WHILE the outbreak of the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on businesses both big and small, the world’s supposedly oldest profession and punters who are into the business of betting have also not been spared.
The widespread cancellations of several events worldwide as part of measures to control the spread of coronavirus might have been terrible but not as much as on commercial sex workers who are raising fears over loss of income and putting them at greater risk and punters who were predicting the outcome of matches for cash rewards.
A survey carried out by B-Metro showed that those football fans who were getting valuable returns from making bets usually from Europe’s top five leagues, the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1, were now placing their money on horse and dog racing after all matches were cancelled until 3 April.
In Bulawayo there are more than 10 betting centres both within and outside the central business district.
A manager who declined to be named, at one of the betting spots in the city centre, admitted that they had been temporarily forced out of business by the suspension of matches caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
“For us this is akin to a banking crisis as we are recording a massive revenue loss. We are definitely seeing casualties not only to us but to punters who were also surviving mostly on placing bets on soccer matches of various international leagues.”
In another betting house, a customer-attendant who refused to disclose how much cash they were making on a daily basis before the outbreak of the coronavirus also acknowledged that business was now way down and had never been that bad before.
One punter, Ephraim Nyoni from Mzilikazi nearly shed tears while narrating how the suspension of soccer matches across the globe as part of measures to control the spread of coronavirus affected his means of survival.
“My brother I make a living from this practice (betting) and I don’t know how am I going to get money to pay rentals and buy food for my family since horse and dog racing is not paying like what the suspended Europe’s top five leagues were doing,” he said.
Vusumuzi Ndlela (38) who said he was betting to supplement his salary also buttressed Nyoni’s sentiments.
“This is a sad development especially to someone like me who was betting to supplement my salary which is not enough to take care of my family.
“I always go to the betting shop every time I get money to place the bets. Although my favourite betting was on suspended English league, I am now placing my bets on horse and dog racing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Evans Ncube a vegetable vendor welcomes the development arguing that betting was not sustainable because it led to laziness as those practising it often spent a lot of time holed up in gambling houses.
“Imali ayiphembelwa kodwa iyasetshenzelwa (You cannot make money from guessing but you need to work for it). Besides leading to laziness gambling is also condemned in the Bible,” he argued.
Meanwhile, the world’s supposedly oldest profession is also feeling the squeeze, following the coronavirus outbreak as there is a drop in night-life usually synonymous with sex work.
The Government on Tuesday declared the pandemic a National Disaster banning all public gatherings of more than 100 people including for religious purposes for the next 60 days and the move also unquestionably affected all entertainment joints which have long been a staple part of sex work.
A visit to some of the night spots dotted around the city revealed that coronavirus fears were not only undercutting business to proprietors but to commercial sex workers as well.
A commercial sex worker who identified herself as Nomsa said the banning of all public gatherings of more than 100 people as a result of the coronavirus outbreak had also hurt them financially.
“There is no business at all after the banning of all public gatherings of more than 100 people because some of our clients are withdrawing from night-life entirely at the moment for safety reasons. This will be difficult for us who are into sex work full time if the pandemic lasts longer,” said Nomsa.
Another sex worker who identified herself as Bongi said the coronavirus outbreak put them in a vulnerable position as clients were now offering less money for services.
“It’s clear that as commercial sex workers we are in a more vulnerable financial situation than others. For some of us who refuse to stay at home, it’s now a take it or leave it situation as clients offer any amount because they know we are desperate for money to pay rent and buy food,” she said.
The pandemic has also affected everybody in the sex industry after a receptionist at a downtown lodge said bookings for all night and short sex sessions had dwindled since the outbreak of coronavirus.
An official with Sexual Rights Centre, an organisation offering social and medical help to those offering sexual services, said they were receiving a lot of questions about health risks, associated with coronavirus both from commercial sex workers and their clients.
The official who declined to be named said they were, however, urging those into sex work to implement best practice hygiene measures such as instructing their customers to disinfect themselves before they offered them their services and to change the way they have sex.