The bitter-sweet side of sports betting

Football fans watch a game on TV. Advancement in technology has made online betting possible, adding to the intrigues of the games.

What you need to know:

The growth of the Internet and mobile devices has made betting generally much more accessible. The increase in use of satellite television has added to football fans’ access to more live coverage of football matches around the world hence increasing interest and opportunity on betting.

Dar es Salaam. As unbelievable as it may sound to many, sports betting has for years been an income source for some Tanzanians.
Betting is not just for the young or the jobless but rather for people of all ages, professions, religions and financial status.
Betting is a worldwide practice; it is a legal and growing industry that involves various stakeholders and players. Three years ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that gambling on football is a huge and growing global industry worth billions of dollars per year.
It is estimated that in both legal and illegal markets, the game is worth between $700 billion and $1 trillion a year.
This booming business has been fueled by continuous advancements in technology that has made online football betting possible. Online betting started in earnest just before the 1998 World Cup.
The growth of the Internet and mobile devices has made betting generally much more accessible. The increase in use of satellite television has added to football fans’ access to more live coverage of football matches around the world hence increasing interest and opportunity on betting.
Like in many other parts of the world, betting has captured the attention and the interest of many Tanzanians. It currently occupies a larger portion of individuals’ daily activities, financial budgeting and pleasure. Current statistics by the Tanzania Gaming Board (TGB) show that there are 2,684 betting stations countrywide, with most of them, about 1,344, being in Dar es Salaam alone.
Betting is a major source of national revenue, hitting Sh1.4 billion a month.
The TGB director General, Mr Abbas Tarimba, said recently that from 2012 to December 2015, the country collected Sh14 billion while providing employment to over 7,000 people.
Tabling the Budget in Parliament on June 9, the Finance Minister, Dr Phillip Mpango, said TGB is expected to collect revenues reaching Sh34.72 billion this year.
Dr Mpango added that the board would contribute Sh2.17 billion to the Treasury in the 2016/17 fiscal year marking the rise of 50 per cent compared to Sh1.44 billion of 2015/16.
Despite this promising profit to the government’s accounts and considering that the money could have been positively invested in productive sector betting has catastrophic setback to individuals.
It wastes the nation’s man power. People engaged in betting waste a great deal of time and financial resources betting for “get rich quick” money, instead of engaging in productive sectors such as agriculture.
Worst still, students are among the people engaging in betting, spending their precious time and wasting their school fees on betting stations. According to reports even when it turns out bad for them they don’t quit as it’s called die-hard game.
Betting is bad for other people as well. There are reports of people mortgaging houses, selling their cars and bankrupting their businesses without a guarantee to win, hoping they will be lucky the next day.
Ms Mwanaidi Salum, an agent at a betting station in Yombo Buza, Temeke, says she has seen the worst of betting right at her workplace. She says betting is as addictive as alcohol and drugs.
She adds that the betting addicts are also called mateja (Kiswahili slang for drug addict). They literally bet everyday of the week, with or without hitting matches. It has become to be their daily routine like eating and sleeping.
Ms Salum explains that they daily receive clients before and after working hours, meaning its betting addicts are from both the formal and the informal sectors.
“It is believed that this infatuation helps in building lives financially, some people build houses, buy fancy cars, hit plenty of clubs for pleasure, pay medical bills, pay school fees for their kids, relatives and themselves, all through betting wins,” she says.
She further says that she has seen some bettors on their lucky day winning as much as Sh30 million, the kind of money  which changes a person’s drastically.
“The lucky days, which happen once in a while is, evidently, what makes people fail to stop involving themselves in betting,” she adds.
A famous saying goes thus: “In betting there is a fool and a thief.” It means that the fool is one who loses and a thief is the one who wins. The idea may be hard to digest especially when one is already into betting but truth is that like traditional gambling the “house never loses”.
The sad news is this obsession with betting erodes self-confidence and makes victims dependent to relatives and their families. They become a wreck financially poor and intellectually bankrupt. Betting kills creativity and innovation because nothing makes less sense than easy money generated from predicting match results.

The odds
Each betting company prepares odds for each football game in the fixture to show how a gambler can benefit from betting on a particular game. The odds are created depending on the performance of both teams, head to head and their current form.
For instance when Manchester United play Hull City those betting for Man U will get low points compared to when Man U play, say, FC Barcelona. The odd for Man U can be 1.2 and for Hull 3.8. This means that if one puts Sh10,000 to Man U and wins, one can get Sh12,000 in return but if one puts the same money to Hull one can get Sh38,000.
In betting one can also predict which team will score the first goal, the half game results and the number of goals they are likely to score in the game. Odds in this category are high and a gambler can win huge sums of money for only betting on just the segment of the football clash.
On the other hand, there are handicap games where the gambler predicts more than five games in one bet. For instance handicap for M-Bet is 12-16 games and a person can win up to Sh20 million in one handicap.
The odds in handicap are high and challenging. One may find only one winner in this category for weeks.
Psychological point of view
When a person takes an addictive drug chemicals travel swiftly through the blood stream into certain key brain regions known as the reward system, which regulates the ability to feel pleasure.
With drug use, the circuitry of this system becomes flooded with dopamine. This brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, activates specific sites on brain cells called receptors to increase pleasure and reward.
Over time, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by decreasing the number of dopamine receptors and the overall amount of dopamine in the brain. Users must then consume more and more of the drug to achieve the same “high.”
Drugs consumption and betting addiction as much as gambling have revealed commonalities in the way that they all act on the brain and the way the brains of addicts respond to such cues. The evidence indicates that betting and gambling activate the brain’s reward system in much the same way that a drug does.
The Chairman of Tanzania Association for Counselors and Psychotherapists (TACP) Mr Heriel Mfangavo told The Citizen that the government has to consider the damage this type  of games causes to the society than the seemingly financial profit it gets.
“The effect of betting addiction majorly distress families than it does to the nation as a whole. It’s effects penetrate into social and psychological platforms that generally affect a normal way of living,” he said.
Furthermore Mr Mfangavo explained that like other addictions, obsession with betting can be treated through therapies; betting addiction can also be worked out following specific series of medication.
Another psychologist Dr Chris Mauki also says betting obsession is as strong as any other addiction.
“The logic behind the psychology of betting addiction is that a human mind refuses to lose at anything and at any price, so when this thought matures with time, the betting becomes unstoppable,” he adds.
Dr Mauki also elaborates that through addictions people lose complete control of their lives, something that is a major setback to national development.
“The government benefits from this business but it must consider the effects the country also suffers from losing capable manpower and the resources spent trying to heal addicts from this nightmare,” he explains.