“Why didn’t I ever think of Worldbet?” says Bhekani.
He locks his classroom and heads straight to the Worldbet branch in Pinetown.
Bhekani has never gambled before but he quickly learns how, from the Worldbet employee who teaches first-time gamblers how to fill in betslips. He learns about odds, handicaps and payouts.
He decides to bet on horse races and soccer games. In his mind he counts the odds, and can see himself winning – and giving Sbongile the money to buy sofas. As he fills in bet slips he can see himself with his family at Gateway Shopping Mall, buying his family the latest fashion. He imagines himself sending his family back in Inanda enough money so they don’t have to call asking him for money for a while.
Bhekani bets with R100 on a soccer game and wins R300. He loses the R50 he bet on a horse race. He is filling another betslip when loud cheers fill the vast open area at Worldbet. A young man who made a R500 bet on a horse race has just won R 25 0000!
Bhekani is braver on the next bet – he bets the R300 won on another soccer game, and R1 000 on a horse race. His heart beats loudly as he watches the horse race on one of the many TVs mounted on the walls. His horse comes second. He has lost R1 000. But he fares better in the soccer game, winning R2 500.
Bhekani now hopes to win one big amount and then leave straight away. Soon he is betting all his winnings on horse races, since they have the biggest payouts.
He loses two times in a row. But he decides to try one last time – and is ecstatic when he wins R 27 000! His winnings are enough for him to cover all his expenses.
Greed, however, gets the best of him. In a 30 minute betting frenzy he loses it all, and is left with only R100! He bets the last R100 on another horse race and loses it as well.
There is an ATM inside Worldbets. Bhekani knows that the money left in his bank account is just enough to cover his debit orders for life insurance and funeral policies. This is money he never touches – but today the gambling bug has bitten him.
He withdraws R500 and tries his luck again … but he loses it all.
There is a meanness in his eyes as he barges out of Worldbet’s glass doors. It is dark outside. He checks the time. It is 7:57 pm – he has been gambling for four hours and has lost what was left of his salary.
“Damn!” he curses as he bangs his car door shut. “What did I ever do to deserve such bad luck? What will I tell Sbongile?”
Bhekani finds Sbongile helping the kids with their homework when he gets home. He heads to the bedroom and takes a bath. He looks calm but inside his head thoughts are swirling. He is in the bath for a long time and hears Sbongile putting the kids to bed. He is hungry. He goes to the kitchen and is surprised to find not a single pot on the stove.
“There’s take-away in the microwave,” says Sbongile.
Bhekani is startled but he steadies himself. “Thank you, my love,” he says.
“Bhekani you got paid but you can’t even come home with a take-away for your family!” Sbongile is in front of him now, looking into his eyes.
“I didn’t get time. The queues were too long,” says Bhekani.
“And where is the money for the sofas that you promised me? I waited all day for you to send it to me.”
“I’ll send the money tomorrow. I couldn’t today because the banking app is down. I went to the bank to try to withdraw it but the queues were too long. Can’t we just forget about money for today? Can’t we just be thankful for life in these bad times?”
“I’m tired of this, Bhekani! I’m tired of your excuses! I’m tired of carrying this household on my own!”
“Shh, calm down, my love. You will wake the kids. You’ll get the money tomorrow, I promise,” says Bhekani.
Bhekani only realises now that Sbongile is close to tears, and holding a blanket and a pillow under her arms.
“I’ll believe that when I see it!” Sbongile walks off in a huff.
Bhekani looks on as his wife throws the pillow on the couch in the lounge. She fluffs the pillow, lies down on the couch and covers herself with the blanket.
Tell us: Have you ever known someone, or have you yourself, been ‘bitten by the gambling bug’? Did you know that gambling can become an addiction?