Home Islam Forbidden in Islam, but the game wins in Senegal

Forbidden in Islam, but the game wins in Senegal


When Dickori Baldé wakes up, like yesterday and the day before yesterday, he thinks about checkboxes with his pen. Like many Senegalese men his age, the 65-year-old retiree has only one way to feed his family: bets.

But gambling and Islam don’t mix.

At the betting office of Lonase – the state-owned national lottery – in the town of Rufisque, Baldé says: “This [betting] is an emergency solution. Something you can’t do without. We are all aware of what religion says.

Islam firmly opposes betting in all its forms,” ​​criticizes Sheikh Oumar Diallo. He is the imam of a mosque in Parcelles Assainies, one of the 19 departments of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. In a country where at least 95% of the population is Muslim, this ban is a thorn in the side of many bettors.

Diallo sees sports betting as a gateway as people get used to “an easy way to make money”.

The betting office of Lonase

But survival is at least as important in a country where nearly half the population lives in poverty.

And, while Islam prohibits gambling, the Senegalese government allows it. Lonase is the licensing authority. It says it “partners” with betting companies such as Sunubet, Premier Bet and 1Xbet.

Serigne Mor Mbaye, a Senegalese psychologist and sociologist, cites sports betting among other last resort measures as “survival strategies to meet the needs of large families”. Other strategies include drug trafficking, currency counterfeiting and sexual exploitation.

Baldé has two wives and nine children. A retired train conductor in the trucking industry, he spent 28 years traveling back and forth between Senegal and Mali. Now he says he couldn’t take care of his family if it wasn’t for his daily luck at horse racing.

Sitting next to him is his 59-year-old friend Idrissa Sen, a father of five, who says, “God can help us anytime with random money.”

At the Lonase bricks-and-mortar betting shop, most customers are older. But this does not mean that young people bet less. With mobile phones and the Internet, betting anywhere is the new deal. And Senegal has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa, with 89% of people connected and almost all of those connecting via mobile internet.

The country is also football mad, thanks in part to its often competitive men’s national team.

Mouhamed Diop installed the 1Xbet application on his phone. “The money comes in very quickly and no one can see you or judge you,” he says. The Chelsea fan is 30 years old and completed his studies in electromechanics at the CNQP, the national school for professional qualifications, in 2019.

Diop has completed two internships but has yet to find paid employment.

“At my age, I can’t ask anyone for money,” he says. “If you don’t have a job, your only way out is parifoot.”

Parifoot is the local word for football and sports betting. But this is “just a temporary solution until I find something better”. He is quick to add: “I don’t bet during Ramadan.”

In a sentiment regularly echoed in Senegalese betting circles, Diop believes the money you make from betting is illicit – since Islam forbids the act – and he doesn’t invest it, even though it might help him. to wean oneself from the habit. He once won 500,000 CFA ($870).

In response to questions, a Lonase spokesperson suggested that “not only are these bets a challenge for these young people, but they provide them with attractive profits to solve their daily problems”.

Diallo, the imam, thinks the betting culture “fits perfectly into the government’s plans”.

Or rather. his lack of plans. “A punter can sit in one place doing nothing from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., having no time to follow government actions or think of ways to get on with his life.”

This article first appeared in The continent, the pan-African weekly read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy hereand