By Sailu Bah
Two days after the announcement of the executive order from the Office of the President banning gambling and game betting in the country issued on 2 March, this reporter went around in the Kanifing Municipality to find out what possible impact this development may have on those who were involved in it, in particular, and on society, in general.
Alieu Jagne, a middle aged man, who revealed he was involved in game betting as a means of earning income to sustain his family, said the move is devastating as it leaves them with no legitimate means of survival.
He said the ban was sudden and did not allow them time to adjust or find other ways of earning a living.
“The reason that the government advanced that pupils absent themselves from school and spent their lunch money at game betting places can be easily addressed without resorting to a blanket banning of all gaming places as children bet in football games in video clubs. Adults are doing this openly in order to be able to feed the children and pay their schools fees, etc,” he explained.
Mr. Jagne called on the authorities to reconsider the decision which he said “will be doing more harm than good to families.”
He further argued that it is basically the lack of meaningful employment that pushes him to engage in game betting, adding that if there is any other legitimate thing for him to do to earn income then he would readily quit betting and embrace it.
A staff of Premium Betting Game said the government ban came as a shock to all of them as it was never expected.
“We thought the business is a legally registered entity and was doing something lawful and as such would not be closed just like that without notice or court order after having defaulted on something,” he said.
He said they have employed about 600 workers at their 14 branches around the country and who are all going to lose their jobs.
“Imagine the economic impact this closure will have on 600 families who are going to be deprived of income for their survival!” he noted.
He added that many young men are employed by the company and some of whom would have been venturing the so-called “back way journey” to Europe in search of greener pastures or to be engaged in night life in the case of the women.
“These betting games have almost eliminated street gambling which often goes with violence and crime,” he claimed.
He expressed hope that government will urgently look into the issue and reverse the decision as so much is at stake with regards to the livelihood of many families.
As for one Muhammed Jallow of Serrekunda, he welcomes the move, arguing that gambling is unreligious. When asked whether to lay off so many family ‘breadwinners’ without providing alternative engagements for them is the right decision for a government to take, he admitted that families are going to suffer but insisted that it is the duty of government to stop what is “haram and un-Islamic”.
“I am a supporter of the government but do not agree with it in this decision. It should informed the public about its intention in advance before making this abrupt decision without considering the negative impact that it will have on some families whose livelihood depend on the income they earn as workers in the betting game business,” said Amadou Sanneh, a betting game kiosk attendant.
Nyima Kanteh, another kiosk attendant, also confirmed that the move puts her out of work and will make life difficult for her to support her parents and two children.