BETTING has always been demonised and deemed illegal in some instances, shoddy and uncouth, with a belief that the rich spiral down from riches to rags because of it.
Sometimes referred to as gambling, folklore is told of people who stripped themselves of all their riches to feed an insatiable hunger and thirst for gambling, an unhealthy addiction, selling their belongings only to acquire money to go and bet, hoping to get more and recover the sold goods, only to no avail.
Despite some men managing to keep the discipline in betting, many men have themselves to blame for their peril, heralded by an unquenchable thirst to bet just one more time till the last dollar.
While betting has been the downfall of some, multitudes of men in Bulawayo, due to skyrocketing levels of unemployment, find solace in the trade and are able to provide for their families.
Determination, hope and resilience are written on the faces of many men as they rush into the betting halls, which open their doors at 8am. The multitudes rush for football fixtures and horse race sheets for them to begin their days’ work, betting. In their multitudes, each one of them hoping to be a lucky winner at the end of the day and put food on the table. Unemployment drives most of these men into sports betting.
There is a distinct group of punters, the younger, youthful and a bit sophisticated looking ones. Most of them are carrying laptop backpacks. These are college students from the city’s tertiary institutions.
Vuyani Ndlovu, a risk management student at the National University of Science and Technology, said betting keeps him away from poverty, depression and bad company.
“Once in a while I strike it good. However, at least once a week I get something to keep me going. I stay in Emakhandeni and I need to board two taxis to school and another two taxis on my way back. So it becomes difficult to ask my parents for $4 transport money on a daily basis, and a bit of money for lunch too. So this really keeps me afloat as I occasionally buy a few things at home. I stay away from booze and drugs that way, I am always busy,” said Vuyani.
“Betting is not my hobby or pastime. It’s now my job. I am now a full time punter and a part-time student. I follow trends online all the time and I check the odds. I make money from the smaller teams. So I realised that I earn better if I pay for multiple tickets of small teams,” said Isheunesu Moyo, another college student from Nust.
There is always someone who knows someone doing it and they invite you in no time.
“I was introduced to betting by my classmate. We were in our second year then. He had been introduced to betting by students from Lupane State University,” said Isheunesu.
“We have managed to ensure that we are much disciplined with the money because one can score $200 today followed by a dry spell,” he said.
B-Metro caught up with some graduates who claim to have funded the final year of their degree programmes through sports betting.
“My parents paid my fess for the first and second year and the first semester of my attachment year. I paid my fees for the second semester from the little allowance I got where I was attached. In my third year, my younger sister was also starting her first year at university so I realised it was getting tough for my parents, both civil servants. So my father used to bet occasionally but he did not want me to get an interest in it. I tried it on my own and realised it worked. Right now I do part time work designing websites for companies just to build my profile, but sports betting is my cash cow. I am earning a decent living. I funded my own graduation attire from betting proceeds,” said Thamsanqa Ndlovu.
The youthful group that spoke to the news crew dispelled rumour and stereotypical views that link betting with a junk lifestyle associated with gambling.
“The Zimbabwean case of gambling is very different because we come here knowing very well our situations back home. We are not here to push time and spend
money but we are here with a target, to go back home with something. I am on a payment plan at school and every time half of whatever money that I get goes towards my fees. It’s working. I don’t drink, neither do I smoke. So yes, you can be a sports bettor and not be a junkie,” said Trust Mpofu.
“We do not engage in sports betting to fund drug and substance cravings. We are looking for the best way possible to get out of the situations that we find ourselves in. My friend was very lucky in 2017. He got a payout of $4 600 and bought himself a mushikashika (pirate taxi). He was a business man by the time we graduated in November 2018. Now he has two of the taxis. He is still unemployed in the finance field that he studied for. He no longer comes to the betting halls as often as drives his car looking for customers. He is still as disciplined as he was. If only we could all get so lucky,” said Brian Tembo who said he had been betting for over three years.
Women have not been left out as some female students have joined their male colleagues in the betting world.
“I am a woman so what? Money has no gender and it will not be written on it that it was made in a betting hall. I just bet that’s all, I do not sell my body. My male friends are supportive and I am able to pay rent as I live out of campus in Selborne Park, whatever my parents send I hold it dearly, then I have a bit of extra money to complement the allowance sent from home,” said Cassandra, a budding female betting enthusiast.
Government recently secured a $10 million loan facility from a South African financial institution to assist tertiary students pay their fees. Due to the prevailing economic situation in the country, most students are struggling to pay fees, resulting in some of them deferring their studies.
In an interview, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said the loan facility would ensure that no student shelves studies due to financial constraints.
He said the Government roped in the South African company because interest rates charged by local banks were exorbitant.
Some students, however, said their parents were not formally employed and therefore did not qualify to benefit from the scheme. Sports betting becomes their only source of income and hope to complete their studies.
“With the way things are, I think I will continue betting even after graduation, as most people who were ahead of me in college are still unemployed, and only making ends meet through what they make in betting halls,” said Trust.