A Relook At Sports Betting: A Wake-Up Call To Faith Communities And The Government Of Ghana

In recent times, both traditional and social media in Ghana, have been rife with the hostile effects of sports betting. After careful personal research and reflection on the recent news items which are becoming rampant by the day, there is the need to speak out, having worked closely with the youth for a couple of years.

At the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), it has been reported that some students had to defer their courses for non-payment of school fees, and one of the reasons cited by the school management was that, quite a number of the students used their monies for other ventures such as sports betting. Even though, the Students Representative Council of KNUST expressed a different opinion, at least a defaulting student confessed on national television to buttress what has been alluded by the management of KNUST. Also, it is reported of the death of the 76-year-old retired educationist who doubles as the Gyasehene of Dawuriso in the Asante Akyem North District who committed suicide after losing GH₵ 120,000.00 on AFCON bet. Then, Nana Nhyira Agyapong an employee of an Accra-based electronics company was arrested for allegedly spending a whooping GH¢ 1,079,728 of the companies’ money on sports betting.  It is high time leadership of faith communities and the government rise to speak into the subject. 

In the quest to become rich overnight, the trends of materialism, secularism, and libertinism have led to the influx of sports betting, gaming, gambling, and lottery among the Ghanaian youth. Betting and gambling seem to have always been a part of human development. Gambling is perhaps as old as mankind and has been universally practiced in different forms such as gaming, betting, chariot racing, and wagering. The attitude of society and faith communities towards betting and gambling has varied across time and geography.  There are indications that the spread of sports betting, gaming, lottery, and gambling is destroying and having a great impact on the youth in Ghana. Christian youths are not left out of this menace.  Africa to a large extent is seen to be very religious, and the faith communities seem to be opposed to gambling, foreign invasion appears to be washing out the strong adherence of the religious beliefs among the youth gradually. Some youth, therefore, give the impression which demonstrates a misconception about sports betting, gaming, and gambling. These trends have affected church attendance among the youth, especially during the evenings when the matches are being telecasted. The issue looks more threatening to this generation because patrons of sports betting and gaming argue that, there is no biblical passage that explicitly speaks to forbid the act. Yet many conservative Christians frown at gambling, sports betting, and lotteries of any kind. The revolution of internet technology has opened new dimensions of betting and gambling and has also created a global market for it. Online betting which represents a new frontier in the spread of gambling appears to have greatly increased the number of persons betting regularly. The manner of playing games has also undergone a drastic change in recent years. Again, the trend has even become worse as some Christians gamble and stake lotteries for charitable purposes and some men of God also give lotto numbers and predict the outcome of football matches for individuals to stake. One can therefore argue that the issues of sports betting, gaming, and gambling can now be viewed as a major theological concern and therefore, faith communities and the government can become more relevant and effective partners in fostering appropriate responses to sports betting, gaming and gambling.  

Whilst we must humbly agree with the contention of proponents, patrons, and promoters of sports betting, gaming, gambling, and lotteries, that no portion (or passage) of scripture overtly speaks to or forbids gambling, the important question remains, “how can Christians carefully and systematically respond to the debate of sports betting, gaming, gambling, and lotteries in the light of scripture?” It is because of this that this article has been written to establish how sports betting, gaming, and gambling is affecting the youth in our generation and also how we can respond to it through the lens of scripture as the Bible is our authoritative tool for moral standards. This paper is written primarily to caution people especially the youth about the dangers of sports betting, gaming, gambling, and lottery and also to provide a biblical response to those who already know the dangers but are looking for biblical information to defend it and to help them overcome it. In this paper we shall be looking at some local and international research findings in relation to sports betting, gaming, and gambling, the effects/dangers of sports betting and gaming among the youth, a biblical case against sports betting and gaming, and conclude with measures that the church needs to take to minimize the impact of the trend.


