Betting in Nima

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Tuesday night. Big European night: Manchester City is hosting FC Barcelona. It is about 15 minutes before kickoff.
On the congested corridors of SafariBet at Nima is bedlam. The noise level is such that one can hardly hear the next person to make a meaningful conversation.
Over 50 young energetic guys are busy making their way up the first floor. On the first floor you meet the lucky ones seated side by side either on a wooden bench they brought from home or on the few ‘Gye Nyame’ plastic chairs.
The not so big room filled to the brim is jam-packed at the windows as others watch from the windows.
The counter is choked! Over 25 customers are waiting on the cashiers to take their bet while about 30 others gather around the 10 computers mounted on the wall. The poster on the walls reads, “Please note you can’t place a bet 10 minutes after a game starts.”
The sports betting parlors in Nima make most of their money during big matches in the European leagues. After waiting for close to some 25 minutes, the Assistant Manager, Suleman Mohammed, was ready to talk.
Changing lanes
It used to be children and adults betting subtly on who can beat whom in the game of table football (‘casay’), playing cards (spa) and table tennis.
For a community noted for its football craze, avid football lovers, used to bet behind teams/countries in the big leagues in Europe and other big football tournaments like the World Cup.
The year 2013 saw the sudden sprung of sports betting parlors in Nima. Mybet, SafariBet and Premier Betting have become very popular overnight.
For a predominantly Muslim community, this is unusual according to the Holy Quran and the Hadith (life and teachings of prophet Mohammed).
Also, most Muslims in Ghana regard Nima as a religious hub for Islamic practice, activities and events.
Indeed the Holy Quran verse 2:219 reads: “They ask you concerning intoxicants and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sinfulness is greater than the profit.’… Thus does Allah Make clear to you His Signs, in order that you may consider.”
One of the challenges till date is the loathing from the community, Mohammed tells me. “Influential Mallams did all they could by pitching camp downstairs to preach against betting, but it didn’t stop the youth from patronizing the parlor,” he said.
Mallam Inusah, an Islamic cleric in the area, says: “For a business owned by Turks whose government is financing one of the biggest Mosque in Ghana, siting betting parlors in Muslim communities speaks of double standards.”
Mohammed admitted his staff, all Muslims, know very well betting is ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam, but for them it pays the bills.
Three out of the 22 people interviewed after they had picked their betting receipts admitted ownership. For the most part, an elder brother, father, an uncle or a friend sent them.
Raheem is an SHS dropout who dreams of playing football for one of the big clubs in Europe. He works a shift as a waiter in one of the eateries in Nima. I met him at the mybet parlor betting to win a fortune to pay his fees and paying his way to one of the sports academies.
During my three days of observation, I saw Muslim ladies working as cashiers but didn’t see any coming in to place a bet. “There are bankers and other ‘big men’ who call, text, email or WhatsApp their selections to me to place a bet for them,” said Mohammed. The VIP clients are given access codes to the betting portal where they place their bet.
A minimum bet of GH1 on 13 correctly predicted matches could win a lucky customer GH1529.00.
What happens in Nima, stays in Nima…
Patronage is low during the month of Ramadan especially during the day. Upon breaking their fast, the boys troop in there to do business. Customers bet on live football, virtual games, boxing, horse race, dog race and canoe race. Children below the age of 18 years and anyone in school uniform are not permitted anywhere near the betting parlors.
The parlors have huge wall- mounted TV’s, which shows live matches for those betting to monitor their bets. Most of the boys leave the parlors immediately the Muezzin calls Muslims for prayers and come back to continue afterwards.
How many more betting parlors will spring up in Nima given the level of patronage and acceptance? Time will tell…
By Abubakar Ibrahim (student, School of Communication Studies, Legon)
Source: graphic.com