Radio Botswana, in southern Africa, recently ran a phone-in about gambling. Callers by and large were expressing disillusionment with gamblers' total disregard for their essential responsibilities. Gamblers have been accused of squandering hard-earned cash on slot machines and tables when necessities such as food, education, housing and healthcare are being neglected.
As in any unrestrained activity, excess is negative. The difficulties are highlighted in Botswana - a prosperous African state, where there are pockets of poverty scattered amongst the small population. Casinos in Africa have a mystique, an allure that many people find too hard to resist. And so the dangers of irresponsible gambling are prevalent and their instances are rife.
Tales of the bizarre
People have run away from their families for fear of facing them after squandering hard-earned cash; others have committed suicide as their hopes for repairing the damage done seem improbable. Examples abound, but this all points to a commonality: responsible gambling is in desperate need and in short supply. People tell of being banned from casinos, but then being allowed to gamble once again after the bans expire. The problem is in the ease of money loss. What would typically take Botswana person weeks or even months to earn can be lost in a matter of hours or less. These severe losses bring on suicidal thoughts or worse yet, the deed itself.
Responsible gambling in southern Africa requires a concerted public effort. The government and the casinos need to work with social workers and counselors to inform the public of the real dangers inherent in excessive, unrestrained gambling. Until such time as people are aware of the dangers of property loss, income loss and excessive debt, irresponsible gambling will always be at the forefront of many families' minds.