Confessions of a betting addict

Two bettors read the listings of the day at a betting hall.

What you need to know:

THE GAMBLER. Betting is like a disease though initially it is fun, and it is very difficult to stop. One betting addict took Christine W. Wanjala through a typical week.

It was quite shocking when it became apparent that many people that bet are unwilling to openly discuss that bit about their lives. “It is personal. I cannot just share it in the media,” one said curtly gathering his fixture lists and moving to another part of the betting hall.
“I do not bet that much,” said one man I had cornered at an internet café right next to a betting outlet. He was looking at fixtures for the past one hour and when the network slowed down he would pull them up on his iPad. Even the one who was willing to speak did not want his face next to a story about betting. “Do you want my relatives to think that I make my money from betting?” he asked me.
He was the first to admit betting is like a disease though initially it is fun, and he also admits it is very difficult to stop. But why am I saying it for him? Here it is from the horse’s mouth. Simon Kasule.
“It is not only the idle loafers who bet, nor is it limited to bodaboda cyclists. I’m employed by a corporate company and I bet. Bettors come from all walks of life. You will never see me queuing at a betting hall because most betting companies have online provisions where you open an account and bet from the comfort of your swivel chair. I have accounts with three different betting companies.

How I started
I first placed a bet after seeing a friend do it and win. I know and love my sport and thought I could do better than him. It is four years now. On average I bet almost daily because I feel I bet what I can afford to lose.
The highest amount of money I have ever staked in one day was Shs250, 000.It was on eight football games and I stood to win Shs 2,000,000. I lost and have become cautious henceforth.
Now, I stake between Shs50,000 to Shs70,000 every day. I don’t win all the time. When I lose, it does not hurt that much. I can lose Shs200,000 today then win Shs500, 000 tomorrow.

His take on others
Has he seen others lose huge amounts of money? “Yes I have. Bettors never reveal how much they have lost. They hide the receipts. Betting online gives one the privacy to come to terms with a loss without anyone’s knowledge. They will only share figures when they win. But I have heard of one case where somebody lost Shs30m in one fell swoop after staking it on several bets online. A banker had taken a loan. When it was time to pay, he borrowed another Shs22m from a relative and instead of paying; he played it and lost again. He ended up taking his life.

It starts like fun then…
One can lose much but it becomes like an obsession, a disease which one cannot stop or control. I would not advise anyone to start. It is not a very good place to be. I do not bet when I have no disposable income. The longest I have ever gone without betting was two weeks. I was trying to stop but in vain.
Despite knowing all this, winning gives me an incomparable exhilarating rush.
Some people who think betting is an easy money-making venture and think it is a money-doubling scheme, but a bonafide bettor chases the thrill of winning.
I feel good, even if I win Shs20, 000. I have not won the colossal amounts I have heard other bettors talk about. My highest winnings always oscillate between Shs700,000 to Shs1m.
One particular week last year, I won thrice in the same week amounts ranging from Shs1m to Shs3000, 000. I know someone who won Shs38m after staking Shs1,000. Another won Shs28m after staking about Shs5m.
The harsh reality is that you could win today and never again throughout the year.

What it takes
I do research and bet carefully. On an average day I devote three hours researching online as I familiarise with the smallest teams in the smallest leagues as long as they appear on the listings. I prefer to spread my money over several days.
I feel like the more consistent I am, the higher chances are to win. I try to smell out the games that could be fixed. Match fixing is a major inconvenience to a bettor, it makes me lose money and meddles with the game of chances.
I know betting companies are also out to make money and my loss is their win and vice versa. I’m not proud that I bet but it is an effort to make abnormal profits from one of the most difficult ways. A game of chances. But tell me to stop betting, I will not.

Whether I bet on Monday depends on how the weekend went. Usually, it is teams in the smaller leagues playing and I am wary of them because they are easier to approach and to convince to throw a match.
I give betting a pass on most Mondays because there are always rude shocks and I lose money. But I had a good feeling about this Monday. I staked about Shs30, 000 on some small teams, I raked in Shs100, 000 which was not bad for a day I had written off as uninteresting.

The odds on Tuesdays are usually attractive to bettors because the championship games are on. But at this stage, there is usually just one important game and so people do not bet that much. Earlier in the season there are so many games to stake on. When Arsenal played West Ham, Arsenal was the probable winner. I staked Shs50,000 on it and three other teams from Belgium Hungary and Ukraine. My teams won and I bagged Ushs200, 000. I would have liked to make more, those are small pickings, but at least I got something.

These are full of shocks. There were big games with two big teams each playing smaller teams. It looked almost too easy. Everyone bet on the two big teams. They both lost. I was lucky I had not bought that receipt on a hunch so I did not win or lose.
But I had another ticket where I had bet on some teams in Portugal and Sweden. The odds were big so I staked only Shs50,000. I was not sure of the results but I won an amount in the neighbourhood of Shs 400,000.