The debate on sports betting, gaming, lottery, and gambling is becoming more intense as faith communities and other national bodies are getting involved. The gambling industry is booming in the African continent and other parts of the world, with new online casinos and betting centres emerging every day. Besides the lottery and casinos, one type of gambling that has taken the African continent by storm is sports betting. In Africa, sports betting has been rising in acceptance over the past few years. For example, sports betting has been gaining ground over the past decade contributing 37 billion to the gambling industry with no sign of slowing down.  In recent years more than five betting companies have set up their terminals in Ghana. These terminals are expected to create jobs for the people to help resolve the unemployment crises and to further improve Ghana’s economic situation. The influx of these betting companies created the need for the establishment of the Gaming Commission Act 2006, (Act 721). So now, the emergence of these sports betting and gambling industries have urged the government to regulate the processes with the Gaming Commission.

Patrons and promoters of these betting centres maintain that their operation in the country has come to solve the unemployment problem in the country and also help the government to generate some funds.

Again, approximately 90% of the 400 people who were interviewed during this research, indicated that they can make some money through sports betting. They indicated that it is a quick way to get money. According to McGowan, one constant refrain used by state officials to legalize and also to justify their involvement and entering into the sports betting, gambling, and lottery business was its ability to obtain revenue for state operations without the imposition of either new taxes or tax increases.  McGowan continued to say that, in 1975 New Jersey legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City as a means to revitalize that city as a tourist attraction and, of course, to raise revenue to support various benefits for the elderly throughout New Jersey. A similar view by Koven and Lyons postulated that, in countries where sports betting is legalized, betting taxes fund government projects. According to the Rockefeller Institute, revenue from gaming in those states where the activity is legalized has increased steadily over the last decade, rising as high as over $1.5 billion per year. The institute also contended that sports betting constitutes a means of boosting tourism. As such, not legitimizing sports betting only diverts the potential tax revenue to either illegal gambling operations or other countries where it is legal.  Most of the respondents interviewed contend that sports betting has some economic benefits and also it has come to solve the unemployment problem in the country since those who are employed to man these gaming centres have got jobs to do and the state is also able to obtain some economic benefits through the payment of taxes by the operators and also the money that people get when they win a bet.

Taking the economic benefits of sports betting into consideration, legalized forms of betting and gambling are often promoted as good economic policy. Proponents are of the view that such forms of gambling are painless ways of increasing billions of Ghana Cedis in state revenue. What advocates seem to forget is that, generally, the cost of management, advertising, and promotions is approximately sixty pesewas of each Cedi generated, while direct taxation of the citizens costs only about a pesewa on the Cedi, so for every Ghana Cedi raised by taxes, ninety-nine pesewas go to the state. Again, legalized gambling adversely affects a state economy. Money that could have been invested or loaned and recycled through the economy is risked in the legalized betting scheme. Once more, legalized betting and gambling syphons billions of Cedis from the economy. More money is staked on sports betting and other legalized gambling than is spent on elementary and secondary education.

Other debates against sports betting have been based on religious and social grounds. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission (1999) has reported that, despite the contributions to growth, dreadful potential negative consequences did however exist in encouraging the practice. Sports betting, the Commission added, can become a compulsive habit, one that negatively affects the financial standing of gambling addicts. These individuals usually lose their ability to save and run into huge debts. The Commission put forward that the analysis of economic benefit derived from sports betting was poorly developed and incomplete. This analysis, the Commission continued, did not consider the social costs that must be considered in assessing the net benefits of sports betting. Such costs can justifiably be viewed from both individual and societal perspectives. The Commission listed the following as negative behaviors associated with sports betting: family abuse, suicide, truancy, poor academic performance, money laundering, alcohol and drug use, with poverty a frequent product of one or more of such behaviors. From the societal point of view, gambling leads to neighborhood crime, and increases both prostitution among women and high school dropout rates. Countries that are faced with these consequences would have their economic progress obstructed because education is a significant factor in poverty alleviation in an economy.

David Neff and Thomas Giles in their book “Feeding the Monster called More, Christianity Today” iterated that, the USA government spent 286 billion dollars on gambling as against 213 billion dollars spent on elementary and secondary education in 1990.

