High School Gambling in Nigeria: A Problem on the Rise
Research and social interaction have shown that a good percentage of high school students in Nigeria have a serious gambling problem that can lead to psychological difficulties, unmanageable debt and failing grades.
There has been a shift in the cultural perception of gambling today in our society, an activity once viewed as a vice that should be avoided at all costs, is now accepted as a fun activity and to most young people, as a source of income and to the government, a sought-after source of revenue.
Gambling has now become a positive element of financial & economic policy of the government. Some families which before now, will call family emergency intervention if a member is seen or known to be gambling, now encourage their young ones to go out and gamble in order to help the family.
Gambling among young people is fast becoming more popular than smoking or taking drugs. It has become normalized with the newfound freedom of bookmakers, gambling sites etc. to advertise on TV, radio, internet and other media outlets without regard to proper social responsibility.
Even though statistics have shown that younger people are more at risk of problem gambling probably due to cognitive immaturities and less understanding of statistical probabilities, the society itself is failing to protect them from themselves. Gambling operators are now sponsors of youth loving sports events, with beloved sports legends becoming their spokesperson. Influencers and popular comedians and actors are all over social media encouraging irresponsible play even when they have young followers.
Young people can now gamble 24/7 without having to step out of their rooms, or anyone knowing what they are up to. Adult gambling can veer more on accumulated debts, but young children are craftier, they can lose a sense of self in the process, which often lead them on the path of crime or suicide.
Children are now being groomed to gamble especially by those entrusted to protect them.
A speaker at a school sensitization event on underage gambling prevention in Anambra state queried the legal age of 18 in Nigeria as most adolescents at that age still live with and depend on their parents/guardians. She opined that the higher the age the better as older people have a higher level of cognitive perception and should be able to use their own money to gamble.
The question is “will it really make a difference if the legal age is taken up? Will it stop the legally underage from engaging? Will it stop operators from allowing underage to participate?
The reality is that both the young and old experience problem gambling.
What is required is proper regulation, proper dissemination of information. Tackling these issues is everyone’s problem, the operators that directly contribute to the problem, the government that endorse it and the stakeholders that encourage it.