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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Columnist: Ampofo, Aaron Attefa

Betting houses, close your doors to children!!

As a parent, a lover of the fun game ‘football’ and a lover of my country, I have watched with keen interest a lethal weapon of the love for football being raised against innocent Ghanaian children with the emergence of betting houses. Their appearance has taken some of us by surprise. We do not know whether they have always operated underground or they have suddenly sprung up. Once authorities at all levels look on for these outfits to operate openly for this while, one can conclude that they are legal money making business entities and do have every right to operate.

Though cautious of striking the morality chord regarding the involvement of adults in gambling, we are all witnesses to the negative effects gambling has had on some well-known personalities in this country. So, if an adult out of will decides to gamble with his money, car, house, suits, his furniture or the only baby cot in the house, it is the decision of an adult and he or she would live to face the consequences be it good or bad. Neither would I focus my discussion on stories of violent incidences some of these betting houses have recorded within their short lifespan in this country. However, what I find unacceptable is for society and authorities of this nation to look on for betting houses to exploit very little children for monetary gains without recourse to the impact their irresponsible exposure of their business environment could have on the lives of future leaders and with such impunity. How come the doors of many betting houses are widely open to children as if they are classrooms? These children do not only go there to watch European football matches, but also to bet and sit among adults, participate in discussions and comments that may sometimes be very unhealthy for their consumption. They participate in after-parties and virtually everything that goes on in some of these facilities.

After making these observations, I ask myself, “Where did we learn this business from?” Because, I strongly think authorities of countries where the betting businesses thrive do not allow the active participation of children. The question therefore is “why are we doing this to our children?” ‘when did we get here?” and “where are these little ones getting all these monies from?”. “what would happen when they graduate from betting with coins, two and five cedi notes?”. I find this as a day-light robbery in the midst of ever increasing aggressive community of journalists in this country; Not forgetting my renowned sports journalists working across various stations out there. Neither do I believe this is happening on the blind side of the host of NGO’s and other responsible bodies such as the Child Right Activists, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Trade and Industry, nor most Importantly, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. I say this because, apart from the Banks and Micro-Finance Institutions, these betting houses are the next most colorful facilities dotted along our streets and highways and we all see children massing up there.

I do not think our traditional and local authorities, government, the society and all who matter should look on for this to happen. I sincerely recommend that all operations of these betting houses are immediately halted; properly licensed: and properly regulated to protect our innocent children. I further recommend that all the media houses and all sports journalists should embark on a quick crusade to clamp down on the conduct of some of these betting houses. There is the need for education and awareness creation and the media can play a very active role in that regard. Discussing this issue with some friends recently, one of them asked me, ‘where are the parents of these kids?”; a question, we all have several answers to. But parents need to watch out and show some concern for their children and what they do outside home.

Last but not the least, to the authorities, if this is happening on your blind side, please wake up because we need your support to save these children and the future of Ghana. Owners of betting houses who want to do genuine business should be weary of how the managers of their facilities are making the money. You may want to even self-censor your industry so that those of you who are doing genuine business, can exist and do your business. Because, very soon, that small yeast will spoil your dough. Make your money, but not at the expense of the children of this nation. Let us not use the passion for the game to rob innocent children. Football is a game for the disciplined and the disciplined always wins. Don’t spoil the game. Betting Houses discipline yourselves and ‘Say no to children!’.

By: Aaron Attefa Ampofo