Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

18 May 2014

Tanzania: Students' Gambling Craze Worries Parents, Schools

THE mushrooming of betting kiosks in urban areas in the country is worrying parents, guardians and school administrators as students take to gambling with zeal.

In a survey conducted recently by the 'Sunday News,' the general consensus among the majority of the people interviewed was that there is need to have the kiosks regulated to ensure that underage children, especially students, don't bet.

"I know that the Gaming Board of Tanzania (GBT) has the responsibility to regulate these betting joints. However, I am not sure if they know the physical location of the shops and who actually engage in betting.

That's what worries me," Mr Mkuu Akida, a resident of Chang'ombe in Dar es Salaam, said. Mr Akida, a father of three, said he found it particularly distasteful that the shops were in residential areas and sometimes even next to schools, thus luring students to betting.

A resident of Tabata, a suburb of the city, Mr Mubashir Ally, said evidence showed that most of those betting were those aged below 30 years, including primary, secondary, college and university students.

"What defeats me is, if the majority of those betting are students, how do you expect them to concentrate on their studies? I think these shops are another disaster to the future generation and the gaming board needs to act now," he said.

Mrs Koku Rweyemamu, a resident of Sinza A in the city, said much as she appreciated the financial empowerment the shops were giving to the youth, her concern was on the school-going children.

She said it was increasingly becoming evident that the daily pocket money that parents were giving to their children to buy snacks during break was instead going into betting, causing many children to lose concentration in class.

"I have really nothing against the betting shops as long as they are properly regulated and students are not admitted as clients.

My other worry is that these shops may in the long run induce dependency in the youth owing to their habitual acquisition of easy and make them unwilling to fend for themselves when they become adults and that is scary," she said.

Mohamed Mahoud (22), a resident of Mwenge in the city, said introduction of the betting shops was a godsend as they helped people get good money without having to sweat for it.

Narrating his own experience, he said the first time he betted, he spent 1000/- to buy two tickets and ended up winning 1m/-, all of which he spent on a brand new Sony smartphone.

A psychologist at the Institute of Social Work and Deputy Rector, Dr Naftali Ng'ondi, said in an interview with the 'Sunday News' that the fact that more people were engaging in gambling was a worrying trend indeed because it was an indication that they had lost hope in life.

Dr Ng'ondi said that apart from the mushrooming betting kiosks, he had also observed increased gambling in the form of cards, tossing of coins and pool games.

"Looking at the profile of the betters, you will find that most are jobless and gambling offers a respite out of unemployment.

Gambling is being seen as a business, a source of quick money where no energy or skills are required," he said.

The psychologist said that unlike in formal gambling spots such as casinos which are frequented by the rich and famous, the informal spots involve people with no permanent jobs, which may imply that they are involved in illegal acts such as petty theft, adding that organised crime could be taking advantage of the kiosks.

A survey conducted by this paper found out that the betting business is owned by a group of business people of Asian origin based in the Kariakoo area who lease out the machines at a minimum of 200,000/-.

The minimum a person can bet with is 500/-. A GBT senior official told this paper on condition of anonymity that the biggest challenge they were facing was the fact that the popularity of the betting kiosks was catching on like wild fire, besides their being installed in areas the board would not recommend nor approve.

"We recently drew up a strategy to see how best to monitor these mushrooming outlets because it is very possible that they are being erected in squatter areas, near hospitals, schools, places of worship and army barracks - which is contrary to the law," the source said.

The official admitted that supervision was limited to big complexes and that little attention was given to smaller outlets, such as those in Kariakoo area, but hastened to add that plans were underway to involve local government authorities and parents to ensure that gambling rules and regulations were strictly adhered to.

According to the GBT website, some of its statutory functions include granting, issuing, suspending, withdrawing and amendment of gaming licences and any other gaming activities.

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