I am fired up! The week had been good so far and while I have not won big, I have not lost either. When the Europa League is on, there are very few games across the world to stake on. Still I looked for a few small games and staked another Shs50,000. This time I distributed the money on two tickets. I did not win anything. I go to bed thinking about the tomorrow’s odds.

This is usually a busy day in the betting and football world. The games are many. It is also one of the most difficult days to win .Most of the games are between teams in the lower leagues and since these are vulnerable to match fixing the outcome is almost always a shock.
After a lot of deliberation, I bet Shs70, 000 on some English teams. I lost on all of them.

I have not won anything in two days. The only way to ensure I get closer to winning is to keep playing. Carefully, I select my eight teams after buying my receipt. This one runs into Sunday and I stand to win big. Saturday goes by as I wait for all the teams to finish playing. I was right about the first teams but I cannot relax yet. One game can cost me a lot. You can get all the games right and missing your win because of one game. It is very frustrating. I go to bed restless as I wait for the remaining games tomorrow.

The last game on my ticket is played. I won Shs526, 000.The winning margin is not that big. Still it has not been a bad week overall and this has boosted my confidence. But there is next week. One thing for sure betting is that there are no guarantees!

A rehab for gamblers

In 2007, the first licensed sports betting company opened shop in the country. Seven years later, it is reported that the country has more than 200 licensed and unlicensed companies. Going by the media stories, adverse effects of betting have increased as much as the habit. Calls have been made for the redress of the situation.
Ezra Rubanda, 36, one of the Ugandans who have heeded to such calls is convinced of the need to remedy the negative impact this has created on the Ugandan society.
“The problem is we wait for the West to identify our problems, find solutions, and fund the projects to implement the solutions,” he says in a husky voice.
Rubanda is the Executive Director of Gamble Aware Uganda(GAU), a non-governmental organisation founded last year to; counsel and rehabilitate gaming addicts, sensitise members of the public, help punters who are cheated by the bookmakers.
The NGO’s office does not strike as one where folks who have lost their lives to gambling are revitalised. It is filled with computers and youthful people typing away. I expected the victims of gaming gathered around say a counsellor, taking notes.

How to deal with victims
Rubanda explains; “One of the means of dealing with gambling is by scheduling alternative activities at the times one is most likely to gamble. We engage some of the people we are helping in computer tasks such as typing out the NGO’s documents or we urge them to read online. This helps to refresh their mind set. When it is time for the counselling sessions, they leave their computers and take part. You have to keep an eye on each to monitor their progress.” Rubanda reveals negative effects of betting on society as he explains the root cause.

Effects of gambling
He says back in the day, gambling was a reserve for casinos.
“Admission to the casinos was restricted. Gaming was like a reserve of the rich. Thus the effect on society was negligible because few Ugandans engaged in it,” he explains, adding that; “We have sports betting, the betting companies have branches in almost all corners of Uganda. Also, making bets is popular among both the low and high income earners, especially the former. One can stake Shs2,000. The consequence is that it has created a mind-set that we have termed as “short termism”; thus, one would rather place a daily bet with hope of winning money, than work and wait for salary.”
He argues that the betting companies have not helped the situation since they have not undertaken efforts to sensitise the masses about the rules, pros and cons of betting. Rubanda says, “It is this ignorance the companies take advantage of to harvest abnormal profits from the naïve punters.”
His major cause of concern are the secondary losses that come with people losing bets such as broken families and dropping out of school. He says these challenges drove him to starting up GAU which receives 15 to 20 new cases of people in quest of help from their gaming addiction. Majority are low income earners between 20 to 40 years.
“In the next five years, I hope to have opened offices in the different regions of the country,” Rubanda concludes.

Former betting addict
My name is Enock Junju, 19 years old and a former student of St Leonards Secondary School, Maddu in Mpigi District. In 2012, I was slated to join Senior Three. It was routine for my parents to give me tuition which I would deposit in the bank before going to school. In that year, a relative and school mate who was aware that I had the money for school fees, took advantage and introduced me to betting. His assurance that I was going to win, recover the school fees money and top up my upkeep made the scheme enticing.

I staked Shs220, 000 of the Shs270, 000 that I had been given and lost. I got scared. I had not contemplated losing and its after effects. I could neither go to school nor back home. I chose to hide at a cousin’s place. Despite the fact that my peers were at school, he was unbothered. News of my hiding reached my mother and she found me.
She severely punished and virtually disowned me. I got hurt that I had dropped out of school as much as I dreamt of becoming a doctor. I resorted to betting more money hoping to raise a substantial amount to get back to school. This was in vain. Towards the end of last year, I met Ezra Rubanda who asked me to visit his office. I have since been counselled and helped to stay away from placing a bet. I will never indulge in sports betting again. There is no gain in it.

Getting help
When someone walks into the GAU offices, his name is registered and his level of addiction is assessed. It is the results that determine the therapy to be administered. Rubanda says some addicts can be rehabilitated in three weeks and for others it can take as long as three months. Services are free except people who seek training on how to manage the money they win from betting. Rubanda says word about their services has been carried around by the former punters that have benefitted from GAU’s services.