Dangers/ Effects of Sports Betting and Gambling Among the Youth

From the research that we conducted in Takoradi, it was revealed that sports betting with its attendant effects affect the youth in these areas: Economically, Socially, and Religiously. 

From the research findings, we discovered that many drinking spots, restaurants, shops, bars, and hotels in Takoradi have received permits from the Municipal Assembly for these sports betting companies to operate. The youth flock to these betting centres in their numbers to throw their monies on their teams and international sports stars. The research found out that youth between the ages of 12 to 25 years were the major people who patronize these centres. The youth do not only risk becoming problem gamblers but also may neglect their books by spending most of their man-hours at the betting terminals. In another study conducted by the Daily Searchlight on the effects of sports betting on the youth in Ghana, they reported that on a visit to many sports betting centres, they found a gathering of Ghanaian and foreign youth between the ages of 18 and 35 mostly doing sports betting spending time and money to win football pools. The reporter said “This is definitely taking all the time of the youth from everything; schooling, practicing a trade and learning. An elderly patron at a betting centre at Abeka Lapaz in Accra said, betting is a form of gambling that leads the youth to all kinds of juvenile vices and crimes,”.  This reporter went to seek the opinion of the Gaming Commissions on this social canker but could not get any official position on the sheer numbers of gaming centres in the country yet. Officials intimated that so long as the Ghanaian public has not kicked against the activities of sports bettors, there is currently no problem. A source close to the Commission assured the nation that if the activities of the centres flout the gaming laws, the Commission would not hesitate to pull the plugs on these centres.

The social impact of sports betting and gambling among the youth is mostly hidden from patrons and those who normally patronize it. But later the cost is seen in the shattered lives of individuals and their families. A study in The Journal of Social Issues revealed that as gambling and its related games of chances increase there is also an increase in the “proportion of divorce and separation, disagreement about money matters with one’s spouse, lack of understanding between marital partners, and more reported problems among children of gamblers.  The above findings are in agreement with the report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. The commission enumerated the following to be the social impact of sports betting on the youth: family abuse, suicide, truancy, poor academic performance, money laundering, alcohol, and drug use, with poverty a frequent product of one or more of such behaviours. 

From our research conducted in Takoradi, we found out that, 12% of the 400 respondents were school dropouts. They left school because they wanted to make money. 28% also acknowledged that it has really affected their academic performance and their concentration during lectures. 

When it comes to suicidal tendencies, it was realized that 68% of the persons contacted have attempted suicide before. Out of that, one student self-confessed that, he lost his best friend because of sports betting. The above affirms the research conducted by the UK Gambling Charity, GambleAware. From their research, it was revealed that “problem gamblers were six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or try to take away their own life and could be fifteen times more likely to do so”.  They added that some of the risk factors that might be linked to suicidal thoughts are depression, substance abuse, and financial problems.

Furthermore, a 16-year-old boy by the name Kwaku Appiah of the Osei Kyeretwie Senior High School form two student, committed suicide by hanging himself because of sports betting.  A news report by Lizbeth Brown on 19th August 2021, showed a level 400 final year student of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology who committed suicide after losing a bet.  The deceased identified as Fredrick Asamoah Frimpong was found hanging in his room by his parents. A post that was circulating on the various social media platforms specified that Fredrick was in debt to the tune of 200,000 Ghana cedis and decided to use the money he had to bet so he can defray the debt. He had 60,000 Ghana cedis on him and he staked the bet with all the money with the hope of winning to enable him pay his debt. He apparently committed suicide as the game did not go in his favour.

From January to March 2022, we have witnessed the death and arrest of some people all due to sports betting. Few instances are cited in this article. On January 13, we heard of the death of the 76-year-old retired educationist who doubles as the Gyasehene of Dawuriso in the Asante Akyem North District which was attributed to the fact that he committed suicide after losing GH₵ 120,000.00 on AFCON bet. Again, Nana Nhyira Agyapong an employee of an Accra-based electronics company was arrested for allegedly spending GH¢ 1,079,728 of the company’s money on sports betting.  

