Inside a local betting hall in the bustling town of Serekunda, Muhammed Njie, 26, is glued to a study board showing payout dividends and other information he hopes will help him bet wisely. The floor is littered with betting receipts and logs.
Muhamed started football betting last year after trying in vain to get a job. Sports betting has become a trending issue among Gambia’s unemployed youths, and today Muhamed best embodies the gambling culture beguiling the young people. In betting, he found an easy way to get money. It has become his way out of poverty. With his winnings between D4000 and D7000, he instantly became his family’s breadwinner.
“I have to bet every day to put food on the table,” he tells The Chronicle.
Muhammed lives at home with his mother and three sisters.
“Unless I bet, I’d keep relying on my mother to get money. At my age, it is not appropriate to still be asking my mother for money. The only option is betting.”
Muhamed is both winning and losing in betting and he’s now worried about the future and his addiction to gambling. On a daily basis, he sees other young people gambling their lives away. He has realised that dreams are made at betting centers, but hopes are also shattered there.
“Relying on betting for income is stressful,” he says. “Young people like me should be engaged in a more decent job instead of betting.”
In 2015, the Gambian government banned gambling, denouncing the gambling industry as “exploitative”. A statement from the presidency said the government acted to prevent youth from becoming a generation of addicts.
“Gambian society has been built on the foundations of promoting positive social values like thrift and integrity rather than negative ones like greed and avarice.”
“Therefore, it is the duty of the Gambia government to safeguard and promote the public welfare of our citizens,” the statement from President Yahya Jammeh’s office said
Since the change of regime in 2017, casinos and gaming centres have been reopened and they’ve since mushroomed across the major entertainment and commercials areas.
However, with the youth unemployment rate at around 41.5% in the country, Muhammed’s hope is that the government will create employment opportunities for the young people to keep them away from betting.