Jokes apart, there is a reason, gambling was restricted to grown-ups only. Studies have shown that those most at risk of developing problematic gambling are young adults, which is often attributed to perceptive immaturities. Also younger people tend to be more swayed by societal influences, including that of family and friends, and they also tend to continue gambling even when faced with harmful consequences.
This begs the question, does young people that is so eager, to make easy money through gambling, know the risks and the long term implications?
Online gambling especially sportbetting has become an increasingly popular feature of youth culture in recent times. It has become a normalized aspect of sports fandom for youth demographics, more especially now that company policies and technological advances have made it easier, to bet on sporting events. You play in the comfort of your home; you win some money and you feel like ‘I have got this’ am the man now, so you bet some more, you justify all losses, and tell yourself that you will win it all back, next time.
Effects of Un-regulated Advertising
The liberalization on advertising of gambling products, free bet incentives and in-play promotions on sports gambling platforms and on the internet; has given rise to an industry, promoting gambling as a way of life; a risk-free leisure and money making activity. However, what is being down played, is the fact that gambling, meant to be a form of entertainment, can escalate to full blown addiction, which can be a gateway to financial, emotional, psychological and mental difficulties.
Before you know it; you are lying, cheating, stealing and manipulating people for money. It’s easy and legal to place bets, and so who is stopping you, who is actually checking to see if you are up to the legal age to place bets (18 is the legal age in Nigeria); when you can conveniently bet, using your smart phones, on a 24/7 basis, right in your bedroom with no one knowing what you are up to.
Even most of those up to the legal age to bet are still vulnerable, especially those in the late teens and early 20s. The appetite for sports betting in the country, especially on football events, is quite over whelming. According to statistics, over 60 million youths between the ages of 18-40 placed bets on outcome of sports events in 2020 alone. It is therefore not rocket science to say that the risk of addiction is higher for young adults, especially those who bet on sports.
Effects of Gambling from a Young Age
When young people are introduced to gambling at an early stage, the risk of developing a gambling problem later on is very high, and this can lead to a lot of difficulties, even suicide. In some schools today, there are topics of sex education, drug and alcohol abuse, but it’s like society is mute on the consequences of gambling, even with its prevalence among the youths. The laissez faire attitude towards the effect of gambling, is one of the reasons young people underestimate the addictive nature of sports betting and other forms of gambling.
The federal and state government in the country, are now so heavily involved in gambling activities and the prospective tax revenue it will generate, that they are in the highest court in the land (Supreme Court) fighting over the right to legislate and tax the industry. They have made gambling to become this positive element of financial/economic policy for the people and the government; however, when people become addicted, the blame often falls on the individual (blaming it all, on moral weakness or lack of willpower or even lack of parental guidance) rather than on an industry whose advertising and marketing, including bonuses and risk-free trials, are targeted more, to young and vulnerable people.
Also, what about the government that legalized gambling on sports, as a new source of revenue and jobs, but fail to put adequate structures and policies in place to protect its people that are targeted, from the adverse effects of what is being promoted. It should not be all about maximizing profits, but rather more on “balancing the costs and benefits.”
Many young adults have embraced gambling and sports betting as a new social tradition. It has become so acceptable that it is advertised all over the place; on billboards, comedians’ online skits, by social media influencers and sporting and music icons etc. as a normal part of life. Some adverts even allude to the fact that you are losing out, if you haven’t participated in the bet, they are brandishing about.
We should not lose sight of the fact that online sports gambling has significant public health implications, particularly for the youth demographics. Policymakers in the country should therefore, consider stronger regulation of gambling-related advertising and sponsorship in sport, independent risk assessments of sports gambling products and a practical commitment to safeguarding young people, from gambling-related harm.