I once worked as a Bet9Ja agent in one of the Bet stores somewhere in Lagos. Our customers range from 18-70 years, or even outside the range, as there was no other way of telling the age of those who never disclosed anything in one of those bragging moments typical of your everyday Nigerian. Every week day, but mostly weekends, they all try to become millionaires by outwitting the system and predicting correctly the outcome of various sports across the globe. Volleyball, Tennis, Rugby, Basketball, Football, Golf, Ice Hockey, Darts, NMA, Crickets, Bandy, Snooker, Table Tennis, Snooker, Water Polo, etc., are some of the games bets are placed on.
There are both the fast and slow or normal bets. The slow bets are the bets you stake for a match that is not played immediately but on weekends or later in the day. You simply have to wait for the match or game to be over to cash out(cash out? Lol). It involves live games on TV. The fast bets are the games that are played few moments or even immediately you stake. By the way, to ‘stake’ means to bet. The fast bet is not played by real human teams but by virtual teams. Here you predict the outcome of a computer simulated game. In Lagos, it is called ‘Baby’ by the disciples of the faith.
On so many occasions I have seen the fast bets wreck a man. I’ve seen a demonic transformation of a happy human being to an angry object only looking for excuses to fight or wreck havoc. Because you are paid cash instantly, if you win, all true gamblers engage in a fast bet as they wait for the real games in slow bet to be played. This is where bet9ja destroys a man with his consent. Here, instead of winning instantly, they lose instantly. In 20 minutes 20 Thousand Naira or even more could be drained. My last customer, before I quit the job, lost about 14k(and owed about N3k) given to him by the family to buy foodstuffs. No, he was not a boy or a teenager but a grown man with firm beards.
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Please note. Bet9ja is used as a metonymy here. It is not the general name for all the various bets that run across Nigeria. I can hear a gambler reading this say ‘I know’. Bet9ja is just one of the betting companies recognised by the Nigerian government and it is not the only one here. There is Naira Bet owned by Akin Alabi, there is Sahara Bet, 1960bet, Merry Bet, Winas Bet, Western Lotto, Golden Lotto called Baba Ijebu, there is Access Bet, Naija Bet, 360 Bet, Sure Bet, Bet Colony, Winners Golden Bet, Premier Bet, Bet 365, 9ja Predict, Loving Bet, etc. Some even call them youth empowerment programs. SMH.
Bet9ja(the company) also seems to be the most popular and with most stores here. They have taken the bets to the grassroots and almost every street can boast of one. Salvation! So, when I use the name Bet9ja I am simply referring to all the bets working so hard to help Nigeria’s ailing youths ruin themselves. They are all registered companies and pay tax to the federal government and no one can accuse them of doing something illegal. Democracy! You are not forced to partake in it too and the age range for believers to be initiated into the fold is eighteen(18). If you win they experience a loss but when you lose they gain. That is what it looks like on the surface level but in the inner core, whether you win or lose, they hardly lose.
They are simply sharing the money you and your friends staked against each other. If both of you lose they take the entire thing. If one wins, he is paid from the money the other staked. If two win there must be some scapegoats somewhere whose money will be used to settle both of you. What if everyone wins? Bet9ja will go broke but that is practically impossible. The system is so perfectly structured that you’d always be the biggest loser. They are not stupid. You are not stupid either but it is their field, their profession. They studied it very hard before you came in and they pull some strings too. They will always beat you with experience. Let’s get down to business. What did MortalPoet learn there?
1. Bet9ja Is Like Drug Addiction: Just like cocaine to a drug addict, so is betting to her students. Just like cocaine and other cannabis to their inhalers, the gambler finds it hard to withdraw. Most times, those looking from the outside often mistake the persistence of her disciples to the total absence of knowledge and the enshrinement of ignorance. People often think that the gambler doesn’t know the evil he’s doing to himself, that he doesn’t see his dearth looming large while he rips himself up. But that’s not the case. The gambler knows he is killing himself gambling but just like that problem you’d find among druggies who are fed up, he has lost the power to save himself. He has lost the power to control and help himself.
