Gambling addiction: How it affects young Nigerians

We are in a world where gambling is seen as normal. Go to sports betting shops, lotto draws, Baba Ijebu shops, casinos and even the normal drafts played on the streets, and you will realise that gambling is a culture. However, gambling addiction is another situation, and if not treated urgently, may create bigger problems.

Where there is gambling, addiction is bound to happen. Humans are not the same. While some can handle their hobbies well, others simply cannot. Several factors contribute to what this article is going to share. So keep reading if you want to know more about gambling addiction.

What is gambling addiction?

What is gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder, is an impulse-control disorder where you feel an uncontrollable urge to buy lottery tickets, visit casinos, play slot machines, bet on sports, or gamble online. Research from NOIPolls reveals that about 60 million Nigerians like to bet, with the South-West and South-South topping the list.

The African continent in general ranks lowest in terms of gambling addiction globally. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, this menace affects more than 2 per cent of the American population. Simply put, when you cannot control your gambling behaviour even when it has negative effects on your social, financial, or legal standing, then you have a gambling problem. Meanwhile, Healthline reveals that gambling addiction affects more men than women.

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Gambling addiction in Nigeria

Gambling addiction in Nigeria

According to a publication on TRTWorld, four out of every 10 Nigerians actively engage in sports betting, thereby pushing tens of thousands of young men into psychological depression and poverty. On virtually every street in Nigeria, particularly in the South, there is a betting shop. If it is not Baba Ijebu, it is probably one of the popular online sports betting platforms.

Gambling is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. The majority of gambling in Nigeria is done through sports betting. Before the introduction of online sports betting in the country, gambling was the prerogative of the elderly through board games like drafts and ludo. Then came Baba Ijebu which swept the entire South-West by storm.

With the introduction of the internet, betting became easier and more accessible. Top betting sites like Bet9ja, Nairabet, Naijabet, 360bet, BetKing, BetWay, and SportyBet, amongst others are now favourites of the Nigerian youths, who make up the highest population of unemployed Nigerians. Unfortunately, this young population are most vulnerable to gambling addiction since the country is swept in the get-rich-quick syndrome.

To be honest, these betting platforms are pretty efficient. You can set up an account in a few minutes with your smartphone and begin playing and cashing out. On the flip side, laws to regulate the level of gambling in the country are not stringent enough. Betting sites are allowed to pop up advertisements online indiscriminately and these adverts are exposed to all members of the public, including the vulnerable ones (the youth). For now, there is currently no infrastructure in place to address compulsive gamblers and treat gambling issues. Thus, Nigeria runs the risk of a gambling epidemic.

Causes gambling addiction

Causes gambling addiction

Gambling addiction is caused by biological, health, genetic and environmental factors. Let us break them down for more understanding.

Biological factors

The biological causes of gambling addiction include the following:


Gambling is more common in younger and middle-aged people. So it’s safe to say that addicts are mostly from the same age bracket. In Nigeria, an estimated 60 million of the population between 18-40 years old are said to actively wager on sports. Also, gambling from a  young age increases the chance of becoming an addict in the future.


Research has shown that this is more common in men than women. Women who gamble usually start later than their male counterparts and can become addicts quickly. But most male gamblers start the behaviour early and stand a higher chance of becoming addicts than women.

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Health factors

The following are the causes of gambling addiction due to health.

Mental health issues

People who struggle with gambling addiction mostly battle other mental health issues such as substance abuse, personality disorders, depression or anxiety. Other health-related issues associated with gambling addiction include bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Some medications can lead one to become a gambling addict. For instance, some medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome like dopamine agonists have rare side effects that may result in compulsive behaviours, including gambling in some patients.

Genetic factors

Certain personality characteristics are inherited. Such characteristics can lead to gambling addiction. For instance, being highly competitive, a workaholic, impulsive, restless or easily bored can increase your chance of gambling and become addicted to it.

Environmental factors

The environmental causes of gambling addiction include the following:

Unemployment and poverty

It is no longer news that the Nigerian economy has been on a steady decline for years. Many Nigerian youths are unemployed. The poverty rate in the country is high. This contributes to the popularity of the get-rich-quick syndrome that most of these online sports betting platforms are offering. Gambling is usually seen as one of the quickest and legal ways of making money. Unfortunately, it is not what it seems as many tend to lose money than earn it. But it has not stopped them from trying again and again hoping to hit jackpot someday.

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Family and friends influence

When you are constantly around family members or friends who are gambling addicts, chances are that you will become an addict too. The saying, “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are,” is not wrong.

Effects of gambling addiction

Effects of gambling addiction

Financial difficulties. A gambling addict is always broke.
Emotional stress such as short temper, regret and guilt.
Can lead to relationship problems with your partner, children, other family members and friends.
Can increase alcohol and substance abuse.
It can lead to other crimes like theft, and fraud among others so you can have enough money to continue your gambling.
Increases rates of unemployment as many now see gambling as a way to get rich quickly.

 Prevention of gambling addiction

The government should introduce stringent policies to regulate gambling platforms like online betting in Nigeria to prevent bettors from going overboard.
Players should be encouraged to make some lifestyle changes such as avoiding casinos and online betting platforms.
If you are into gambling, limit the time and money spent on gambling.
Balance gambling with other healthy activities.
Gamble with only the money that has been budgeted for entertainment. In other words, you must create a budget with your income first.
Play for fun and not for the money.
If you are already an addict, seek professional help.

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