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Investing in luck at betting houses

10th August, 22:07

AT a cybercafé somewhere in Harare's central business district, stone-faced male and female clients are glued to their computers.

It is mid-morning on a weekday and the cybercafé's computers are all occupied.

Forty-inch smart screens beam live football matches from around the world. The chilly weather does nothing to dampen the mood in this betting shop. Young men and women here are working out their bets with the seriousness of college students sitting for a final examination.

Betting is a form of gambling, a trade that has grown into a billion dollar industry worldwide. And the betting craze is sweeping across the country like a storm, giving people hopes of quitting the paupers' life and joining the exclusive millionaires' club.

According to one young betting enthusiast, "One can hit the jackpot the very first time they bet and every single time after that."

What was once associated with the risk-taking rich - a willingness to wager big money is also now common among ordinary men.

People from all walks of life are now considering betting as a viable business venture.

"Betting has become a full-time occupation for some people," said one punter in a building along Mbuya Nehanda Street.

This shop is a replica of many other betting shops spread all over the city, even in suburban areas.

The Sunday Mail Society met Bastar Moyo, 46, in one of these betting shops.

Moyo is an embodiment of the gambling culture beguiling both the youthful and the old in Zimbabwe.

He is your archetypal gambler - intelligent, urbane and tech savvy.

He is hooked to betting.

"I will not lie to you. I cannot stop betting because I have become an addict. Although I have been betting for a long time, I want to congratulate myself for being able to tame my betting mania. l now bet just twice or thrice a week."

On a usual day, Moyo can go home with not less than $500. His biggest win was $4000 after he had purchased a one dollar stack bet.

He spoke about the disappointment that comes with betting.

"You can go home without a single cent, it can be disappointing but it needs dedication. Investing in luck is a risk."

But with all the pain and disappointment that comes with betting, Moyo is able to send his children to school and put food on the table for his family.

"I have two children who are going to school. With the little I get here, betting has become my work because I have no other job," he said.

Over the years, sports betting has gained popularity in Zimbabwe, with soccer punting being the most prominent.

Bars are now playing second fiddle to betting halls when it comes to drawing capacity crowds during weekends as many chase the prospect of earning an extra buck through banking on luck.

Various betting houses are filled to the rafters as both men and women watch various matches with remarkable anxiety, dreading any form of action that might render their ticket void at any point of the match.

Despite the rich pickings recorded in some cases, a number of people have kept their distance, with some only indulging on rare occasions.

For many, there is no full proof method to guarantee success, thereby prompting them to only part ways with just small change when they make their bets.

But cases of people losing their earnings, tuition fees and upkeep money on bets are on the rise, with some even resorting to suicide after losing everything.