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It is no secret that Africa loves to gamble. Young or old, male or female, gambling is a generally beloved pastime inmost African countries. Among all 54, there are only a few exceptions. Gambling is illegal in Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau and Burundi, due to their main religion being Islam.

For some time, gambling industry was viewed as an overall net positive in Africa, citing taxation and employment opportunities as its main benefits. But that view has somewhat changed in the past few years. Governments noticed the steady growth of problem gambling and knew there was a cause for concern.

Unfortunately, the realisation did not come fast enough to stop the problem from ballooning any further and now, gambling addiction is a nationwide issue for many African countries. So, what is the situation really like? This article breaks down Africa’s most at-risk gamblers, the problems they face and possible solutions to the issue at hand.

But why is problem gambling dangerous?Gambling addiction blinds people with false hope and then ruins their lives.Poor communities are a good example, where people hope for “the big win” as some form of saving grace. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Instead, they end up losing most of their money, causing them to accumulate more debt. Their relationships crumble, they may lose their tuition or job. In such a situation, many people turn to desperate measures like crime or even suicide.

Gambling addiction can also cause several health problems. Research from all across the world has linked problem gambling to anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, hypertension and heart disease, to name a few.

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Who is most at risk? Typically, it is young people from 10 to 24 years old. Unfortunately, unlike western countries, there has been very little research on problem gambling in Africa. As a result, there is not enough data to get a good understanding of how much underage and illegal gambling occurs in Africa.

From the available data, we can understand that 54% of young people aged 17 to 35, living in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania, gamble regularly. Out of these countries, Kenya has the highest rate of young gamblers (76%), while Ghana has the lowest one (42%).

Why do so many young people gamble in Africa? Well, for starters, gambling is easy to come by in Africa. Even if you don’t have a physical casino or betting shop where you live (which is very unlikely), most people can carry their casinos around wherever they go in their pockets. Mobile and online gambling are incredibly widespread among young people. Despite the misconception that few women gamble, this type of gambling is very popular with women as well. As researchers have discovered,it’s just that women often prefer “closet gambling”, where no one even knows they are playing at all.

Many young people also start gambling either out of peer pressure or because of their family background, if they had a parent or family member who was a gambler. But over 70% of young players said they continue playing for one reason only – money.

In Kenya, 78% of university students gamble, often sacrificing their studies just to have a chance at getting that big win. But in the process, they often risk their tuitions, as well as their well-being.  A sad truth, demonstrated by the fact Kenya’s seen at least five gambling-related suicides in the past few years.

What can we do about this? To find out, we reached out to CasinoGuru, an expert in the online casino industry which offered to share their insight and experience on the topic of problem gambling.

“African countries struggling with problem gambling should start by having their governments o over their gambling regulation, finding and fixing any potential holes that can be exploited by bad casino operators. All the while, they should issue and prolong the gambling licenses of operators who provably run their business legally and responsibly.”

“Additionally, the gambling taxes raised by these operators should be used to set up helplines and therapy centers for problem gamblers, ideally free of charge. South Africa’s National Responsible Gambling Programme has been doing excellent work researching their local gambling addiction problem and working together with their government to create better gambling laws, as well as safety nets for addicted players.”

“Lastly, it’s important to educate the players themselves, as well as the community in general. Gamblers need to understand the risks they take by gambling and be aware that there is help out there, should they need it. Moral guardians like teachers and parents should also be familiar with the signs of problem gambling, so they can notice them and step in before it is too late.”

Time will only show how Africa’s gambling addiction problem develops. But one thing is for certain, with the lives and health of our children, family members and friends at risk, we must not stand by idly.



Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.