At every street corner in major cities across Liberia, young people would gather in groups at gambling shops. Be it private homes or by shacks in slum communities, the quality of the environment does not matter. It is betting O’clock. The thrill is in placing the bet. Once the match is played, the player faces two-pointed arrows - he/she either wins or loses. Until that happens, you are caught in this wonderful but agonizing sense of expectation. This is time consuming. They would be seen hunched over newspaper pages, computers or television sets for hours anxiously focused on the outcome of their investment (bet). This kills the desire of young people whose heads are buried in the sand of gaming simply for immediate direct returns.
Besides the thrill of the act, experts say there is minimal unswerving statistics on the social and economic impacts of gambling. A great deal of research does exist, but often it is primed by groups advocating one position or another and is biased or suffers from such basic flaws as to render it virtually impracticable.
One group believes that gambling, regardless of the kind, is an investment of time and resources worth risking. This group is of the opinion that gambling is a “powerful Economic Development Tool.” Las Vegas is a testament of the powerful ability of gambling to foster economic development. Because of gambling, Las Vegas has shown impressive job growth and developed into a major city with a low tax burden. Gambling is not a financial problem, but an emotional problem that has financial consequences.
Gamers are categorized into five groups: Social Gambler - one who gambles for entertainment and little excitement dedicating only small amounts of leisure time and gambling is not given excessive emphasis; Problem Gambler - one who dedicates more time, thoughts, and money towards gambling, thus causing problems in his or her life; Pathological Gambler- this category of gambler has an uncontrollable preoccupation and urge to gamble, with gambling being the most important thing in his or her life; Organized Crime Gambler - a gamer who launders illegal gambling revenue at race tracks, casinos, and through lottery wagering; and Professional Gambler - one who makes a living through gambling and he or she bets in a controlled way, handles losses well and does not let gambling interfere with normal activities.
Regardless of which category a gambler falls, this practice is having a big bang on the mental stability of young people who are supposed to be preparing themselves for a better tomorrow. The desire for education or studying their lessons is no more.
In Liberia, the government receives 30% in withholding tax from every win, according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue at the country’s Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
Nonetheless, the unprecedented growth rate of the gaming industry across Liberia is an outcome of government’s policy decision to legalize gambling because it is a boon to the country in as much as it is a newly-discovered stream of revenue generation for government - one that can be tapped by the state in its continual quest for alternative sources of income to direct taxation.
A source told The Capitol Insider that in “... resident payers who, in the course of business, make payments to non-residents of gambling winnings from gambling within Liberia are required to withhold tax at a rate of 30 percent. Withheld amounts are to be deducted from every payment made and paid over to the Government on a monthly basis, with payments due within 10 days of the last day of each month.” Records show that this is the highest withholding tax percentage.
However, recent study has shown that health and wellbeing impacts can be wide-reaching for gamblers and their families and include weight loss, stress, low self-esteem, depression, personality disorders, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety attacks, aggression, irrational thoughts, emotional numbness, heart problems, migraines, peptic ulcers, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Loss of trust and strains and breakdowns in relationships are some of the negative repercussion of gaming.
“It is very good because when we bet with a minimal of Thirty Liberian Dollars, we stand a chance of winning staggering amount of money just within one and a half hour. No job for us. So, this is where we resort to get rid of idleness,” James Wright told The Capitol Insider at one of the gaming spots in central Monrovia.
For Massa Samuels, a 28 year-old female student, many young people are getting addicted to gaming across the country to the extent that their desire for education is not an option anymore.
“They spend hours looking through sports newspaper pages to find their favorite teams to bet on but would never do same to their lesson. Some of my friends even abandon school for this betting business,” she said.
The effect of gambling, experts say, is comparable to someone taking a tranquilizer, a drug, or having a drink. The sensation experienced is similar, although no substance is ingested. The gambling behavior alters the person’s mood and state of mind. The gambler is hooked and keeps repeating the behavior, attempting to achieve that same effect.
Like other addictions to drugs or alcohol, the person starts developing a tolerance. An increasing amount of substance is necessary. The gambler increases the gambling experience to achieve the same emotional effect as before.
Opponents of gaming have indicated that the gambler becomes trapped in a vicious circle in which there is an increased craving for the activity. According to them, at the same time, the ability to resist drops. The craving grows in intensity and frequency. The cause of a gambler’s problem is his/her inability to control the gambling.
They argue that the frequency of a person’s gambling does not determine whether or not they have a gambling problem. Some Problem Gamblers may only go on periodic gambling binges. However, regardless of the rate of recurrence of the addictive activity, the emotional and financial consequences will be obvious.