A 27-year-old man identified as Daniel Ayuba Mark committed suicide on 26th February 2022 after an amount of N1.5 million was withdrawn from his sports betting account by some unknown scammers.

Tom Fleming in his article, ‘The Human cost of Gambling Addiction’ stated that, UK recorded between 250 and 650 gambling-related suicides each year; a minimum of one every working day.  He added that, these gambling-related suicides accounts for between 4 and 11% of UK’s overall suicides.  In his article entitled, betting “Blood on their hand: How 500 people – mostly young men – kill themselves every year after getting hooked on gambling by ruthlessly greedy betting giants, Ian Birrel re-counted how 500 people lost their lives in UK within a year all due to sports betting.

Italy, USA, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and other countries have all had their share in the suicidal cases caused by sports betting, gaming and gambling. In 2017, Abdi Latif Dahir a news reporter in Kenya reported of the rise in betting addictions in Knya leaving young people bankrupt and suicidal. 

In their book “When You Gamble – You Risk More Than Your Money”, Bordon Cole and Sidney Margolis concluded “there is no doubt of the destructive effect of gambling on the family life.  In another news from Graphic online reported by Jemima Achivors, a 31-year-old manager of Star Oil Company, Hohoe branch was convicted and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for stealing 139,118 Ghana cedis and spending same on betting. 

The corrosive effects of gambling attack both the white-collar and blue-collar families with equal vigour.  The impact on crime is also significant. It appears that the crime rate in gambling and sports betting communities nearly doubles the national average. Researchers calculated that for every dollar the state received from the gambling industry, it cost the state at least three dollars in increased social cost for criminal justice and social welfare.


Whilst we must humbly agree with the contention of proponents, patrons and promoters of sports betting, gaming, gambling and lotteries, that no portion (or passage) of scripture overtly speaks to or forbids gambling, we can derive a number of principles from scripture.

First of all, the Bible, emphasizes the sovereignty of God (Matt. 10:29-30) and also the Lord being the shepherd of his people and the great provider of all who trust in him (Psalm 23:1-6). Sports betting and Gambling, however, is based on chance. Again, the Bible admonishes people to work creatively and for the benefit of others (Eph. 5:28; 2 Thess. 3:10), while sports betting fosters a something-for-nothing attitude.

The Bible condemns materialism (Matt. 6:24-26) and encourages godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 6:6; Hebrews 13:5) because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses (Luke 12:15) while sports betting promotes materialism. Once more, sports betting and gambling breeds covetousness, whereas the Bible admonishes people not to covet (Ex. 20:17) because covetousness is part of the list of sins that defiles a man (Mark 7:22). Thus: it is idolatry (Colo. 3:5) that shouldn’t be named among Christians (Eph. 5:3). Coveting, greed and selfishness are the base emotions that drives individuals to enter into sports betting and gambling. Christians should be concerned about sports betting and gambling if for no other reason than the effect it has on the “weaker brother” and how it will affect the compulsive gambler.

Secondly, sports betting destroys the work ethic. Two biblical passages deal with the work ethic. In Colossians 3:23-24, Apostle Paul wrote “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”. And in 2 Thessalonians 3:7,10, the Apostle again stated, “For you, yourself know how you ought to follow our example…. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’

Third, sports betting and gambling destroys families. Sports betting and gambling are a major cause of family neglect. Many of the social cost associated with gambling come from a get-rich-quick mindset. As some people get caught up in the sports betting and gambling frenzy, they begin to neglect their families. Money spent on sports betting, gambling and lotteries are not risk capital but income that should be spent on family needs. According to 1 Timothy 5:8 a person who refuses to care for his family is worse than an unbeliever. Parents must provide for their children (2 Cor. 12:14) and eat the bread of their labours (2 Thess. 3:12). Legalized gambling causes people to neglect their God given responsibilities to take care of their families and many of those families then end up on welfare.

