Proliferation of Gambling in Liberia: A Promise Betrayed – Can Ellen Salvage her Legacy?


Engraving a heroic legacy is historically fundamental to almost every President or Head of State especially when his or her tenure is ending.

The interest of every patriotic leader is to leave behind a legacy full of dignity, pride and public honor. Time is running out for Africa’s first female President to salvage her legacy after almost 12 years of democratic rule and 14 years of ceaseless peace.

As the clock ticks toward election on October 10, 2017 and inauguration of a new government on January 16, 2018, President Sirleaf has just few more weeks to end a 12-year mandate or journey she since began on January 16, 2006. Liberians from every sphere of this globe are eagerly watching. The question now is “Can Madam EJS salvage her legacy as she exits the Presidency of Liberia?”

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has a choice to either safeguard her legacy or diminish it further in order to satisfy cronies and confidants.

She has a choice to either stand up for Liberia or stand down for pseudo-patriots to ruin her last days in power. President Sirleaf stands to risk a lot if nepotism and cronyism remain leading components of her exit strategy. The legacy of every iconic leader is decisively pillared upon patriotism and nationalism.

What good is it to prefer friendship over nationalism? The end of such action is injurious to oneself. The oath of office goes beyond family and friendship.

It is about protecting those basic democratic values, treasured principles and dignified culture upon which Liberia became a sovereign state. It is about securing a brighter future of equal opportunities and prosperity for all Liberians. This future goes far beyond gambling, youth unemployment, drug abuse, prostitution and poverty.

The nation and its youthful population are eclipsed by a number of social dilemmas or disorders principally as a result of the lack of political will.

One industry that could swallow up this generation of Liberian youth if those in authority are not cautious and patriotic enough to contain/control it is gambling. The proliferation of gambling is not an option and can never be an answer to addressing youth unemployment in Liberia.

The plan by our government through the National Lottery Authority to proliferate gambling across Liberia as a means of generating income and protecting the interest of some big-shots is a perilous path.

And this path could further entrap thousands of Liberian youth who are already jobless and idled. Does Liberia really have a future with gambling being proliferated? Could this account for President Sirleaf’s legacy as well? 

About 2 years ago specifically on December 10, 2015, I published a column cautioning our government to control this act (gambling).The title o fmy piece was “Liberia’s Future on the Rope”. You can access this article via this link. Besides this, I have been resolute about advocating against this social syndrome and its adverse impact since then. 

Even after almost 2 years, I have no intention to cease this campaign. We as a nation and a people must reject the widespread of gambling in Liberia. Already we have casinos doxx, WINNERS, Slot Machines, etc. As though these gambling enterprises are not enough, the government is nursing or has already set in motion a vicious plan to open the floodgate of this industry to more vendors, especially in the area of sports betting.

What more does our government want as though illiteracy and unemployment are not enough to humiliate us? Was gambling the actual promise made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to Liberian youth in 2005 and 2011? Is this the decent job the youth of Liberia deserve after voting for her twice?

Is this the better livelihood Madam President promised? Or is this a promised betrayed? The latter would suffice in my opinion and this could dwindle Ellen’s legacy if no genuine step is taken to abort this plan of proliferating gambling in Liberia.

The National Lottery Authority and its Board of Directors must assist President Sirleaf to stop the proliferation of gambling, rather than to be intentionally aiding the spread of gambling in our country.

Unimpeachable sources within the National Lottery Authority and even close to the Board of Directors have sadly confirm that there is an ongoing interest-struggle to willfully alter our laws in an effort to create an unprecedented flow of gambling enterprises across Liberia, but this plan will be resisted by the masses of our people. When will greed and cronyism divorce? This unpatriotic marriage has been solely responsible for Liberia’s backwardness.  

What Liberian youth want is not the proliferation of gambling, but the proliferation of gainful employment, quality education and sustainable empowerment through profitable life skills and entrepreneurship.

The collective interest of Liberian youth is more supreme than the self-interest of persons entrusted with running the National Lottery Authority especially its Board of Directors who seemingly, and with willful intent, have embarked on this futile journey to undermine our nation’s destiny. 

