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Gambling Craze: Betting Apps, Internet, Lures Younger Generation

Harare, Zimbabwe – Back in the days, weekends for Michael’s father was for relaxing, away from his busy work schedule.  At home, he constant...

Harare, Zimbabwe – Back in the days, weekends for Michael’s father was for relaxing, away from his busy work schedule. 

At home, he constantly fed his pastime, a hobby he shared mutually with a few selected, close fanatics. On such days, his demanding teaching profession on hold, his weekend routine was well defined. 

Soon after his afternoon meal, he dressed in his weekend wear of sneakers and trainers, as opposed to the tie and jacket for work. With his lucky charm safely deposited in his pocket, he bid farewell to his family, joining his circle of trusted local gambling buddies.

By @Comic24Derick

In groups, they strolled, discussing the possible winning combinations, or outcomes and individually contemplating the dreams they had encountered. For horse racing gamblers, each dream was special, for it was loaded with a meaning and had to be recorded for future use. Each vision, or item resembled a certain number, or a winning combination.

At their preferred venue, already teeming with fellow punters, usually a large community beerhall, the team assembled flyers to gather information on pending races, before placing their bets. 

Leafing through the ward of papers, sometimes in groups, a punter carefully jotted down his combinations, occasionally soliciting tips, while sharing a mug of traditional opaque beer.

“Gambling was my father’s way of life, an obligational weekend routine,” remembers Michael. “Later at night, we would hear my father and his friends singing on their way home. If he won some bets, which he rarely did, he would celebrate with clear beer and we also had more beef allocations during our meals.”
Gambling Craze: Betting Apps, Internet, Lures Younger Generation

When he died, aged 71, he left little for his family as an inheritance. But to Michael, he bequeathed the love for gambling. Today, the son is continuing with his father’s legacy, becoming a regular punter, however, he now prefers placing soccer bets opposed to horse racing, using various apps, unlike his father.

Before the advent of betting apps, gambling was a domain for the elderly, mainly for recreational purposes. Now, the knowledge, support and huge following base of European football leagues among the younger generation, has upped soccer and sports betting in the country.

Before, punters relied on limited information, whereas today, it is readily available. Unlike the past, when betting outlets were few, crowded, and being the sole source of placing bets and providing information, the advent of betting sites and apps has made information readily available to more potential gamblers. With the aid of betting apps, a rise in technology, a new breed of gamblers is emerging.

To start playing, one can download a betting app from various sites in the country and start placing bets. To deposit money, or withdraw earnings, one must physically visit the outlet. But unlike in the past, betting apps have made it more accessible, fun, thereby fueling an appetite among the younger generation, even attracting the conservative participants.

Of late, the number of gamblers has been increasing in the country, concurrently, the number of betting outlets are on the rise, with large outlets taking large rental spaces in the Harare CBD area. In populated suburbs, gambling has become a regular activity, rather than an amusement.

“For most of us, gambling has become a source of income and we place bets daily,” said regular punter, identified as Aleck. “You don’t win every day, but you have to keep playing and hope one day, you will hit the jackpot.”

Unlike yesteryear punters, present-day gambling is largely technology-driven, making a huge impact, reducing the effort, and increasing the efficiency of placing bets, thereby attracting the young generations, who previously despised the practice as a pastime for the elderly. 

Again, the access to smart phones, with a penetration of 52 percent, is increasing the urge to play, later becoming a regular activity.

According to the law, any person over the age of 18 is legally allowed to gamble in Zimbabwe. The country has a Lotteries and Gambling Board to govern all betting activities under the Lotteries and Gambling Act, including the approving and issuing licenses to new casinos and sports betting service providers.

Over the years, local and international companies have heavily invested in casinos and betting shops. Lately, there has been a notable upward trend of locals betting on Premier League football. On weekends, many punters frequent gambling outlets to watch games and place bets.

For the conservatives, they elect to do it at home, via their smartphones, away from the prying crowd. And when one punter hits the jackpot, the news spreads fast, thereby urging more people to engage in the trade, as unemployment surges, making gambling an income-generating project.

In all this, the Zimbabwe government is also a winner. The state collects gambling tax on the winnings, pegged at 10 percent, while some casinos may withhold an additional 15 percent tax if the player collects a jackpot. As internet penetration surges, other punters are trying online gambling, however, the law is ambiguous.

But with the advent of COVID-19 restrictions, online betting has gathered momentum. According to studies, Zimbabweans frequently use the internet more than the neighbouring Mozambique and Botswana.

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