Fourth, those who get rich through unjust means are like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay, when their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end, they will prove to be fools (Jer. 17:11). While the bible admonishes acquiring riches little by little, sports betting and gambling preaches getting rich overnight (Proverbs 13:11)

Various Positions of Christian Groups on Sports Betting

From the research conducted, it was revealed that, the church was divided when it comes to the issue of betting, lottery and gambling. Some faith communities don’t see anything wrong with it. They are of the view that it is a means to make wealth and also have a share in the national cake. To this end, some men of God predict the outcome of football matches and others give lotto numbers for their congregants to stake. Prophet Emmanuel Badu Kobi, the Head, and founder of Glorious Wave Church International shared a video in advance confidently predicting win for Brazil in the Copa America finals as well as a victory for England in the 2021 Euro finals which he claimed the prophecies were inspired by the Holy Spirit. All these prophecies failed and he attributed the failure to the fact that many Ghanaians depended upon his prophecy to stake a bet. He said they should shift the blame on those who bet on football matches. Bishop Daniel Obinim, leader and founder of the International God’s Way Church has also been distributing lotto numbers to his congregation during church service. According to him, there is unequivocally nothing wrong with one opting to stake a lotto in a bid to make money. In one of his pre-recorded videos, the man of God stated emphatically that lottery is not a sin and dared any pastor who can prove to him that lottery was a sin. He added that, the lotto numbers were given to him by God and till God stops giving him the numbers he will also not stop given out the numbers.

The second school of thought, holds an ambivalent position about the debate. They are of the view that one can stake a lottery or bet and use the outcome for charitable purposes. Reverend Father Andrew Campbell, the Parish Priest of the Christ the King Catholic Church in Accra expressed worry about the rate at which the youth were participating in sports betting. According to him, betting is a bad lifestyle and therefore its patrons should channel their money into necessities such as food and accommodation he said this in an interview on Thursday, 5 December 2019 on Class91.3Fm. When he was asked about his view of his participation on ‘Who Wants to Be Rich’, he said that he donated all the 25, 000 Ghana cedis to the Lepers association. This confirms his ambivalent position on the issue at stake.

The third group are also of the view that, though there is no passage of scripture that speaks against betting, lottery and gambling, there are portions of scripture that when studied very well will prove that betting is wrong. This group does not support the idea of betting in any kind.

Against this backdrop, the writer has proposed the following suggestions to the church and the state to help minimize the trend and also help the youths who have been caught in the web of sports betting, gaming and gambling.

Suggested Actions the Church Can Put in Place to Minimize the Trend

First of all, the church should come together to fight this menace. Faith communities must come together as a unified body with one voice and also one understanding and interpretation to scripture so that they can solve this challenge. Without this the church can in no way fight this threat.  The clergy since they hold positions of trust must desist from predicting matches and also giving out lotto numbers in the name of it being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the church should continue to preach and teach the unadulterated gospel which has power to save and transform lives. Since these betting companies have not ceased advertising and pushing their products on the various air waves and media space, the church should also spread the gospel message by engaging people both physically and digitally using the digital space.

The church should also come out boldly to let the general public know the consequences of this repulsive practice. 

The church should continue to teach and to preach that godliness with contentment is a great gain (1 Timothy 6:6) and espouse the youth to know that hard work pays (Proverbs 22:29) but like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay, when their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end, they will prove to be fools (Jer. 17:11) so is the person who desires to be rich overnight.

Lastly, the church and other faith communities should establish rehabilitation and counselling centres to help those who are into compulsive or problem gambling. 


From the discussion so far, we have seen the merits and demerits of sports betting and gambling and have come to the conclusion that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. We have also seen the biblical position concerning these trends. We humbly suggest that the church and the state will come together to educate the general public and also through well-structured apologetics defend the faith. The government should also set a commission to relook at sports betting one more time and then advise leadership.

The Writer, Emmanuel Opoku Mensah is a Youth Pastor in The Church of Pentecost and he is currently the PENSA Travelling Secretary for Takoradi Sector. You may reach him through, emmanuelopokum1985@gmail.com.

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