So many times, in the bet store, I saw hungry men beg money for feeding. They came with about 10k or more but now can’t even afford a 200 naira meal. And each time I get a heartbreak worse than the first time. Immediately they are given the money, rather than get something to eat, they try to multiply the cash by playing the fast bet. They could get lucky and win the first time, second and third, but that spirit of confusion that took away the 10k they came with, reappears and smiles to the bank. They go back to the sit of reason(a real chair that resets the brain) and after much thought and reasoning, they look for an opportunity to repeat the exercise they just had. While trying to recover or multiply, they lose and are reduced to the face of poverty. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Poverty or greed or a combination of both can’t help the flesh either.
2. Nigeria Is In Big Trouble: This country is in a big mess. The future of this country, our youths, have been reduced to dunderheads. Today, the average Nigerian male above 18 plays bet9ja. Not with the calm and well thought style that makes any trace of addiction difficult, but with that Get Rich Or Die Trying style you will find in hustlers who are giving that gold their last shot. When the large portion of those whose success the success of the country depends on are engaged, hugging and exchanging oxytocin with failure, the likelihood of having a saner and brighter community becomes very slim.
Some of these gamblers started gambling after searching for good jobs without getting any. They walked the streets of Nigeria facing rejection and some unreasonable demands on experience at every corner. They tried so much to be useful to their country and selves and each time the HR told them ‘we will reach you later’, the queue only got longer. And when they tried to branch out and become entrepreneurs, they found out that the statement by J.F. Kennedy ‘it is not about what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ doesn’t work here. Their country won’t do anything for them and wouldn’t let them do something for her. She is a Sadist!
If she hadn’t created the environment, that graduate, who simply wants comfort and not to be too rich or rule over anyone, wouldn’t think of using Bet9ja as the means of achieving peace. He knew he could become a Yahoo Boy or join in one gang and his fortune change but he has some self worth(really?) and unfortunately this is the only thing close to legality he can do to feed. He has seen a worse life and he knows this gambling is not paying but the hope that one day his fortunes will change keeps him going. Without it, he doesn’t have hope or any energy but with it, there’s one thing. Hope. It is usually a poor hope but he doesn’t care as long as it is just hope and the illusion keeps him alive. An illusion keeps him alive. SMH.
3. You Can’t Get Rich Gambling: To be honest, by you’ here I mean the majority. Let us keep it at roughly 95% because we have seen(I have seen) some calculated victories to lie to ourselves no one wins. But a business where you lose about 95% of the time is not good for you. Because playing bet9ja weakens the player, it is usually very difficult to act sensibly when he eventually wins. It is very difficult for him to use that money to do something good for himself. Not because of that imaginary evil spirit Nigerians against it always speak of, but because the willpower of the winner has been weakened by his consistent misuse of it.
After many years and sessions of recklessness, you can’t just decide to be useful and it will work out. If your willpower didn’t save you from playing with that money you asked for feeding, if your willpower couldn’t stop you from wasting the 20 thousand Naira given to you by your family to buy foodstuffs, if your willpower didn’t help you survive minor temptations, if your willpower was defeated by your greed for more money, why would it help you now just because you won some money? You have been rewired, by your own very acts, to always look for more.
In few cases, the 5%, where the gambler uses the money to have a meaningful outcome, the player is among the lucky(or better put, disciplined. Let’s give them some credit) few who have a little edge over the habit. But the game, by nature, is possessing and addictive. There’s no evil or juju spirit that follows it like some assume(but what do I know?). A dude once won 400,000 naira and the next two months he was begging a barber friend to help him with a free hair cut. He resigned from his 25k paying job and started acquiring things that won’t multiply his little change. He thought he’d use 400k wisely and underestimated the power of the dearth of his willpower. Before, he was at level 1, but two months after he won, he rose to level 0. Improvement!
