Gambling is at an all-time high in Nigeria, with Oyo being amongst the most prominent states in the surge.
Every weekend, hundreds of youths troop to betting houses around Ibadan and other big cities to place bets, while thousands more bet on their mobile devices.
Betting remains a very controversial subject in the state, with some conservatives calling for a total ban on such activities, while others have kicked against that idea, pointing to the benefits associated with the betting industry.
Indeed, the gambling industry does have its positives. If properly managed, sports betting and casino companies can generate sizable money for the government via the licensing fees and tax revenue.
Also, the presence of many betting operators into the state has created numerous job opportunities for Oyo youths. Some would even argue that betting has taken the youths off the streets and given them another avenue to make money.
But herein lies the danger.
The quest to make money from betting has driven many youths into betting addiction, hence the clamour for greater control and monitoring of betting activities in the state.
Betting addiction comes with financial, emotional and mental issues, which are not only detrimental to the individual, but also to the people around the person.
In a recent radio tour in the state, Director-General of the Oyo State Gaming Board, Olajide Boladuro, spoke about the organisation’s commitment to curbing irresponsible betting habits, including underage gambling and betting addiction.
“We kick against underage gaming in every form and we have encouraged operators not to allow underage in their gaming centres”, Boladuro said.
“We are already speaking with relevant stakeholders such as a psychologist, medical experts and researchers in some educational institutions in the state to facilitate the rehabilitation of addicted gamblers…”, he continued.
During the OYGB’s annual stakeholders forum in September 2022, the DG reiterated the board’s cause to tackle underage gambling, warning that operators caught in the malpractice risk a three-year jail term and a N500,000 fine.
As Boladuro pointed out, the fight against irresponsible gambling practices isn’t just that of the government and regulatory bodies.
Parents must pay extra attention to their children to ensure that they don’t engage in underage betting, while educational and religious bodies also have roles to play.
Media houses must be very selective in when and how they promote gambling advertisements, while the operators must take greater responsibility in cleaning up their services.
The best bookmakers, some of which are shown on this list on My Betting Sites Nigeria, already have strong responsible gambling measures in place, but other bookies must also take such features on board.
It is the task of the Oyo State Gaming Board to ensure that licences are only issued to companies that have strong responsible gaming policies.
Even if the government tried to ban gambling, as recommended by some groups, that is very unlikely to work. In fact, that may be counterproductive as people find illegal and unsafe ways to gamble.
Besides, the government would be unwise to pass off on the huge revenue coming in from the industry.
The industry does need better control, and that responsibility falls on all stakeholders involved.