The Executive Director of Public Health Nigeria, Dr. Oche Otorkpa, has called on the Federal Government and its agencies, including the Federal Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to, as a matter of urgency, consider the compulsory placement of public health warning labels similar to those on cigarette packs on all sports betting (online and offline) and gaming business websites in Nigeria and a compulsory signoff for all online betters stating they understand the potential long term effects that gambling could have on their lives and the lives of their families.

The public health practitioner warned that online betting addiction has escalated the mental health crisis in Nigeria, destroying lives and livelihoods, wreaking businesses and tearing families apart. The crisis according to him, is such that addicted parents rather play bet than pay school fees, leaving their children uneducated, malnourished and vulnerable.

According to him, “today, it is easy to run into students of secondary and higher institutions who are begging on the streets because they used their school fees or tuition to play sports betting. The irony of this scheme is that while the promoters of these sports betting (online and offline) and gaming business sites smile to the bank, such cannot be said of their customers who slide deeper into penury, poverty and hopelessness.

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“According to statistics, about 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sports betting. On average, these punters spend roughly ₦3,000 Naira every day on bets. Almost N2 billion is spent on sports betting daily in Nigeria, which translates to nearly N730 billion in a year.  The get-rich-quick syndrome has exacerbated the gambling epidemic in the country, forcing many young people to think of short cuts to success.

“Gambling addiction leads to other serious effects, including loss of jobs, failed relationships, and severe debt. Effects of gambling is often associated with mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

“Studies have also shown that the warning label on cigarettes introduced by the US Government in 1965, which mandated that cigarette packaging include a warning that smoking cigarettes may be hazardous to health, significantly improved health indicators while smoking rates have dropped dramatically in the United States,” he said.

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