Namibia
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Lawmakers want ‘okabettinga’ regulated

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Nico Smit and Swapo chief whip Hamunyera Hambyuka says the government should regulate and limit the number of sport betting shops across the country to tackle underage gambling, addiction and fraud.

Health and social services deputy minister Ester Muinjangue has thrown her support behind the two lawmakers who are calling for the regulation of the gambling platform which mostly thrives on predicting results of international football matches, such as the English Premier league which starts this month.

Sport betting is largely unregulated in Namibia, allowing the trade to be exposed to potential money laundering and a lack of accountability for companies profiting from the sector.

The stance of Smit, Hambyuka and Muinjangue comes at a time when there is ongoing debate about the relationship between sport betting companies and politicians.

One of Namibia’s biggest betting companies has increasingly sponsored sport events, such as the Governor’s Cup – leading to questions about the potential influence of such sponsorships.

Some lawmakers have defended the sport betting sector, saying people resort to betting because they “cannot find employment and are hungry”.

Smit, however, says: “If politicians are involved in promoting sport betting, they make room for political corruption.”

He says politicians can actively manipulate policies and institutions to favour sport betting companies.

He urgently called on the Ministry of Environment, Forestry of Tourism to assess the sport betting industry in Namibia and to undertake a survey to determine the number of sport betting operators in Namibia.

The betting shops should also start paying taxes, Smit says.

TAXABLE WINNINGS

Namibia Revenue Agency (Namra) spokesperson Tonateni Shidhudhu last week said if an individual regularly wins bets and that is their regular source of income, such winnings should be taxable.

“However, if the winning was just out of the blue and is not a regular activity, such winning could be held as capital in nature and is hence not taxable,” he said.

Hambyuka says there is a need to regulate sport betting gambling machines the same as jackpots.

He says sport betting sponsoring sport activities linked to politicians should be monitored.

“We need to employ all the required regulations for the business to take place,” Hambyuka said.

Muinjangue says sport betting could lead to addiction, fraud and poor mental health, posing a risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

“People who partake in sport betting need a strong will, discipline and to limit their participation,” she says.

She says laws are needed to prevent exploitation, and to authorise operators, the type of betting and age restrictions, among others.
Muinjangue concurs that lawmakers should consider drafting legislation to regulate the industry.

“Sport betting inherently brings up integrity issues, and politicians are to be bound by a code of ethics,” she says.

Swapo parliamentarian Natangue Ithete says he does not support betting as he does not understand how it contributes to the livelihoods of ordinary citizens. He says no one under the age of 18 should be allowed to participate in betting activities.

Hidipo Hamata

SPORT BETTING SUPPORTERS

PDM parliamentarian Hidipo Hamata has in the past faced allegations of promoting one of Namibia’s well-known sport betting companies.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Hamata says the betting industry has created jobs and contributes to the state coffers through taxes.

He provided exact figures on how much sport betting contributes to tax.

Hamata says he supports sport betting because he advocates entrepreneurship.

He says he promotes responsible gambling, and believes those interested in betting know when to quit.

Hamata says the parliament’s code of conduct does not prohibit him or any lawmaker from promoting legal business.

Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters lawmaker Kalimbo Iipumbu says he does not support regulating sport betting, because bettors do so to put food on the table.

“People are doing this because they don’t want to steal other people’s belongings. It’s embarrassing to say that sport betting should be regulated. If you don’t want to play, don’t do it, and allow those who want to play to do that,” he says.

Landless People’s Movement youth leader Duminga Ndala says regulating sport betting would destroy the “fun and interest of young people in sport events”.

Questions sent to the secretary of the Gaming and Entertainment Board, Simeon Iingwapha, on Wednesday were not responded to, while the chairperson, Ben Shikongo, said he would respond next week.

ALL OR NOTHING

Premier Sports Trading (PstBet) chief executive Steve Hamunyela last month said he could not comment on the regulation of betting.

“However, we will always comply with the decision of the authorities,” he said.

Hamunyela last year said he owns 200 betting outlets countrywide, and has recruited 500 people.

In April this year, Hamunyela announced a three-year N$2,9 million nationwide sponsorship of the Governor’s Cup football event. The regions use the Governor’s Cup to select teams to battle it out for the The Namibian Newspaper Cup, a national youth tournament.

A DANGEROUS ROLL OF THE DICE

Clinical psychologist Shaun Whittaker says people underestimate the addictive side of sport betting.

“Addictive behaviour is about trying to manage or contain an underlying emotion, but in the end it could be self-destructive if you take sport betting.

“Obviously, people lose more than they gain. That’s the problem with sport betting or going to a casino: You are bound to lose more than what you might gain,” he says.

Social worker Sofia Negonga says sport betting is often about chasing wins that do not always happen.

“In the long run they will spend every cent on betting, which may not yield results. This could then result in poverty, stress and depression, and regret that would lead to low self-esteem and low workplace performance,” she says.

Negonga says an addicted person may also start using and abusing substances.

“The danger is that they can sell whatever they own just to get money for betting,” she says.

She says betting leaves people in debt, which could isolate them because they would try to avoid everyone they owe money.

Oshana governor Elia Irimari says those who participate in betting activities should be careful as betting could be addictive.

He says betting should not be seen as an easy road to being a millionaire.

“The betting machine keeps winning against participants. The participants will only win a little amount, probably after six months or a year.
“I am not saying they should not bet, but they must be careful as betting causes them stress and depression,” he says.