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General News of Friday, 22 July 2016


Child gambling: Authorities urged to step up fight

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A call has been made by various individuals in the country for greater attention to be focused on the activities of online sports betting companies as schoolchildren, usually minors, have taken to gambling, though the laws of the country proscribe persons below 18 from such activities.

Sports betting, which includes making predictions about football matches in the top leagues of Europe, usually, sees persons placing bets on the outcome of games, which, if successful, results in a win of thousands of cedis.

The trend is catching on with a lot of the youth who see it as a quick means of making cash. And its other ‘pull’ factor for the young is that the bets are placed on a computer, a more agreeable method of gambling for the youth compared to traditional lotto, preferred by the older generation, where staking is done in kiosks, explain Nana Yaw and Kwadwo Boateng, two former gamblers who shared their experiences on Accra100.5FM on Ghana Yensom Friday July 22.

According to Kwadwo, he was convinced by a friend in 2011 to try the “modernised form of lotto” as the chances of winning were high – given betting only involved predicting the winner of a match – and cost little.

He said he used to spend an average of GHS50 on bets a week but realised that he often lost his bets and, after being involved in the habit for two years, kicked the habit in 2013, realising he had lost so much money.

According to Nana Yaw, wagering on scores was addictive – getting a single prediction wrong from a long list of correctly forecast scores made an entire bet a losing one, and waverers often threw more money after new bets to recoup what they had lost. But often, he said, such monies were never recovered.

He added that sometimes, with only a few minutes into a game on which bets have been placed, the score line makes their predictions and bets headed for a loss, a situation which compels them to return to the betting centre to amend the bet or stake a new one with an even greater amount to recover what has been lost.

“Once you are in it, a point is reached where you cannot extricate yourself, except with God’s intervention,” he told host Chief Jerry Forson.

Confirming the words of the two men, a lady who works as a teller at a sports betting centre in Accra, Bernice, said a lot of the youth stake from as low as GHS2 from 7:30am until 10:00pm and add more to amend their bets if predictions begin to go in an undesirable direction. She said a GHS2 winning stake could fetch up to GHS1000, though she was quick to admit that betters often lost.

“Mostly winning is difficult; once in a long while they (gamblers) get their predictions right. But winning is rare,” she revealed.

However, Bernice added that on the occasion that a big winning is registered by a better, the company loses a lot.

She also stated that often the young gamblers place all the money they had on them on bets, sometimes having to fall on the tellers for money for transportation back home.

Contributing to the discussion, Mr. Bright Appiah, Executive Director of Child Rights International and board member of the Global Campaign for Education, said more than half of patrons at sports betting centres were children of school-going age who had found themselves in gambling due to the lack of checks by the appropriate agencies.

“Because the system is loose, it makes everybody think the shortest possible way to make money is to get involved in betting, so children have also joined,” he observed.

He said for that reason there was the need to “draw the line” to ensure children were not caught up in such activities while the youth should be impressed upon not to have an interest in gambling as it would lead them to believe it was the only means of making legitimate money.

He called on the Gaming Commission and other stakeholders to take steps to enforce the regulation that minors should stay away from such centres. Mr Appiah said that responsibility should not be left to betting centres since operators were motivated by profit, hence would not do their part to check underage persons from gambling.

He asked the Gaming Commission to “come out” and “put its house in order” saying: “If the laws of the state provide that whatever we do in this nation should be in the best interest of the child and you are serving as the advisory body in that sector to government, I think you should be able to do it and if you are not able to do it, I think there is a problem with that.”

He reserved some criticism for some parents who had shirked their “very critical” roles and had let their children loose.

David Ofori Acheampong, the General Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) blamed increased gambling among pupils on general social decay due to westernisation. According to him, because Ghanaian society had placed emphasis on making money, glorifying the well-to-do without questioning their sources of wealth, children had picked up on the mentality, while parents frowned on their children being disciplined by other adults, for which reason children were getting out of control.

He said the nation needed to prioritise education if it wanted to see an end to some undesirable attitudes being adopted by schoolchildren, including gambling. He said teachers currently had their “hands tied behind us” regarding reining errant children at such centres as they feared being cited for human rights abuse.

Mr. Godwin Mensah, a Dep. Dir Department of Social Welfare, also said the issue was down to broken homes, irresponsible parenting, and a desire for money by children. He said: “Many children have made up their minds not to work and some parents do not want to take proper care of their children.”

Madam Victoria Appiah, a parent and social worker, also attributed the phenomenon to a lack of monitoring by parents. He said with current trends, mothers and fathers now worked away from home, with children taking advantage of the situation to be involved in vice, including running away from school or completely skipping school to engage in gambling.

Ms. Appiah added that unlike in the past when children had the chance to work during vacation to earn some money, a combination of laziness on children’s part and a lack of jobs in current times contributed to the desire to resort to betting to make quick cash.

She urged authorities to take urgent action on the situation to prevent young gamblers from descending into other social vices such as internet fraud. Ms Appiah further appealed for greater teacher-parent interactions to ensure improved supervision of children.

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