Horse Racing, the Gambling chase in Cameroon

Traditional sports such as horse racing are an important part of Cameroonian life. The origin of horse racing in Cameroon, in a place like Kumbo in Bui division of the North West region, was greatly influenced by the Mbororos, a nomadic tribe of cattle breeders originally from West and North West Central African Republic, with a settlement in the Bamenda plateau grasslands. An integral part of the Mbororo culture is horse racing. Through their influence, there was a famous annual horse race that took place at the Tobin municipal stadium, organized by the then Ministry of Youth and Sports. Unfortunately because of financial constraints, it was bound to die a natural death.

Horse racing has reached such tremendous levels that some people will offer almost anything for it, not only for the fun and sports in it, but more so for the large-scale gambling involved.

Horse gambling, commonly called “Tiercé” in Cameroon, has been a popular phenomenon since its advent in the country in the late 1990s. Cameroonian gamblers are known to bet on horse racing taking place in other countries mainly in the homelands of its former colonial administrators: England and particularly France. The France horse-betting company-Paris Mutuel Urbain (PMU) set up its first kiosks in Cameroon in the late 1990s and was baptized Paris Mutuel Urbain camerounais (PMUC). Horse bets are legal in Cameroon as a 1992 law gave leeway to gambling operators in Cameroon, though the 2005 finance law imposed stricter guidelines and steeper taxes on Cameroon’s gambling interests.

Despite this government action, many Cameroonians receive this, with mixed feelings. While others went on betting, others saw it as a French neo-colonial strategy to exploit Cameroonians, reason why, the acronym PMUC was nicknamed “Paris Must Use Cameroon”. PMUC therefore embarked on an aggressive PR campaign to boost the company’s relations with the Cameroonian population, to the extent that they were able to win the goodwill of even members of the Muslim community which by tradition abhors gambling. Since Cameroon is a football-loving nation, PMUC now owns a second division team.

However, football in Cameroon is no longer as promising as before. By implication, attention has been digressed to other income-generating sports. Could gambling sports like horse racing (Tiercé) also one day receive much prominence in Cameroon?

A country like China for instance, today, has its own indigenous horse-racing company which has received much following from the Chinese population and beyond. Chinese nationals actually go to the racing arena to bet and witness the races live. This certainly has had an impact on China’s economy. Investors in the horse- racing business get their revenue through betting, sales of tickets, sales of viewer rights to media outfits and sponsorship at the international competition level. These investors in turn pay huge taxes to the government. This is an example for Cameroon to emulate, as this could boost the socio-economic status of the erstwhile religiously conservative northern regions, especially the minority Mbororos and Fulanis, and why not that of Cameroon.

With the passion that Cameroonians have for Tiercé and similar gambling activities like the presently trending Pari-Foot, which is seemingly in a fierce competition with PMUC, establishing home-based companies of similar capabilities and capacities will allow for the circulation of income generated in the country which at present is being lost to foreign investors.

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