By Panashe Kaletu
Betting and gambling have entrenched themselves into the very fabric of Zimbabwean society, offering a tantalising opportunity for financial gain amidst the backdrop of economic instability and soaring unemployment rates.
The fervour for betting is unmistakable. Betting establishments consistently teem with a diverse cross-section of society, including vendors, the mahwindi transport conductors, and even police officers. While some see this as an alternative income source, it is crucial to acknowledge this burgeoning epidemic of betting addiction and its grave consequences.
From an economic standpoint, betting may indeed represent an additional avenue for income. While strictly speaking, gambling or lottery winnings may not fit the conventional definition of income, for the purposes of this article, let us consider them as such. Betting shops, with MWOS taking the lead, have become a second home for many, with patrons frequenting them daily, often well into the late hours, and sometimes even until dawn.
Yet, as appealing as the prospect of supplementary income may be, the darker side of betting addiction is real.
There is a certain allure to betting. Many see it as a full-time income source. Some punters devote entire days to betting, clinging to the hope of striking it rich. However, the charm of these betting houses often masks the harsh reality.
The repercussions of this addiction extend far and wide, resulting in financial ruin and emotional distress. Instances of individuals resorting to extreme measures, such as suicide, job loss, or even criminal involvement, due to losses incurred in soccer betting, are regrettably not uncommon.
To illustrate the gravity of this issue, let me recount the story of an acquaintance who succumbed to the siren call of betting. This individual, previously gainfully employed, lost his job after recklessly squandering a loan on betting. Desperation drove him to borrow from colleagues, but his losing streak persisted, ultimately leading to his dismissal.
He exhausted his entire monthly salary on betting, even resorting to selling his phone to fund his addiction, all while lying to his family that he had been robbed of both money and phone on his way home. His once-thriving egg retailing partnership crumbled under the weight of his insatiable betting habit. He even diverted his sister’s tuition fees to betting, deceitfully claiming to be investing in a business opportunity. However, his dual life as a betting shop regular ultimately led to the depletion of his sister’s education fund.
These are merely a few examples of the devastating consequences of betting addiction. While these stories may seem exceptional, they are not isolated incidents.
Betting has a psychological grip on its victims. The thrill of placing a bet, the excitement of uncertainty, and the tantalising prospect of a life-altering win coalesce into a potent cocktail of addiction. The human brain, driven by the release of dopamine, becomes ensnared in a cycle of anticipation, fostering compulsive behavior that is difficult to break.
If you “must” bet, here are some practical strategies to help mitigate the risk of falling into the clutches of addiction:
1. Diversify your income: never rely solely on betting. if you find yourself unemployed, seek alternative income-generating avenues.
2. Monitor your betting habits: Regularly assess your betting patterns and be honest with yourself about any signs of addiction.
3. Set a personal budget: Establish a strict betting budget and adhere to it rigorously. Do not exceed the limits you have set.
4. Avoid high stakes: Never wager more than you can afford to lose. Responsible betting necessitates keeping your bets within your financial means.
5. Take breaks: Even when the odds appear enticing, it is crucial to take regular breaks from betting to maintain control over your impulses.
Betting addiction poses a very real and present danger, capable of leading to financial ruin, emotional turmoil, and strained relationships. While it may seem like an additional income source, it should never take control of your life. Always remember that the excitement of a bet is fleeting, while the consequences of addiction can be enduring and devastating.
Stay vigilant, stay responsible, and stay in control.
Panashe is an economist, researcher and writer. He can be contacted on email@example.com or @pankal04 on X