By Lawrence Tichaona Mangenje
Odds, home side, away side — such is the vocabulary of those with a knack for gambling and one thing in particular they will tell you is that the transition from poverty to prosperity can happen in the blink of an eye.
But conventional wisdom has it that wealth can only be achieved through hard work and perseverance.
The phrase “get rich or die trying”, which somewhat encourages people to strive to work hard in order to achieve greatness, is not a favourite line for betting enthusiasts.
To them soccer betting is the most preferred route.
All the gamblers have to do is correctly predict the outcome of soccer matches played across the globe, invest a dollar or more and stand a chance to win $100 000.
A survey carried out by this writer revealed that gambling is now regarded as one of the most favoured occupations among unemployed youths who are trying to make a quick buck.
However, a closer analysis of the industry shows that losing is the order of the day for most of these fortune seekers.
Robert Mugombe (37), a devotee of soccer betting, shared his disappointment. He recently betted on eight matches and seven of them came out correctly, save for the Chelsea-Crystal Palace game in the English Premier League. After failing to win a potential payout of $6 000, he was devastated. “Thinking about that money is driving me insane, and it will for a very long time. I was so close to scooping $6 000. I am even contemplating quitting gambling.’’ said Mugombe.
While some punters never lose hope of one day scooping the coveted prize, some have come to realise that betting is a wild goose chase.
Lionel Makume from Mazowe, quit betting and says sports betting only profits those who own betting houses.
“Most, if not all the people who bet lose. Betting houses are selling fake dreams to gamblers, taking advantage of their desperation. No one has ever won that $100 000 but those who run the betting business always invent ways of keeping their victims anticipating,” he said.
After this “realisation”, Makume says: “The best way to win with betting is to not bet at all.”
The effects of betting are not only in losing money, but can also be damaging to one’s lifestyle.
Simon Chihota (not real name), a sales clerk at one of Africa Bet’s branches in Harare’s central business district, said the effort gamblers make to scoop that coveted amount was slowly turning into a dangerous obsession.
“The desire to win a huge amount with just a dollar has become an obsession for many people. For some it has affected their relationships with their families.
In worst scenarios, some gamblers lie that they have lost relatives so as to raise money for betting,’’ he said.
Despite working in the betting business, Chihota is well aware of its fake glimmers.
“Losing is the order of the day because no one has ever won a substantial amount. Betting houses sell a fake dream, that’s why they are still in business.
Getting rich overnight is impossible, but gamblers don’t believe that,” he said.
For Chihota, betting is another form of distraction for unemployed youths. It makes them forget about the ravages of living life as loafers.
“People lose money every day, but they continue to come because they have nothing to do. They don’t have any other means of seeking money since there is low employment,’’ he added.
Gambling in Zimbabwe is regulated by the Lotteries and Gambling Board, in accordance with the Lotteries and Gambling Act of 2000, so for many gamblers, the activity might not necessarily be glamorous, but it is at least legal.
A social worker, Greater Tatenda Makuyana, said gambling leads to irresponsible behaviour.
“Generally, youths will compensate for losses by placing more bets, which leads to a snowball effect resulting in major losses,” Makuyana said.
“More so, there is a tendency of blinding one’s judgement as they live on the edge. Failure to assess risks due to increased irrationality will cause more losses, which leads to depression, hot tempers, getting easily agitated or even suicidal thoughts in worst scenarios,” she added.
Makuyana said getting addicted to gambling was very easy.
“Gambling, just like cocaine, is very addictive. Once one has had a taste of it, it’s very hard to quit. It is taking too much of our youths’ time as they spend most of the day in betting shops rather than doing something productive,’’ explained Makuyana.
“The drawback of the effects of gambling is that counselling and rehabilitation services are not easily accessible to the majority of the people of Zimbabwe,’’ she said.
For some, nonetheless, betting is defensible because of life-changing experiences.
Zvikomborero Zimhondi (28) shared the experience of his betting colleague whose life was saved because of gambling.
“A friend of mine had an operation at a private hospital after suffering for a long time with stomach complications. That was after winning $3 500 and had that not happened, chances are that he could have died because there was no other way he could have got that money,” he said.
Zimhondi said one cannot be separated from gambling after such a watershed experience.
“Of course, that person owes his life to gambling, so he will never stop. He is also not the only one whose life was changed by it, some have been lucky enough to win and even open businesses,” he explained.
Gamble to accumulate wealth or do it the conventional way of working hard and persevering? The choice is yours.