Has President Sirleaf forgotten about those promises she made to the Liberian people? As a way of reminding her, this is an excerpt: 

Promises made during 2011 campaign:

We pledge to ensure no fewer than 20,000 jobs every year

We pledge to ensure that Liberians have increased access to finance

We pledge to ensure double-digit growth to address poverty

Promises made on January 16, 2006: 

We will create jobs for our mothers and fathers, and ensure Liberian youth are gainfully employed

We will create social and economic opportunities that will restore our people’s dignity and self-worth

I thought President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made a pledge to all Liberians in paragraph 1 and 2 under Economic Renewal in her January 16, 2006 inaugural address when she said “The task of reconstructing our devastated economy is awesome.

Yet, we have the potential to promote a healthy economy in which Liberians can prosper.” 

Can gambling be the source of this prosperity President Sirleaf promised yesteryear? Can gambling restore our people’s dignity and create socio-economic opportunities for them? Is this what they get in return for casting their ballots? The reality on ground after almost 12 years is inversely proportional to those promises made by Madam President. Proliferating gambling is even like adding insult to injury. 

What then must President Sirleaf do to help salvage her crumbling legacy? I cautiously submit to Madam President to immediately halt this sinister design engineered by the National Lottery Authority and its Board of Directors to proliferate sports betting across Liberia.

There are more to lose than to gain from the proliferation of gambling. The harmful impact of this social syndrome 2could paralyze Liberia’s socio-economic, religious and cultural fabric.

The security of Liberia’s prosperity matters a lot and this security would remain a fantasy until youth development through concrete initiatives are intentionally prioritized! The cure for poverty and youth unemployment is not to proliferate gambling or open up sports betting.

Opening up sports betting could further guarantee a miserable future for Liberia and Liberians. The President must act now to savage her legacy by dealing with this shenanigan. 

Legally within the gambling industry in Liberia, there are 6 gaming categories according to Part V Section 5.3 of the Regulation of NLA and they include: Casino, Sports Betting, Slot Machine, Online Lottery, Play Station, Scratch and Win. Amongst these, sports betting have the largest market.

As a result of this and considering the social impact of gambling as well as the small size of Liberia’s population, NLA initially agreed to maintain only 2 sports betting entities which in our reasonable opinion, makes good sense for our small country and even smaller gaming market. 

However, we are shocked that there appears to be an overnight change to the regulation to open up the market for sports betting.

As it is easier for young and even underage children to access sports betting facilities, it would make reasonable sense to instead open up casinos since this would rather prevent more Liberian youth from gambling due to high pricing.

We understand that this sudden modification to the regulation which violates the National Lottery Authority’s Act did not meet the overwhelming consensus of the governing Board of the National Lottery Authority.  Again we ask “Why only sports betting, and not casino?” 

It would be good for the government, if it must promote gambling, to focus more on Casinos where Liberian youth are not mostly affected. Even giving a foreigner monopoly or exclusive leverage to operate Casinos is unthinkable and unacceptable.

The government must never think about proliferating sports betting, because very soon our high schools will be competing with these gambling enterprises. We will rally our people to resist this glaring plot. Liberian youth deserve quality education and profitable jobs, and not sports betting. Gambling is not an option, and must never be. 

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has on many occasions vowed to protect the future of Liberian youth. She has sternly despised gambling and in particular the proliferation of sports betting in Liberia. It is extremely difficult to fathom why would the President approve an amended regulation that tends to open Liberia to more gambling activities, especially sports betting which is easily accessed by children.  

Has the president been ill-advised and misled by those she trusted to manage this sector or are those she trusted seeking their own interest rather than protecting the interest of Liberia’s precious jewels (children)? President Sirleaf has a choice to save her legacy or mutilate it further.

With time running out, can she save her legacy? Only President Sirleaf can answer this question. But hope she does now otherwise the public will.  Above all else, Liberia’s interest is supreme. 

About The Author:

Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County. Studies Economics at the University of Liberia and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP). Email: [email protected]