4. You Become An Outcast: Even though this race of life is run alone, it is easier with people around you. Your family is every important in developing to a better individual. By family’ I am not only talking about the nuclear and/or extended ones here, but also the people around, who though not linked by blood, have become great assets to our soul. Your kids, your brothers, your friends, your neighbours, your colleagues and other persons who have touched you in ways only good men can. Bet9ja has made having a healthy relationship with them very hard. A man is paid money for the little work he did, he goes to the money doublers to multiply the stuff and he loses everything. He goes home and he can’t provide for himself or anyone and there is chaos in the family.
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The fact that he is not useful is not just the problem but that he is useless. He could be easily pardoned if he is still struggling to start life but lavishing money is another thing. It evokes anger and smirks of uselessness. This annoys everyone and gradually he becomes the outcast of the home and neighborhood. His legacy begins to work against him. Asking for favours is seen as asking for money to enrich the bet stores. Asking for real needs is seen as asking for opportunity to be useless one more time. Only bad people, who want to use a person, funds their stupidity. The gamblers family are heartbroken and annoyed. Heartbroken and angry for the lifeless life their son choose to lead. A dude once told me ‘bet9ja don spoil my life’. He just finished staking a bet and for some reasons I can’t tell, started narrating to me the story of his life.
He was supposed to be a millionaire if not for this game but today he can’t even boast of one thousand Naira. He is the type that uses 100k to bet and repeats the process if the first fails. Used his school fees to bet and dropped out, used the over 200k his aunt asked him to keep to bet, used money that could have amounted to millions in the bank to gamble. He is from a rich family but poverty has become his ally. Everyone has given up on him. He failed himself, family and still failing and asked how I do it. For him, it was unimaginable and impracticable for a Nigerian football fan, who’s not even rich, to choose to refrain from gambling. I told him you can’t get rich by picking money on the ground. He understood but he was no longer in control. His family hated him for that. No one takes him serious anymore. He was not a thief or a killer. He was just a gambler.
5. You Age Faster And Look Unhealthy: This may sound funny but it is true. I noticed that the more you play and lose the faster you age. Maybe this is for only gamblers in Nigeria. Normally, the country is very hard, most countries are, but Nigerian gamblers now add swag to their hard. I can establish a scientific theory around it. While other non gamblers have hearts that beat 72 times in a minute the heart of a gambler beats over 100 times in a minute. The BP is raised, lowered, raised, lowered, in that order, as every match is played. He already staked 100 naira to win 3 million naira and in the first match alone he’s had about 20 near death experiences. Just in one match. His bet slip contains 30 matches.
As the goals go in, his dreams and body is shattered. His soul tumbles multiple times and if escaping the body is possible, and it happens, the poor thing escapes that lost homosapien. His vocal cords are strained from cussing every useless player, Messi and Ronaldo inclusive, who spoiled his chance of becoming a self made millionaire. Indeed! A gambler narrated to me how he couldn’t sleep the night one useless team denied him of 400k. According to the dude, he couldn’t sleep and by 2-3 am he couldn’t take it anymore. He strip naked. Walked out with his bare bottoms and placed a curse on the mischief makers. They wouldn’t win a trophy that season.
Like a prophet, the team he cursed, Ajax FC of Netherlands, didn’t win anything last season. He just cussed Inter Milan some weeks back because they did what Ajax did. How do you create such problems for yourself? Can’t sleep, having vocal cords damaged, a cardiac system that is often close to death than life, a young man of 23 looking like a 40 year old and a prophet of doom! While searching for money to buy peace, we buy sorrow and lose peace in the process. I learned that gambling is not fun. By nature, it is addictive and possessing. It shatters the mind of the gambler. It destroys the body of the gambler. It takes your will and strength away. It saps you. It gives a false hope. An illusion that consumes the illusionist. And I couldn’t even continue working there. Save yourself.