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Implications of the betting craze in Kenya: a dose of a deeper problem?

By Ibrahim A. Issack:

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The betting craze has failed to win the adulation of many gamblers whose endless quest for a quick kill like a dream of a mirage in the desert; a dream that hardly comes. Owing to the large population of unemployed Kenyans and their known notoriety for quick back admiration, there is the unexplained urge for winning huge sum of money – a bolt out of the blue.

Betting companies have emphasized on responsible betting and have always made it crystal clear that they don’t take responsibility for the decision of the gamblers – like that warning on cigarettes cover. But the lucrative offers for correct betting seem to outshine the risk. In a country where the poverty level is so high, it is no wonder that the appetite for some handsome offer can go the craziest it can get.

But the shocking waves of implications the betting craze has come with left many in a state of agony and despair. Betting companies have taken the betting prize to greater heights investing to the tune of billions and placing too tempting offers. The betting business has taken the whole scene of football by storm.  Betting firms like Sportspesa is are household names today so much like to others Betin, Betway, Mcheza.

But betting has also its implication on the other side; injecting life into the cyber cites and improving Mpesa transactions on weekends when most matches are scheduled for kick off. An Mpesa agent had this to say “small amount transactions are always common with my shop on weekends and they frankly say, “niwekee hii nicheze (deposit this amount I play)

The trails of untold stories of agony have clouded everything else. The betting craze has been responsible for gamblers squandering funds dedicated to basic needs in a risky bid to reap handsome returns. The waste in a reckless manner has placed strenuous economic burden on their shoulders adding to their already sorry state.

Issues of students placing bets using their school fees have emerged and a possible dropout or for worse situation after their luck fails to favour them. The shocking waves of incidents that hit the headlines include the story of one Kennedy Kosgei of Eldoret carried by the Daily Nation. He was found hanging from a tree soon after the results of a bet worth Ksh. 45, 000 he placed on Real Madrid could not favour him. Worse cases that escaped the media attention can’t be ruled out. Squandering too little hard earned effort has left many in total despair. Surprisingly, the magic wand in them gets darted to an offer after the other until tragedy comes calling. And some borrow from their loved ones, only after being unable to come to terms with unpleasant results, do they take a silly decision that ruins their life.

The betting craze that swept across the country has left trails of broken families and planted a seed of discord into the family institution. Stories were told full of family break ups resulting from men being unable to fend for their families after losing all their income on the betting affair. The betting things cuts across and it’s both men and women taking up the challenge, spouses have squandered their hard earned savings placing all in a bet and breaking up after hard reality.

But the emotional stress and too much addiction that comes with betting craze has been a thorn in the flesh of the gamblers. In Eastleigh, a Nairobi neighborhood dominated by ethnic Somalis, the craze has sowed a new lifestyle with gamblers turning idlers waiting for games time to try their luck for the week. In one of the café, I turned up for a drink, a group of boys chat on their seats and I couldn’t help listening.

“I slept the whole day, and it is a long week before sportspesa decides our fate.” Says a young man visibly worried as his eyes rest on the walls above (Referring to famous betting company sportspesa) from the understanding, where he prefers. They continued to talk about how betting has chained gamblers who are addicted to it.

To the addicts, betting has erected barriers designed to severally curtail their ability to see things away from the gambling chain. Emotional stress cultivated from the reality of losing a decade harvest in 90minutes actions is reminiscent of a scene from a fiction movie. It is always hard to come to terms with such reality. Amazingly, the betting business, as if fueled by the tragic losses, continues to thrive. While some laugh all the way to the bank, others contemplate suicide or something close, perhaps the contradiction drives it.

The betting craze has raised concerns of football officials’ likelihood of placing bets and hence clouding their decisions to lean on depending where their bread is battered. It is a common knowledge that fans place bets against their favorite team in what is likely to kill the loyalty & passion that comes with football matches history. But the worst of it has raised worries and sharp criticism in implication of officials’ likelihood that if it is confirmed, will kill football; the most popular and amazing game in the world. Just imagining of such possibility only invites thoughts of how dull and uninteresting football can get with such crazy idea. Hopefully it has never crossed any official’s mind. The implication of such decision is fatal, just a big blow.

Mohamed Wehliye, a banker and financial expert’s tweet about how crazy the implication can get speak volumes

“I have a feeling that sportspesa (read betting) will kill more people in a year in Kenya than even terrorism. Gambling & youth unemployment are dangerous mates.” Wehliye tweeted in the wake of reports of shocking incidents resulting from the craze. But the continuity is fueled by gamblers’ endless quest to recover losses previously incurred through gambling.

Some analysts argue that it is a double edged sword-putting smile on the face of some while it condemns others to depression and huge losses. Yes, some have become millionaires when luck knocks in and still weigh options of getting what you had not or losing what you already have. The comparison to terrorism – a global problem that kills thousands may sound odd but just sheds light of how deadly the phenomenon can get in terms of irresponsible bettings. For those who think that the wave of shocking news on betting craze is the end of gambling, gamblers are telling you to think again!! They will hear none of it.

The betting craze has given parents nightmares – to monitor closely what their children do during their free times as those who facilitate the gambling in cyber don’t turn away children provided they have the money. The craze has swept across the country like fire in the bush and from young children to parents,

The love of an easy back has given the betting companies unprecedented success. That the companies accumulate enough revenue is evident in the way Sportspesa announced a partnership to sponsor an English Premier League club – Hull City, a first by a Kenyan company.

Note that the Premier League is the most watched football league in the world. The love is fueled by images of winners receiving hefty cheques displayed on social media sites. But behind the showy outward display of the media are stories of depression and incurable losses. The tales in Kenya have now become fanfare for a few and harrowing experience for the larger part of. It has been revealed that the scene of betting craze is so crowded that over five million Kenyans are taking part in the risky affair. And betting firms have made it easy for the gamblers with a requirement of as little as twenty (20) shillings to place a bet!

One thing sounds strange though, as the effects from the betting craze continues to skyrocket so do those that continue to flood the scene. The issue has become the talk of every quarter and you don’t need football knowledge to place a bet explaining the reasons why everyone is participating, knowledge of football notwithstanding. A famous quote has it that gambling makes a mockery of the virtues of hard work. I could not agree more!

 

The writer is a senior correspondent with Nep Journal. He can be reached on his email Ibrahim@nepjournal.com or follow him on twitter @IbrahimIssack8

 

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