wore off a bit and it became more acceptable for adults, even when such people are still more of societal cast-offs. Nevertheless, the changing times never admitted kids going into gambling, though on rare occasions, such do happen.

But gone are those days of social stigma. Nearly every street in Nigeria houses betting and gambling shops and nearly all have kids, including those in primary schools as ‘customers.’

I got home few days ago and heard that my neighbor fainted in a nearby market and was rushed to the hospital.  The next day, I went to visit her.

While we were discussing on what caused her slumping in the market, she said, “I went to the market to buy some things I needed in the house.

There, I met my child’s teacher, and he wanted to know why my only son who is in his J.S.S 3, who was supposed to sit for the just concluded Junior WAEC examination, neither registered nor sat for the exam with his mates.

In my bewilderment, I insisted that my child registered and sat for the exam; because I was sure I gave him money for the registration and other levies he told me about. When the exams started, I made sure I helped him prepare early for school, and he always leaves home before me.

I equally made sure that he lacked nothing throughout the period the exam lasted, and always asked how his exams went after each day. Each time, he gave me a good report.

Then the teacher told me that when he found out that my child did not register for the exam, he gave my son a written note on two occasions, requesting my presence in the school, to know what the problem was since my son said I had no phone with which I could be reached.

In my shock, I told him that my son did not give me any written note, and that I had never lost my phone. That was the last I remembered. I regained consciousness in this hospital.

When my son came visiting, I confronted him and he blatantly told me that he used the whole money for betting at a betting shop near his school. My shock knew no bound”.

Airing her views on school children and gambling, Mrs Chinwe Uchendu, a primary school teacher has this to say: “Gambling is a cross-cultural and global activity which typically involves the wagering of money or an item of monetary value on an outcome that is governed by chance.

In the past, people who indulged in the game of gambling were generally viewed as dangerous and looked down upon because of the negative status associated with it, but the rule of the game has now changed with many under-aged children whose ages range between nine and 15 years and who are probably in their primary and secondary schools are taking over the game.

Most of these children, oblivious of the harsh truth that they are already active in the game of gambling are seen moving from playing these games to more serious types of gambling in later adolescence.

Most of the teenage gamblers in Nigeria go into the game under the guise of predicting matches for the purpose of making money if such predictions come to pass.

It is for this reason that many school and under-aged children are seen frequenting areas with shops featuring sports, fantasy leagues and World Series of poker tournaments on television stations.

Nowadays, primary school children, during break times, sneak out of the school premises, go to near-by betting shops, to bet with as small amount as N100, hoping to win bigger money.

Sometimes, I try to draw the attention of the parents of such children, and most times; the reactions of some of these parents shock me, with some of them simply telling me that they would look into it. Most of the parents never came back to find out if the child still visits the betting shop”.

“In trying to curb this menace, parents, teachers, government, churches and even the betting shop owners should be involved.

Starting from the betting shop owners, they are not supposed to give their services to under aged children. I am sure that there are laws regulating these gaming stuffs, restricting them from giving their services to under-aged children.

It is high time they are forced to abide by those rules. On the part of the government, the security agencies should be mandated to live up to their responsibilities, by always raiding these betting shops, arresting the culprits (betting shop owners that allow children and minors to play games in their shops).

They should also arrest the under-aged children, while they contact their parents.I know the government makes money by taxing the gambling houses. But the government must be more concerned about the moral and financial health of the youths and under-aged children.

It also falls on the society and church to discourage betting on football matches and in fact, gambling of any kind. The churches and mosques must see the coming danger and warn the youths and the children not just about tramadol and codeine but about betting and gambling.

Someone has to resume the inculcation of moral values in the schools. The society has to find a way to valorize hard work and discourage search for sudden wealth. We no longer have taboos. But there was a reason why our ancestors found gambling repugnant”.

Nwabunwanne Ugwu, a businessman said, “Gambling as a social phenomenon has been in existence for thousands of years in human history. Since the last two decades, Nigeria has been witnessing unprecedented rise, as well as sophistication in gambling activities.

Hardly any day passes without Nigerians engaging in gambling activities as they happen in different parts of the country. The new gambling wave cuts across all sections of the society, involving men, women and children as well.

The gaming industry has continued to expand, benefitting from the large and youthful population, improving internet penetration, and the increasing access to internet-enabled devices. Sports betting have slowly emerged as a lucrative segment, leveraging Nigeria’s huge football culture. It is obvious that the betting companies are now the most lucrative industries in Nigeria.

The only business that can effectively compete with betting companies must be illicit drug dealing. I wonder how the agents of these betting companies succeed in giving hopes to the hopeless whom they are effectively draining. But then, I noticed that winnings were broadcast far and wide.

The few who won spread the gospel of ’empowerment.’ But losers never told their tales. So everywhere you go, you hear only about those who had won. And that kept hope alive and burning. More betting companies are being born.

The companies let the poor bet in small bits. In most cases, N100.00 is enough. It’s a terrifying reality and one that threatens the nation’s future. Underage bettors are increasingly getting entangled in the betting culture, thus losing focus of the values of genuine labour and hard work”.

For Anike Uchenna, a betting shop owner, “I know that it is wrong for me to give my services to under aged children, but what can one do in a situation where business is slow, money is hard to come by these days, and the only available customers are these children. Business has to go on. ‘Man must whack’.

I know that most of these children come here with small money they save from their transport fare, lunch and other things. Some of them must have stolen the money, but what can one do”.

Even if we fail to give our services to these children, there are more than 3000 online gambling websites worldwide, including casinos and sites for betting on sports and racing. Nowadays, teenagers can also gamble without money on phone and Facebook apps.

There are also more than 100 video games rated as suitable for children have gambling themes and content.Again, what would one say about security agents who arrest these underaged bettors, only to release them when they ‘rogger’ them? And again, what of fathers who come here with their wives and sometimes, children to bet, taking suggestions as regards the odds from his family. So if there should be a remedy for underaged bettors, all hands should be on deck”.

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