…Betting firm closes shop, quits Calabar after gargantuan wins by customers
…Agents thwart rules for minors to lay bets –Mrs. Emori, C’River Internal Revenue Service
By Emmanuel Una
CALABAR- THE Cross River State capital, Calabar, is famous not just for its sanitation, but the annual Calabar Festival, which undeniably has made the city the tourism hub of Nigeria.
However, Calabar also known as Canaan City is fast becoming notorious for something else lately. Gamblers have practically taken over the city.
At street corners, they are there in twos, threes and more. In fact, the inhabitants you see playing cards on the streets do not engage in the game for mere pleasure. They are engrossed in an industry that has reddened their passion- betting.
Even school kids squatting and casting rubber strings at the roadside during break or after school are in it to win each other’s munchies money or cash pilfered from somewhere.
Findings also showed that educational games like scrabble, draught and chess and even the big money-guzzling ones – casino jackpot, online sports are no longer for the excitement to Calabar residents, but making a bet to make money.
No age blockade
Strangely, there is no age restriction as people of all ages, including minors and women, indulge in laying bets at the nation’s tourism capital.
Online betting shops like Bet9ja, Nairabet, Millionaire Bet and Success Bet have shops on virtually every street and major ones like Bet9ja and Nairabet no longer accept agents in the city because of the preponderance of agents, who are within just five- minute walk of one another. Moreover, they attract large numbers of fortune seekers who flood the shops every morning to lay bets.
NDV learned that many people even employ fetish means like contacting herbalists and occultists to get leads on winning numbers to hit ‘jackpot’ with their bets.
A betting shop operator, Onum Johnson said he had “caught” some stakers muttering incantations while staking to invoke unseen forces to give them winning numbers.
“Some people contact a mad woman at Akamkpa (outskirts of Calabar) to give them winning numbers and some go to occult houses to get the numbers that they bet, in some cases, they win, in many cases, the numbers fail them,” Onum said
Jobless gamblers steal to raise money
He disclosed that some jobless young men see betting and gambling as a career, as any little money that comes their way is invested therein and some indulge in stealing and robbery just to raise money to stake.
According to him, some people have recorded winnings of N4 million, N7million and even N9 million, which forced one of the companies, Wnnnas Bet, owing to frequent winnings of huge sums by some by people to vacate the city.
“Games are played virtually every day and from 8.00 am, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, people begin to flood the shops to bet and I am just an agent and the more people stake, the more money I make from commission, so I encourage them to bet,” he confessed.
Betting requires big cash
A gambler, who gave his name as Obun, said the business required investing cash if one is to make any meaningful money from winnings, but most people stake meager sums and when they win, they get few thousands, which they reinvest and before another win, the amount won is gone.
His words, “I do pick some little sums from winning , but since I do not have a large sum to stake, whatever I win will finish even before I win again and so is the case with many of these people you see here.”
What we do to regulate business- C’River Internal Revenue official
An official of the Cross River Internal Revenue Service, Ann Emori, said the Federal Government issued betting license and most of the betting companies in Calabar have their headquarters in Lagos, where they remit their taxes.
She, however, said the agency restricts itself to charging revenue for business premises and other minor fees within its authority and could not regulate the number of shops that operate in the city.
“As for minors betting, the law is clear on the age of those qualified and that is 18 years of age and above, but sometimes, these agents circumvent the rule and look the other way when minors go to bet. Anyone we find allowing under aged to bet in his shop, we do not hesitate to close the place down,” she added.