o lately Malawians on the streets have become a gambling lot. A look at our trading centres, towns and cities reveal that many people, especially young people, have taken to gambling as a hobby. Even some old men and women are getting deeply engrossed in the gambling business.
Sometimes, you even hear couples discuss gambling options. A wife on one hand pushing for a BTS bid while the husband on another wants a straight win bet. Interesting, isn’t it?
You see, we on the street, remember how gambling in our villages and townships used to attract police officers. Kamuzu Banda did not condone gambling as he believed it brings laziness in people. Gambling or juga would take place in dark alleys in the gutter and often end with a fist fight or stabbings. Ghetto gambling was dirty.
But these days, people can gamble in well furnished kiosks and beautiful outlets. Even those operating under the trees, brandish huge trade-marked umbrellas of betting companies so that clients can bet in comfort. Also one no longer need to look over their shoulders in fear of the police as these days gambling addicts share the betting bench with men in uniform who are also part of the betting craze. How times have changed.
But what does this tell you? Why are so many of our young people taking to betting as a hobby? The gamblers themselves say it’s because of the quick money. As one of them recently said: “It’s legal, easy to play and easy to win.” Some jobless youths say, gambling has replaced unemployment. They say, each bet ticket offers them an opportunity to win some money.
However, we on the street think, largely, poverty is the main reason. Just walk into a gambling kiosk and look around the type of gamblers, you will see so many, who are unemployed, holding the bet ticket.
In the absence of jobs and capital for business, men and women have crafted out survival means through gambling where, they take risks but of course, that pays off in the end.
It’s true, that the coming in of registered gambling companies has filled the void of unemployment. Now, a woman can leave her township such as Chilobwe, Biwi or Zolozolo for town where she spends the whole day gambling and come back home with money to buy her children some food.
Gambling companies have always existed in this country but, some of them have been in places exclusively patronised by the rich in society such as business tycoons, chief executive officers and bankers. The casino!
But the new gambling companies have done the opposite. Instead of hiding in poshy places inaccessible by the majority poor, they have opened up to everyone, irrespective of class. Some can be accessed on mobile phones. Isn’t that interesting?
Our view is that gambling is supposed to be a social activity; a form of entertainment and not a source of income. However, conversely, the way we look at it, gambling has almost become a source of income to many, even those that are duly employed. So, the question still is, why are Malawians turning to gambling as a means of survival?
Understandably while the poor gamble to escape poverty, the rich gamble to increase their fortune. You see, there seems to be no limit to a person’s pursuit for money. If it were so, stinkingly rich people would not be so strict with managing their wealth.
Interestingly, as already said, most participants are the youth who are in majority. These are school leavers and dropouts with little opportunities of employment or doing business. You see, it is one thing gambling when you are employed or doing business to earn money to supplement your income but it is another to gamble because your life depends on it; these young men and women gamble due to poverty. Yet, as already said, gambling is supposed to be a social activity and not a source of income. That explains why they lament when the gamble has not gone their way. It is as if all hell has tumbled on them. Why? Because in that gamble, there is that hope of earning a dime that will change their lives for better.
All we on the streets are saying is that our leaders have betrayed the youth by not creating more opportunities for them through which they can earn a living. Forget about youth policies that are embellished in sweet words on paper but are not implemented on the ground. If you want you know what we mean, just walk into one gamble kiosk like that and see how the youth are condemned to gazing at screens all day for lucky numbers or animals chasing one another for nothing.